Comments on: Tenured Tammy: giving up tenure for love? http://www.historiann.com/2008/09/19/tenured-tammy-giving-up-tenure-for-love/ History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Tue, 23 Sep 2014 15:31:57 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 By: Black Friday blogging: agony column updates : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present http://www.historiann.com/2008/09/19/tenured-tammy-giving-up-tenure-for-love/comment-page-1/#comment-135386 Fri, 28 Nov 2008 16:07:10 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=1089#comment-135386 [...] Tenured Tammy, if you’ll recall, was applying for jobs to solve her two-body problem, with the additional wrinkle that she is a tenured associate professor, and her husband is a grad student applying for his first job this year.  You advised her to be vague in her application letters as to why she is applying for assistant professor jobs again, and you also urged her to seek accommodation at her university.  She writes that her husband had a telephone interview with one of the institutions they both applied to, but “it doesn’t sound like they’ll be issuing him an invitation to interview on campus.”  She reports the excellent news that “there has been some movement [at my university] regarding a spousal hire for my husband.  I’m not sure exactly what they’ll be able to do, but the Provost called [my department chair] yesterday and was very receptive to the idea, as was the dean of the college [my husband would work in].  There are still a lot of hoops to go through, and its very possible the department may not want him (which I totally respect) but I’m so encouraged to know that the administration at [my university] is amendable to the idea of spousal hires.”  What a concept!  Would that Baa Ram U. would follow your university’s example, Tammy. [...]

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By: Busted Barry begs to interview somewhere else : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present http://www.historiann.com/2008/09/19/tenured-tammy-giving-up-tenure-for-love/comment-page-1/#comment-100115 Fri, 17 Oct 2008 13:08:34 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=1089#comment-100115 [...] vous, cher Readers?  Barry’s application is due any time now!  Most of you urged caution for Tenured Tammy last month, and talked me out of my advice to Tammy urging total honesty.  What do you think Barry should [...]

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By: Anonymous http://www.historiann.com/2008/09/19/tenured-tammy-giving-up-tenure-for-love/comment-page-1/#comment-87355 Tue, 23 Sep 2008 20:12:58 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=1089#comment-87355 I do think it is important to note that Tammy is in a very limited field, with very few job openings a year. In contrast, her husband has a lot more opportunities. While it does make sense for her to be the lead spouse because she is further along in her career, the very small number of job openings in her field every year makes getting any position a long shot, much less a position at an institution capable of making a spousal hire.

That’s true, but it’s fully symmetrical. Just because her husband finds a job at some school, it’s no more likely that they will have a position for Tammy than that any other school would. (Well, maybe if her husband is a superstar, the school will be so excited to get him that they will generate a second position for Tammy from scratch. If that is true, then it is clearly the right way to go.) So the lack of positions in Tammy’s field is going to cut down the possibilities a lot, regardless of whether this filter is applied first or second.

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By: ej http://www.historiann.com/2008/09/19/tenured-tammy-giving-up-tenure-for-love/comment-page-1/#comment-86979 Mon, 22 Sep 2008 14:26:51 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=1089#comment-86979 I do think it is important to note that Tammy is in a very limited field, with very few job openings a year. In contrast, her husband has a lot more opportunities. While it does make sense for her to be the lead spouse because she is further along in her career, the very small number of job openings in her field every year makes getting any position a long shot, much less a position at an institution capable of making a spousal hire.

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By: Anonymous http://www.historiann.com/2008/09/19/tenured-tammy-giving-up-tenure-for-love/comment-page-1/#comment-86970 Mon, 22 Sep 2008 13:17:28 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=1089#comment-86970 One bit of “academic folklore” that I recently heard was that search committees will simply discard overqualified candidates from their pools, regardless of whether or not their letters explicitly state that they’re interested in the job as advertised. Let’s hope it’s not true.

In my experience, it’s true, at least if “overqualified” means “already holding a higher rank than the advertised position”. One reason is concern for appearances: if you hire a previously tenured professor from a comparable institution into an untenured position, it looks like you are exploiting this person. It doesn’t matter whether the arrangement was acceptable to everyone directly involved, since most onlookers won’t have any way of knowing that. The net effect is that this sort of situation always makes the department look a little worse.

A second reason is concern about being taken advantage of. The applicant may cheerfully accept an untenured position and then complain bitterly about the unfairness a year later, and may even have intended to do so all along. Administrators often find this argument compelling, especially since the department sometimes colludes with the applicant. If the administration won’t approve a tenured hire the department wants to make, one way around it is to make an unusually senior tenure-track hire and then shortly thereafter assert that equitable treatment requires granting tenure now rather than in six years. The fairness argument really is rather compelling, but that means administrators are unwilling to let the situation arise in the first place. Unfortunately, there’s no credible way to say “Gee, I promise I’ll never argue that my experience merits earlier promotion than you originally had in mind for this job.”

A third reason is that mere willingness to accept a demotion looks bad to some people. If you say “Of course, I’d require a tenured position” it sounds confident and reinforces the idea that you are a valuable scholar. If you say “Please hire me! I’ll take whatever I can get” it sounds desperate and undermines your bargaining position. Of course, not everyone will be influenced by this, but just a few key people can sink an application.

So overall I’m not optimistic about this approach. I’d actually suggest that Tammy follow the opposite route (as Tenured Radical suggested). Academia is just not set up to handle tenured professors as “trailing spouses” of untenured professors, but the opposite is quite common.

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By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2008/09/19/tenured-tammy-giving-up-tenure-for-love/comment-page-1/#comment-86901 Sun, 21 Sep 2008 20:09:09 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=1089#comment-86901 I remember the 1990s well, Indyanna. I think I got offered (and accepted) one of those 1990s jobs that SHOULD have been terminated mid-year! Sucks for me, I guess.

I like your idea of a buyout for tenure-track slots. The commonwealth will be so much better off if all history departments get an increase of 20% in the number of regular faculty they have, courtesy of the Federal Government. I love it, in fact! My department would get at least 5 more hires. (Oh, wait–that would probably mean that I’d have to chair a search committee. Cancel that!)

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By: Indyanna http://www.historiann.com/2008/09/19/tenured-tammy-giving-up-tenure-for-love/comment-page-1/#comment-86889 Sun, 21 Sep 2008 17:20:31 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=1089#comment-86889 Ortho: Yes, that’s the conference I went to, although I only went to the last afternoon sessions, since I wasn’t in town before that–plus the closing reception, of course. What I saw of it was very interesting.

The discussants on the way back into town included people who had negotiated spousal/partner hiring situations, late stage dissertators imminently facing the same, and people who had transacted them on the hiring side for departments. The conclusion wasn’t all that forlorn, just very cognizant of all of the hurdles and snags on all sides. Let’s hope the current economic meltdown doesn’t render all of this business academic, as it were. In the early ’90s (remember, Historiann?) there were several years in a row with lots of announced searches followed by lots of announced search terminations. Maybe the Treasury Dept. can buy a few thousand tenure-track openings from hurting universities and auction them off?

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By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2008/09/19/tenured-tammy-giving-up-tenure-for-love/comment-page-1/#comment-86883 Sun, 21 Sep 2008 16:07:37 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=1089#comment-86883 Ortho: I don’t think Tammy is looking to “sacrifice” her career. I think she’s trying to ensure the happiness of her husband and her marriage. I too hope this doesn’t necessitate a harsh either/or choice for her, but I think it’s wrong to assume that one’s independent career equals happiness. I think that’s sometimes a big mistake that academics make, thinking that the key to their happiness equals a job, or a better job, or tenure, or this book or that book getting published. Love and family count, too.

One or both partners in academic couples have to make sacrifices in order to have both careers and a life together. I know lots of women who have agreed to play second-banana to their husbands’ careers, and fewer men who have done the same for their wives. But, Tammy’s husband chose his graduate institution in part because of its proximity to Tammy’s school (her e-mail above was redacted). It doesn’t seem unreasonable to me that he should hit the job market and see what comes up.

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By: ortho stice http://www.historiann.com/2008/09/19/tenured-tammy-giving-up-tenure-for-love/comment-page-1/#comment-86878 Sun, 21 Sep 2008 15:05:46 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=1089#comment-86878 I hope Tenured Tammy doesn’t sacrifice her career because of her partner. Her partner should follow her. I agree with the Radical’s advice, which might be a good first step. But, let’s be honest, I don’t have a clue.

OT @Indyanna: Did you go to the Antipopery Conference? How was Milton’s keynote?

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By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2008/09/19/tenured-tammy-giving-up-tenure-for-love/comment-page-1/#comment-86873 Sun, 21 Sep 2008 14:45:52 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=1089#comment-86873 Thanks for stopping by to comment, Tenured Radical. Tammy, TR asks a great question: why not approach your current institution and ask if there’s anything it can do for you? They’re already invested in you–why wouldn’t they want to keep you around (or at least avoid having to search your position again? Unless the peasants with pitchforks really are trying to run you out of town?)

It seems like the easiest thing to do, compared to both of you schlepping it on the job market.

And you’re right, Indyanna: “They only look weird to academics because of all of the oddly cultish or vestigially medieval things we do in other spheres of our tribal practice.” We do have an exotic job search culture. In what other lines of work would expertise be looked at as though it were a bad thing in an applicant?

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