In the comments section of our most recent "How can we help you?" post, a reader asks, "What are the do's and don'ts for negotiating a TT job offer/ contract at a teaching college/university?"
Excellent question. As some of you may know, there was a widely publicized horror story a few years back concerning a candidate who had an offer from a teaching university rescinded after she emailed asking for a bunch of things, including limited teaching preps and a pre-tenure sabbatical. The email she received read:
It was determined that on the whole these provisions indicate an interest in teaching at a research university and not at a college, like ours, that is both teaching and student centered...Thus, the institution has decided to withdraw its offer of employment to you.
I don't know of many stories like this, but still, it is a cautionary tale--especially given that in my experience the negotiation stage can be really nerve-wracking. In any case, because schools may be very different here, it might be most helpful to hear from a variety of readers who work at teaching schools or have negotiated offers with them about the kinds of things can be negotiated at their school. Does anyone with experience here have any tips to offer?
My personal, albeit limited experience is that (A) teaching schools may not be willing to negotiate very much (maybe a bit on salary and moving experiences), and (B) unless one has a competing offer from another school, it is probably best to proceed with caution--for, even if one's offer isn't rescinded due to one's negotiating tactics, it can be a bad idea to start things off on a bad foot with one's new department and administration.
How, then, to best proceed? What are some "do's and don'ts"? I guess I don't feel experienced enough to give a list of do's and don'ts. My general feeling, though, is that because one normally negotiates with a dean or provost, the best thing to do may be to feel things out with the chair of the search committee or department via a candid phone conversation after the offer is extended, perhaps beginning with an open-ended question to the effect of, "I'm really excited about the prospect of joining your department. Do you have any advice on negotiating?", feeling out their reactions and proceeding with further questions only if they seem amenable to them.
This seems to me a wise path forward for several reasons.
First, as a matter of emotional/social intelligence, it seems to me wise to begin with a personal phone conversation rather than a more impersonal email exchange (an error that I think the person made in the horror story mentioned earlier). When you are beginning a new job, you are beginning new personal relationships. Email, however, is impersonal, and you cannot feel things out via email that you can in normal conversation (e.g. reading the tone of a person's voice, etc.).
Second, instead of simply laying out negotiation requests (as the person did in the case mentioned above), asking the chair of the committee or department an open-ended question "puts the ball in their court", so to speak. Because the people in the department liked you enough to hire you, there is a fair chance are they care about your interests as a colleague--and so may offer you helpful advice one way or the other; advice to the effect of, "Sorry, the administration here really doesn't negotiate" (something I heard at one school), or "Sorry, all contracts here are union negotiated, so we cannot negotiate" (something I heard at another school), or "You can probably negotiate some on the salary and moving expenses, but not teaching loads--as we have a university policy that all untenured faculty must teach a full teaching load" (something I also heard).
But these are just a few of my thoughts. What are yours?