Comments on: What to think about spousal/partner hires? http://www.historiann.com/2008/05/27/what-to-think-about-spousalpartner-hires/ History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Sat, 20 Sep 2014 07:56:15 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2008/05/27/what-to-think-about-spousalpartner-hires/comment-page-1/#comment-18700 Mon, 02 Jun 2008 01:48:47 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=334#comment-18700 My guess is that yes–many of us do have trouble with relationships with non-academics (or, should I say, that non-academics have trouble with relationships with us?!) I think people who don’t find a partner by 30 in this profession will have a really hard time after that, because who would 1) bother with us and our freakish world at all if not for affection or obligations won or contracted before we became such bores, and 2) who would move to enable our strange, sad careers? It’s a mystery to me that anyone does, let alone anyone who might have other options in the relationship market! (But thank goodness that there are some suckers out there, eh?)

Too bad it’s not all freaky in the “fun, 70s sense!”

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By: Rad readr http://www.historiann.com/2008/05/27/what-to-think-about-spousalpartner-hires/comment-page-1/#comment-18032 Sat, 31 May 2008 14:50:46 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=334#comment-18032 Well, those of us on the quarter system are still in school for a couple of weeks…ok, one more question raised by your post. I wonder how academics compare to other professions in how often people partner in the same profession. Again, it strikes me as very common in our racket, and I have started to wonder if the partnering reveals a general freakiness (not freaky in the fun, 70s sense). Does this mean that academics have trouble having relationships with non-academics? If so, what does this say about how we relate/speak to/interact with non-academics?

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By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2008/05/27/what-to-think-about-spousalpartner-hires/comment-page-1/#comment-17769 Sat, 31 May 2008 01:37:11 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=334#comment-17769 Thanks for clarifying, Rad–no problems on your delay, because it’s summer after all! (At least for those not on an administrative schedule…) I’m sure you’re right, if only because the vast majority of college and university faculty are white. I will see if I can buttonhole the AHA people to ask about this at the Berks.

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By: Rad Readr http://www.historiann.com/2008/05/27/what-to-think-about-spousalpartner-hires/comment-page-1/#comment-17754 Sat, 31 May 2008 01:09:34 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=334#comment-17754 Historiann — sorry it has taken me so long to get back to this thread. Since you asked…”certain” was my euphemism for “white” — although as I pointed out, men probably get a good number so I don’t want to imply that white women are benefitting disproportionately. I actually saw something recently in which a white man invoked his wife’s ethnicity to try to pressure a university into giving him something. e.g. you need to give me X because you should be trying to retain her for ethnic diversity. But I’m in the anecdotal realm, and it would be interesting to see demographically who is benefitting from partner hires.

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By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2008/05/27/what-to-think-about-spousalpartner-hires/comment-page-1/#comment-16958 Thu, 29 May 2008 13:18:31 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=334#comment-16958 KC–you and I were writing at the same time–great questions. In the discussion above, Rad wondered who exactly was benefiting from spousal/partner hires. Well, at the Berks (in only 2 weeks!!) some of the data-collectors and crunchers for the AHA will be on the opening plenary session Thursday night–I’ll try to ask them if they have any information about that vis-a-vis History departments. I don’t know if the AAUP or any other all-disciplinary organization would collect that information–the AHA seems to be the best source for employment trends in our discipline.

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By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2008/05/27/what-to-think-about-spousalpartner-hires/comment-page-1/#comment-16957 Thu, 29 May 2008 13:14:32 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=334#comment-16957 Geoff–no worries! Your points were great. (Most of us wish our undergraduate colleges and universities were as loyal to “their grads” in favoring them with employment as yours was!) I guess the upshot of this discussion is exactly as you say, “Connections that don’t favor us we tend to see in a negative light, but when they assist us or our allies, we don’t think of them as all that bad.” We can always think up reasons why hiring preferences are legitimate in some circumstances, and illegitimate in others. It’s not to say that we’re always only self-interested or interested in assisting cronies, it’s just that we can see the virtues of helping out some job candidates (ourselves, or friends) whereas when we don’t know the people involved, we’re not so much in favor of special considerations.

As you (and others) can probably tell, I’m mostly pro-partner/spousal hires, because I’m in favor of institutions being humane and generous to people who already work there. (However, I think the points about de facto discrimination against non-hetero and non-partnered people are worthy of serious review.) I guess, given that a partner/spouse is qualified (of course), I’d err on the side of helping out a family than on the side of being “fair” to a generic pool of other applicants. However, as the comments above suggest, these decisions sometimes come to have multiple and various consequences–but then, so do so-called “regular” hires, I suppose.

In the end, I don’t think that any of us who score tenure-track jobs are necessarily “better” than those who don’t, we’re just luckier in that the right job popped up at the right time, and we were ready for it.

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By: Knitting Clio http://www.historiann.com/2008/05/27/what-to-think-about-spousalpartner-hires/comment-page-1/#comment-16955 Thu, 29 May 2008 13:04:20 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=334#comment-16955 Just a random thought — is the issue of spousal hires in part a reflection of the fact that nowadays a husband is just as or even more likely to be the “trailing spouse” in an academic couple? In some cases, is there some unconscious sympathy for the guy whose career is being “stalled” by a more successful wife? Are search committees just as concerned when the wife is the trailing spouse? Do they care as much about single-sex couples?

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By: Geoff http://www.historiann.com/2008/05/27/what-to-think-about-spousalpartner-hires/comment-page-1/#comment-16736 Thu, 29 May 2008 03:26:29 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=334#comment-16736 Historiann, I appreciate your comments as always, and as an outsider in this discussion, I defer to the insiders’ abilities to better appreciate the complexities of a given situation. As for my own points, although I may have once believed that a search was (as you put it) a platonic system that allows the best candidates to rise to the top, I certainly haven’t thought about it like that in a long time. The opportunity to be involved (marginally) in a search as an undergraduate was fascinating — and unfortunately, not encouraging to me at the time. I hope I didn’t convey that a spousal hire was “the one practice that introduces unfairness.” The way I was conceptualizing it was as a subset of connections in hiring. Connections that don’t favor us we tend to see in a negative light, but when they assist us or our allies, we don’t think of them as all that bad. For example, a relative UC law professor boasted of working “the old girls club” when she scored an internship for her daughter at a prestigious Bay Area law firm. Finally, I also hope I didn’t portray meritocracy as an ideal for the university or anywhere else — there are of course many other considerations in any career field.

What a good conversation! It’s been fun to listen in on it.

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By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2008/05/27/what-to-think-about-spousalpartner-hires/comment-page-1/#comment-16720 Thu, 29 May 2008 02:05:23 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=334#comment-16720 I like your vision of the “invigorating* community,” and you’re right to point out that there are other ways to jump the line for faculty jobs than the spousal or partner hire way. Sadly, I also take your point about the factionalism and power struggles you write about, too.

I think that larger regional plan exists in the Research Triangle in N.C., or at least I’ve heard rumors of UNC and Duke collaborating to accomodate a spouse at the other institution when possible. And no one challenges the reputation of UNC or Duke now, do they? (Unless, maybe this is like the unicorn, a fanciful beast?)

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By: dance http://www.historiann.com/2008/05/27/what-to-think-about-spousalpartner-hires/comment-page-1/#comment-16644 Wed, 28 May 2008 23:45:18 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=334#comment-16644 My general principle is that a university is not a meritocracy and never has been. Rather, the goal of the modern university is to construct the most invigorating* community they can put together. If I really believe in that principle, I’m obliged to also believe in spousal hires, legacy admits, affirmative action admits, etc—whatever seems necessary to construct that community in the best way. And professors who stay seem pretty essential.

I don’t have a spouse, by the way, and I’m as tempted by the new and exciting candidates as anyone. But the main thing I see happening right now is that partner hires become one of the main battlegrounds for factionalism and power struggles within the university, and that doesn’t seem right, to let that play out on people’s lives like that.

More overt support of spousal hires might improve the situation. E.g., schools within commuting distance get together to support each other’s partner hires. The dean budgets X amount of money a year for bonus partner positions, perhaps as multi-year contracts rather than tenure-track positions.

*I’m not sure “invigorating” is the best word. I want something that means “encourages growth and development”, but “nurturing” doesn’t carry the sense of challenge I’d want….

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