Friday, March 4, 2011

Academic Job Search V - The Contract

For other posts in this series:
Beginning a search  Networking    First Interview      On Campus Interview     Rejections

The contract stage - easily the most confusing stage of the job search.  Lots of people make the  mistake of being so overjoyed about having a job that they don't negotiate the contract.  Sometimes that's justified, other times not.  As I mentioned in Part IV, you want to make the job livable for you and the school has an interest in doing so as well, because they don't want to be back doing the same darned job search in a year or two or three.

So - things to consider requesting when you negotiate:

1. Salary - there is not generally a lot of leeway with the salary they quote you if you are a person entering the field for the first time.  That said, if you have have another job offer, you can do some negotiating - keep in mind disparities between cost of living in the two schools' areas before pushing for too much, though.  Also, if you've published a significant piece or two, or won an award for teaching or something else that gives you a bit of an edge, go ahead and ask for a bit of a salary bump. (By a "bit" I mean $1000-$3000 higher...)  They can always say no, but sometimes they'll give you something - less than you asked for, more than you were originally quoted.

Do double check the AAUP rankings ( if you didn't do this before the campus interview.  AAUP lists each institution and salary ranges by rank (and make SURE you're looking at the correct rank...); the lower end of the range is generally for first and second year assistant profs in humanities; the higher end is for econ and computer science (or law and business, if at a university) with 5-6 years' experience. Make sure that the salary they quote is at the least on the lower end of the range for that specific institution.  You can also double check institutions surrounding your potential institution.  If there are disparities between your quote and your institution's range, definitely ask for a pay bump by citing AAUP.  If there are disparities between your institution and surrounding institutions, you might be able to argue for a small addition in pay.

FYI: Many schools pay less for people who will come in with no finished degree.

2. Time - If you are ABD and anticipate still being ABD when you arrive, you can ask for a reduced course load or a delayed start to your teaching. (Say, spring semester rather than fall....)  This can give you needed time to finish the dissertation (which, again, the school has a great deal of interest in you doing).

You can also consider negotiating a reduced course load during the first semester to get acclimated.  I have known some people successfully ask for this.

Considering School C from my "Academic Job Search IV" post, I would definitely ask for "time" in my contract, especially since they expect a person to be heading up an institute.  I'd probably ask for a course release for the entire year, and perhaps stipulate that I have only two new preps (academic slang for course preparation) per semester, so that at least one of the courses is a repeat.

I might request "time" from School B as well, depending on whether they were able to provide a good salary or not (which, remember, would be one of my big concerns following the on campus interview).

3. Time further out - You may want to negotiate an earlier sabbatical depending on tenure requirements at the school.  Some schools automatically give third year sabbaticals; others may be research heavy but not give a sabbatical automatically.  Knowing tenure requirements will help you decide this. 

4. Maternity/paternity leave - You may also want to negotiate specific terms of a maternity leave or paternity leave even if not currently expecting and if your institution appears to have no stated policy.  Here it is helpful to know the laws of the state where you will reside: New Jersey has a paternity leave policy on the books.  Other states don't.

When it comes to maternity leave, I recommend at the very least negotiating that the semester in which you are due, you have no teaching responsibilities.  If your due date is post-Thanksgiving, I recommend negotiating for having the Spring semester off from teaching.  You should brush up on FMLA and also at least get the six paid weeks of full maternity leave (no research or service responsibilities either) but you might want to negotiate that for beyond six weeks too.

5.  Spousal hire - Many more academics arrive with spouses who are also academics than in the past and universities have become more open to possibilities regarding spousal hires.  You can request that the school help you find a job for your spouse.

6. Research equipment, books or money - This is specific to your research needs but often it is vital to have some extra funding to be able to do your research - consider a range of things you might need, including software, book allowance, specific scientific equipment, and the like.

7. Space - Particularly if you have special research needs, you may want to negotiate office space.  As a junior faculty member, you will not generally have your pick of office space (which is usually at a premium anyway) but if you're the only researcher doing X and X needs a certain kind of space, you've got good grounds for requesting it.

Consider the needs of the school too - do not try to negotiate more than 2-3 of these, so consider what you need to make this a good job for you.  Also consider, you will probably not get everything you want - ask for a bit more than you need with the aim always being to give yourself, and the school, the job you need so that you can commit to the institution for the foreseeable future.

Finally, those who have documented disabilities, do not be afraid to ask for the accomodations that you need for your work.  These are not negotiable, but are important things to bring up at this stage.

Any other tips out there that I've forgotten?

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