That is the question for today, children. What do we think? Are we pro-spousal/partner hires? Do we resent them, or merely envy them? (Who other than superstars can bargain for a spousal accommodation now, anyway? A friend of mine commented recently, “we talk about them all the time, but I don’t know anyone who got one.”) Are they an urban legend, like the story about the peculiar-looking ravenous stray dog who turned out to be an enormous rat eating a family out of house and home? (You know the one–you heard that story in college, too, didn’t you?)
- How the heck else can you lure decent faculty to Waco, Texas, Kearny, Nebraska, Oxford, Ohio, or (for that matter) Fort Collins, Colorado, and keep them there? If job candidates are married to other academics, institutions should see spousal hires as part of their strategic plan to recruit and retain quality faculty. And considering that much of the top talent comes either from the two coasts or Chicago, or a few top-notch university towns elsewhere, for universities located in (shall we say?) charmingly pastoral and quiet out-of-the-way towns, you have to figure that you’d dramatically lower your chances of doing a given search over again in 3 years if you can help the successful candidate avoid a lifetime of commuting in-between Bloomington and Philadelphia (for example).
- It’s an opportunity to increase the number of tenure lines in your department. If the Dean is offering you a tenure line, take the money and run. Unless you find the prospective new colleague truly unprepared, incapable of the job, or profoundly objectionable, how does it hurt your department to play ball with the Dean’s office?
- If you play ball with the Dean, it might be a favor that is returned to your department. You never know!
- It helps with recruiting women faculty especially, since there are still (unfortunately) many more wives who follow their husbands’ careers than husbands who will relocate for their wives’ job opportunities.
- (Your turn!)
- They’re just another kind of favoritism that heterosexuals enjoy and gay faculty don’t. While there are some institutions that offer partner hires, anecdotally I hear that if you’re gay, you have to be a super-duper-superstar to get one (as opposed to the mere superstars that heteros must be.)
- They’re just another kind of favoritism that partnered people enjoy that single faculty don’t. (Since the widespread assumption is that unmarried/unpartnered faculty have no personal lives or any need whatsoever for time away from their wonderful colleagues or beloved students, they already get saddled with more than their share of after-hours service, like running the Trivial Pursuit marathon for the History Club. Hiring more married or partnered people by design will only exacerbate this injustice!)
- Departments should decide their hiring priorities, not other departments or the Dean’s office. A common objection raised against spousal hires is that they will “take up” a tenure-track line that a department would otherwise have been able to define as they choose.
- (Your turn!)
- No one ever did anything for your partner/spouse, so you don’t feel inclined to stick your neck out for anyone else.
- People are responsible for their own personal lives. Why should a workplace have to come up with two jobs for one family, when there are so many deserving job candidates desperate for just ONE job offer? Either take the job, or don’t. Suck it up, or move on.
- The reputation of our department will suffer if we hire someone who didn’t survive the rigors of a national or international open search.
- (Your turn–to agree, disagree, or add to this list.)
UPDATE, later this morning: Uncharacteristically, I forgot to mention that we’ve got a session that will I’m sure discuss partner and spousal hires at the upcoming Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, which meets this June 12-15 at the University of Minnesota. (Details here, and program here.) The roundtable is called “DUAL CAREERS IN ACADEMIA: CHALLENGES, EXPERIENCES, AND STRATEGIES,” and features Laura L. Lovett, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, on “A Campus of One’s Own: The Costs and Benefits of Dual Careers;” Natasha Zaretsky, Southern Illinois University, on “Two Historians in the Family;” Eve Weinbaum, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, on “Union Responses to Work and Family Issues;” and Andrea Davies Henderson, Stanford University, on “Dual-Career Academic Couples.” Come on down and join the party in Minneapolis, if you can!
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