Saturday, February 8, 2014

Have we found a solution? Caveats.

My sabbatical institution is hiring new teaching faculty. They want to expand their undergraduate programs, as the institute director made clear in a "state of the institute address". Of course I imagined what it would be like to be hired at Hub's institution! I know that the positions offered are very reflective of my perfect position: more teaching than an R01 recipient would want, more research than adjunct or two-year college faculty would want. (note; I realize in reviewing my blog that this idea is more than a year old!)

Seems like sunshine and unicorns, right?
I would be very interested in a position here with Hub, but this is just a hypothetical think-through, as
I have thought through other two-body problem solutions with you in the last few years. For example: Hub could move to my institute, or we both move to another situation near family.

Here's the rub. 1. Hub's job security. Hub has a relatively secure position, though he is on soft money. His PI told him he would be "the last man standing" if the grants run out (this is highly unlikely).

But Hub asked his PI "Boss" for a raise, one that would bring his salary closer to other research faculty in the institute (since it is a state institution, salaries are public knowledge). Boss demurred, citing governmental restrictions. While Hub makes the most of all his peers in Boss's group, his salary is much lower than those with the same title in other groups. Perhaps he got hired too low on the salary scale and is truly restricted from getting significant raises. Hub feels a bit betrayed and/or used by his boss. He doesn't want me to give up my (tenured) position to join him when he doesn't feel like he wants to stay.

2. Tenure/ respect. I would negotiate for tenure in the new position. If I came in with tenure, would this raise the ire of those who busted butt to gain tenure there, even if my position was different from theirs? Would I be considered a "spousal hire" and never respected as a true colleague?

From the Chronicle of Higher Ed , discussing a scenario of a dysfunctional department and a spousal hire...

Not only does such behavior cause dissension within departments, but it also increases the psychological toll on the spouses themselves. People hired in such deals naturally find it hard not to ask if they really deserved the job. They wonder if their new colleagues resent them. They worry about receiving the same degree of institutional support as someone hired in a regular search.

3. Students. The quality of the students are lower than my current students. I have heard repeatedly of inter-departmental politics that result in the lowering of standards, that the students in the major are actually drop-outs from another major, how  the students in this major don't even qualify for the graduate program in the same field in the same institution. If you don't invest your soul into your students, this isn't important, but I do. I'm sure I could adjust, but it would suck transitioning.

4. Institutional culture. Though my faculty job is demanding for someone in my life-stage and with my aspirations, at least I know my colleagues "have my back".  It's a collegial atmosphere, and there is a lot of cross-disciplinary fertilization, by necessity. As I mentioned in this blog post under 'sit at the table', my current institution is progressive wrt to women. This is something I would give up by switching institutions. You could argue, of course, that the commuter marriage lifestyle is not very "progressive"...

5. Cost of living. This is relatively minor, since money isn't the driving factor and the status quo is expensive with two residences. I would expect a salary equivalent to my current one, cost of living adjusted, because that's what my 'peers' in Hub's institution are making. With that salary, we couldn't afford a simple house within reasonable commuting distance.

Any thoughts?


  1. Do anything you can to get rid of the two-body will all be happier when the family is together.
    Life is can't know what will happen later..if taking a job at hub's institution will get you through the next 5 years together, then do it.
    My two cents !

    1. Everyone is currently enjoying the family-together lifestyle, you are right! Life is Long... what a great perspective. Academia jobs aren't that easy to come by, but perhaps you are right, two something elses could come along for the better.

    2. Since the day you wrote this, your words have been ringing through my head "Life is Long"

  2. Hi! I am not sure what "teaching faculty" means in this case, is it supposeed come with tenure/tenure-track? But it's tricky in any case... Sure, a step up two-body wise, but I totally see your husbands point: For you to give up things in terms of job satisfaction (and potentially for your whole family in terms of income security) in order to accommodate a job that your husband is not all that happy with... tricky...

    1. Schlupp, I don't know what the positions would entail, but I have good "intelligence" this is a strong possibility for me.

  3. wow, tough. it would be great to be together, though!

  4. It is tricky indeed, but I would chose to have the family together -- jobs are just that, jobs, a way to make an income - time with family is what matters.