An Article and a Petition to the APA about Negotiations


Inside Higher Ed has some further commentary on W’s negotiation debacle (or maybe it is better characterized as “Nazareth’s negotiation debacle”). Also, Chad Kautzer (CU-Denver) has posted a petition asking the APA to publicly condemn the actions of the hiring committee of Nazareth College’s Philosophy Department” and “amend the APA Handbook on Placement Practices…to suggest guidelines for responses to counter-offers or when rescinding an offer might be appropriate.” For what it’s worth, it seems to me that while some parties at Nazareth may have acted unwisely (they did not seem to have much evidence for the conclusions they drew, though of course I don’t know the whole story), it is not clear we have sufficient grounds for condemning the hiring committee here. That said, I do think clarifying everyone’s expectations regarding the norms of negotiation would be useful.

UPDATE: And now the Wall Street Journal has an article on this.

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Philip Kremer
7 years ago

“It is not clear we have sufficient grounds for condemning the hiring committee here.” Agreed. This might well have been the Dean’s decision, and it might well have been counter to the recommendation of the majority of the hiring committee or of the department. The letter to W says, in the passive voice, “It was determined that on the whole these provisions indicate an interest in teaching at a research university …”, leaving it unclear who did the determining. And then it says, “Thus, the institution has decided to withdraw its offer of employment to you.” The institution, not the department, not the hiring committee, not the Chair. Again, our evidence leaves it completely unclear who made this decision, (At my university, every hiring decision must be approved by the provost, though my experience is that it’s usually pro forma. Probably not so at all institutions.)Report

taylormurphy
7 years ago

I do very much like the idea of explicit guidelines on negotiations. On a little reflection, it is quite surprising that there are no such guidelines, given the way gender interacts with negotiating.Report

mike
7 years ago

Neither the hiring committee nor the university is under any agreement with applicants prior to any verbal or written offer. I can’t see any reason why a university would voluntarily place itself under guidelines for negotiating with applicants. There are a lot of applicants under the impression (it must be their advisers) that they can make truly unreasonable demands (even in this market). There are ten applicants in line at least as good; why take the time to put up with deluded applicants.Report

kcinlober
Reply to  mike
7 years ago

Im not sure if “demands” are the best way to characterize W’s requests as the wording of her email clearly leaves it open for Nazareth to just say, “Sorry, we can’t grant any of those”. They could have still left in the part telling her that she might be better suited for a research institution or mentioned to her that those requests were unreasonable for a college like Nazareth. I don’t see how responding in that way wastes more time than offering another contract to the second-best candidate.Report

mike
Reply to  kcinlober
7 years ago

I don’t either, but these are points of etiquette. I hope neither the APA, nor anyone else, is going to start prescribing these standards. Call it what you’d like, when an applicant provides a list of unrealistic (say) preferences, I (for one) don’t think the committee is under any obligation to patiently and gently awaken the applicant to the sort of market and negotiating position s/he’s in.Report

kcinlober
Reply to  mike
7 years ago

Maybe. But some of those demands weren’t unreasonable (like the maternity leave, which was apparently their policy anyways). Does she have no negotiating position? That is what it seems like Nazareth is suggesting by removing the offer completely in the face of an attempt to negotiate. Maybe they aren’t bound by law to, and maybe that is the ‘standard’ in this sort of market, but it still seems odd to me. It is basically saying, “the fact that you think you can negotiate means we don’t want you to work here”, which sounds like a bad message to send.Report

Jennifer Frey
7 years ago

Thanks for posting this, Justin. I think it is best to condemn this practice rather than the individuals in the department. Even if we did know the motives, and even if those motives were bad, what we need are rules so that it is possible to hold one another accountable in consistent and fair fashion. Nazareth is not alone in doing this sort of thing, they are merely the ones who were brought out into the light. And I think that the argument for condemning the practice is relatively straightforward and sensible.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
7 years ago

Some facts that are important to bear in mind.

1. The woman in question made a counteroffer, which discharges any legal obligation the college has to hire her at that point.

2. She made that counteroffer in a rather curt email.

3. She made that counteroffer in a way that made it look like she was not interested in the job.

4. Meanwhile, a whole host of candidates who *are* interested remain waiting, and if the competition was anything like most job searches are there was no clear Best Candidate.

By the lights of the legal system, etiquette, and good sense the only errors made here fall on the shoulders of the woman in question, her tutors, and the people who think she’s been made into some kind of victim.Report

Roberta Millstein
Roberta Millstein
7 years ago

I very much wish that this petition didn’t blame the department. As has already been said, we don’t know for sure that the department made the decision. A more neutral petition would blame the university. Otherwise, I would readily sign.Report

Chad Kautzer
Chad Kautzer
7 years ago

I can understand the hesitation to “condemn” the actions of the hiring committee at Nazareth College, but people are rightfully scared and angry and I believe condemnation is justified. In general I believe a clear response needs to come from our organizations, associations, and the most visible members of the profession (not that the rest of us, myself included, shouldn’t be making our disapproval known). The response should reach as far as the initial actions (which, for example, were just reported in the Wall Street Journal). Many of us believe the precedent set by Nazareth shouldn’t stand and the petition was created as a means of gauging the temperature of the profession on it. Now, I know a lot of folks are going to pick apart the language, wishing that it was better here and less firm there, but it’s a friendly petition about unprofessional behavior and it requests a professional response. If you can agree to that much, then I encourage you to sign it and share it. If you disagree with the language so much that you can’t support it, then I encourage you to create a different petition or write an editorial or do whatever you can to counter the effect of Nazareth College’s actions, because damage is being done to our profession and it merits a robust response.Report

Roberta Millstein
Roberta Millstein
7 years ago

“I believe condemnation is justified.”

Do you have reason to know that it was the department that made the decision, rather than, say, the Dean? Suppose the department fought for the candidate? Should we still be condemning them? I agree that someone did something wrong here and ought to be condemned, but I just don’t know who it is. If you have information that suggests that it is the department, please present it, because that would certainly change my view.Report

Chad Kautzer
Chad Kautzer
Reply to  Roberta Millstein
7 years ago

Hi Roberta, I don’t think the certainty you seek can be had. Yes, what you say is possible, it is possible that these were marching orders from on high. The action is still worthy of condemnation, I believe, and if the Admin pushed it, then their action should be condemned as well – we can cross that bridge when we come to it. I don’t, however, believe the “I was just following orders” defense relieves of responsibility for unethical actions. And, just to be clear, the petition condemns the “actions” of the committee – this seems to get muddled in the original post and some of the subsequent comments. If you feel strongly about this issue, perhaps you could sign and write your qualification in the comment section of the petition. This might be a way for you to express your disapproval about what was done, but distance your position from the exact wording of the petition itself. Just a thought. Be well.Report

Roberta Millstein
Roberta Millstein
7 years ago

Chad,

Let’s say you were the department chair, and you forwarded the candidate’s email to the Dean, and the Dean said, “Forget it. I’m not approving her hire, period.” What would you do? What could you do? I am all for standing up for what is right, but it seems to me that in such a situation one’s hands would be tied. Again, I don’t know that this is what has happened, but the possibility is what makes me hesistant to condemn the actions of the department. Your petition says “That committee recently acted unprofessionally and in bad faith.” I am sorry, but I simply can’t sign that.

What I have already done is to send the following email. I’d encourage others to do similarly, especially if like me you are outraged at the action but don’t feel comfortable blaming the department.

Dear Professors Hoekema and Lawlor,

I am writing to you in your capacities as Chair and Associate Chair of the APA’s Academic Career Opportunities and Placement Committee. I understand that Professor Jonathan Kaplan has already written to you; I have pasted his letter below. I am in complete agreement with his letter, and encourage your committee to come up with standards to guide job applicants and universities in their negotiations, ideally with consequences for failure to meet those guidelines. I am appalled by the actions of Nazareth College and hope never to hear that similar actions are repeated.

Sincerely,


Professor Roberta L. Millstein
Department of Philosophy
University of California, Davis
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616-8673

Email: [email protected]
Web: http://www.RLM.net/
Phone: 530-554-1398
Fax: 530-752-8964

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I am writing in response to recent media coverage of an instance in which a job offer (from Nazareth College) was withdrawn on the basis of the candidate’s attempt to negotiate.

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/03/13/lost-faculty-job-offer-raises-questions-about-negotiation-strategy

I have not been able to find any official guidelines for the making and withdrawing of job offers endorsed by the APA, but I find the idea that a job offer can be withdrawn on the grounds of someone asking whether certain job-related benefits might be provided to be utterly horrific, and against everything that I, at least, have ever been told about negotiating academic job offers. I write here as someone who, along with having been a job candidate more than once, has served on dozens of search committees, and who served as a Department Chair with the responsibility of negotiating job offers directly with candidates.

This case is especially problematic given the well-known and well-established pattern of women accepting worse starting job offers than men, and the implications that this has for their future prospects. Women, we are told, end up being paid less (and getting fewer perks) in many positions, including academic positions, because they aren’t willing to negotiate hard for better offers. The standard story is that is that everyone gets the same crappy starting offer, but men are willing to negotiate and women aren’t, and so the average differences we see in starting salary (and other starting perks) isn’t the result of sexism per se, but of different acculturation. (See e.g.
http://www.nber.org/papers/w18511 ;
http://chronicle.com/article/The-Womanly-Art-of-Negotiation/45032/)

Against that well-established, and well-known, background, in which women’s worse starting positions are “blamed” on their unwillingness to negotiate, I think that the actions of the Nazareth College are grossly offensive, and a violation of important, if not entirely well-articulated, standards in academia.

Nazareth College of course was, and should be, completely free to tell the candidate that they were unable or unwilling to negotiate on any or all of the terms of the original offer. But to rescind the offer on the basis of a woman asking for more, in a culture where the salary and perks differentials between genders is blamed in part on women not asking for more, is simply unconscionable.

Even if the actions of Nazareth College cannot, in this case, be subject to official censure because there no official guidelines that were violated, I think this is something that the APA needs to think seriously about. We must not implicitly support a system in which women are blamed for not negotiating, but women who attempt to negotiate can be punished with immunity for doing so.Report

Chad Kautzer
Chad Kautzer
7 years ago

Hi Roberta, as I said, I don’t subscribe to the “I was just following orders” defense. You think that’s unfair of me and I’m not going to argue the point. I’m not sure how the letter you’ve endorsed escapes your dilemma, however, since it speaks of “Nazareth College” as doing something “unconscionable”. Perhaps condemning the whole college is fair in your assessment. I won’t argue that point either. I’m fairly sure that I’m not going to convince you to sign the petition, but I’m glad that you’ve taken action on this. We all should in one way or another. I do believe that public action in the near term is important, however, even if in a year or two we get some better APA guidelines on this. Be well.Report

Philip Kremer
7 years ago

The scenario painted by Prof. Millstein and the defence suggested of the department and of the hiring committee is not a “just following orders” defence. When you’re “just following orders”, it means that you could do otherwise. In the given scenario, the department simply could not offer the position to W against the wishes of the dean. Any attempt to do so would simply be void. (Similarly, I simply cannot offer you, on my own authority, a job at the University of Toronto. It’s impossible.) The defence of the department or hiring committee is not that they were just following orders, but is rather that the administration has withdrawn the offer, and nobody else has any standing to prevent this withdrawal.Report

Chad Kautzer
Chad Kautzer
Reply to  Philip Kremer
7 years ago

Sure, you can imagine a “no choice” scenario, but you don’t have to, because their are other options (which you leave out). Descartes can be of help here. I can imagine a possibility where you, Philip, did not write your comment, but rather your spouse or a robot or an evil demon did and so I can therefore choose not to reply. I prefer the plausible possibility and to take action (and reply). Perhaps more details will emerge in the future and they can be further debated on this blog. Be well.Report

sergiotenenbaum
7 years ago

Chad, I have no idea why you think that Phil’s scenario is farfetched. It is certainly less farfetched than the scenario which you bring up; namely, that the dept of philosophy is “just following orders”. I don’t know any university in which the Dean, or someone else in the higher administration does not have hiring power. There is no reason for a Dean/Provost to “order” the dept. around; they can simply withdraw the offer and leave to the Chair the job of informing the job candidate. You might find farfetched that the Dean would interfere; but, I find it just as likely that the Dean was pulling the plug than the department. The Chair would have to forward the requests to the Dean, and I don’t know why it is more likely that the Chair than the Dean would be put off by W’s behaviour. Deans rarely challenge the academic judgment of the department, but this is not an issue of the academic qualifications of the job candidate.Report

Chad Kautzer
Chad Kautzer
Reply to  sergiotenenbaum
7 years ago

sergiotenenbaum, i’m sorry that you have no idea. you can weight the probabilities–however many you can think of–however you like. how about we turn the tables and try to make this exchange productive: if you feel the action taken at Nazareth College was worthy of condemnation, how would you formulate a petition? if you’re not interested in taking action due to this debilitating situation of not knowing how much of the decision came from the dean’s office and how much came from the dept., then there isn’t much more to talk about. you can criticize me rather than Nazareth and feel good that you’ve at least criticized someone. have a good night.Report