Monday, March 17, 2014

Round-up of coverage on the academic negotiation heard round the 'net

Update, 3/18: Vim, Ph.D. forwarded me their take on things, some of which engage the Cedar Riener post. Read the pull quote that I've added below in the body of the text; it's reeeeeeaaaaallllyyy good. There was also an article by Katy Waldman in Slate, allegedly, and another at Slate from Rebecca Schuman, who has written about philosophy there before. Her strongly worded lesson from the story: 
Any beginning academic who tries to stand up for herself is lunch for the hordes of traumatized ivory-tower zombies, themselves now irreversibly infected with the obsequious self-devaluation and totalizing cowardice that go by the monikers “collegiality” and “a good fit.”
But really, read the pull quote from Exhaust Fumes.

W's story spread quickly. I'm still processing and finding all the reactions to it. Here are a few.

Inside Higher Ed was the first to pick up the original story and W's follow-up. This was followed by Jezebel's article, where Erin Gloria Ryan places W's story within the context of the advice that women should "Lean in!" and the unique challenges women face when they do. (Does anyone know what that whole leaning in thing was all about? I never really took the time to figure out what the fuck it even meant.)

On the business tip, Inside Higher Ed interviewed Karen, from The Professor is In, who also shared her wisdom about negotiating, including this helpful tip amid other advice (see the caveat):
You should still expect to negotiate your tenure track job offer in nearly all cases.
(For more on the business side of things, see this entry from a Forbes contributor.)

Others picked up on W's disappointment in the "moralizing" reactions to her story. Cedar Riener nicely points out that while W might have gone about things differently, Nazareth's:
actions relate to a larger phenomena, seeing behavior that reflects unpreparedness or unfamiliarity with the situation, and treating this behavior as if it reflects poorly on the person. This is a kind of bias called the fundamental attribution error, and it has particularly pernicious effects in education. (Emphasis added)
(See also how Riener relates it to teaching at the end of his post. I also think that Riener's point extends to many of the commentariat's reaction to W and the "tone" of her e-mail.)

(Added 3/18) Related to this point--reminiscent of what Eric Schliesser described in another context as a tendency of "unreceptive professional philosophers [who] do not wish to see the best in each other's attempts."--Vim, Ph.D. at Exhaust Fumes has this to say about how our quickness to make judgments about others on something so slim as tone represents an uncritical acceptance of certain academic norms (as I mention in the update above, it's so good):
If we think somebody new is going to be an asshole to work with because they expect to be paid a certain amount or would appreciate some limitations on the teaching workload, maybe we need to think more deeply about the system that such a conviction is buying into. The system where the long suffering have dealt with so much crap that they believe everybody else should too. The one where new people have done enough to earn a job offer, but not the respect of discussion if their requests seem impossible. The one where new people are immediately othered—as in “egads, she thinks she better than us” or “she’s clearly not going to be happy here if she’s this kind of person”––the second they suggest they’re entitled to make requests. The one where a response to somebody’s sense of their own worth and tentative articulation of potential needs is perceived not as an opportunity to improve the conditions at a university for its new and future members, but as a threat, competition, and clearly unfair.
On the topic of potential (implicit) bias, David Perry raises worries about the way "fit" can be used to "[conceal] various kinds of bias." Perry notes that though we can't know if any sort of bias was at play in W's case, "in the comments on tone and fit throughout, [he] see[s] acceptable smokescreens for bias."

(For more takes on W's story with the same general thrust as Perry's, see this Storify put together by Historianess. It also includes what looks to be practical advice about negotiating.)

And for more on potential bias, be sure to not miss out on the update to the original post which included references a helpful reader sent along, which, in her words, are about:
the fair amount of research on the backlash women can face when they negotiate, what causes the backlash effects, and how to keep them to a minimum. For a brief-and-breezy summary I recommend this article in the Washington Post....If you would rather read a journal article with plenty of references to the literature, see [here].
I'm happy W shared her story with us, especially given that the type of criticism that she's been subjected to was easily foreseeable. I'm also glad that for as many "moralizing" comments we've seen and for all the "failure of imagination"--Riener's apt assessment--on display, there have been helpful treatments and comments about the situation like those above.

W's story has (re)sparked important discussions about negotiating, bias in the job market (whether it was at play in W's case or not, we can't know), the role of "fit" in job decisions, the need for strong mentors beyond the dissertation phase of our careers--specifically when it comes to the job market--the relationship between teaching and research and how candidates should go about articulating their views on the topic, etc.

That's pretty cool.

(Comments are closed here, but still open on the original thread.)

(Updated 3/18, see above)

-- Jaded, Ph.D.