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Kristina Meshelski

Here's a few things I wish someone had told me.

1. Always ask for at least a little more salary, and maybe a lot more for moving/new computer/new books/etc. These one time expenses are especially easy for even the most unwilling to negotiate place. But for the one time expenses, let the original offer be your guide. I would start out by asking to double whatever was offered, and if nothing was offered, just to ask for something.

2. At many state universities, they are required to make all their employee's salaries public. Look these up before you start negotiating. Don't expect to compete with the business school, but look to see what others are being paid at the Assistant level in the Humanities. Be sure to look at a couple people, preferably men, because male salaries are often higher. If they are paying someone else something, that means they could pay you that.

Quick side note on this: it is possible you are being offered more than any of the current Assnt. Profs are making, but that doesn't mean they couldn't pay you a few thousand more than the offer. We had this kind of weird salary compression thing happen in the Cal State.

3. Don't believe what anyone tells you about unions. If the university's faculty are represented by a union, that may mean that the union has a website wherein you can read their contract for yourself. But many people at universities represented by unions don't actually know what the union does or what the contract does or doesn't say. Unless the person is a union rep, they may not know what they are talking about, or worst case scenario, may be purposely disingenuous. Believe me, I have seen this many times.

I also have to say that I disagree with your advice to try to have a candid conversation with the chair, Marcus. This might work if you are lucky, but it is also a risk. First because academics are strange and petty sometimes, and you do not yet know what is going on behind the scenes. And second because as I noted above, the chair might not be informed enough to offer good advice.

4. If you want to try to negotiate some lighter teaching, it is safe to start by simply asking if there are any pre-tenure sabbaticals or other teaching load reduction opportunities. It is actually good to ask this in the campus visit interview stage, but in any case, ask it without seeming too hopeful or expectant. I have met some people from teaching institutions that take a strange kind of pride in how punishing their teaching load is, and they might be quick to take offense if a candidate assumed they could do less teaching. But if you just ask about stuff like this in the negotiation stage, it allows the Dean or provost to explain to you what is currently done and you can learn from that whether it is appropriate to ask for anything. Most likely scenario your case will be like mine and there is no teaching reduction they could possibly offer you, yet once you get hired you can apply for various research leaves that amount to the same thing you were asking for.

5. State universities often have arcane procedures and requirements placed on them. This makes it hard for them to just give stuff to people who ask. Instead, if they have extra money, they want people to apply for it. So there often are ways to get things once you are hired, which you will only fully understand after you are hired, unfortunately.

Good luck everyone! If I were you I would try to do this negotiating over the phone, not email. It can and should take multiple phones calls, in my opinion. And please remember I have limited experience with this, so anyone more experienced than I am may know more.

Martin Shuster

You need to know the institution. First, there is a big difference between a 4/4 teaching school, a 3/3 teaching school, and a 3/2 teaching school. Each may be focused on teaching, but in different.

Second, for anything that you ask, have a good *reason* -- this is just basic negotiation.


I had some success negotiating the terms of my offer at a 4/4 load regional campus of a state school-- even without another job offer. I would definitely advise caution, though: it's critical to show you understand the school's culture, the primacy of teaching, the kinds of budgetary constraints and compression issues that are likely going on, etc. At schools like mine, it's also important to be down to earth and not seem like a diva-- it does not play well at all and would likely ring major alarm bells about a candidate. In a phone conversation, I gently inquired as to whether there was room for negotiation on the salary offer, especially since it would have been a slight pay cut for me; with an invitation to make a counter-offer, then, I got some advice, did my research, and emailed a modest, carefully-worded counter-offer, making sure to state that I understood the constraints the school faced. The result was a modest but significant improvement in my starting salary (which is crucial down the road). Given the context, and my lack of another offer, I think this was as much as could be expected. So, for what it's worth, in my experience it was worth it to try, but I'm glad I was very careful about how I did it. (Another thing: the fact that there's a union contract doesn't necessarily mean you can't negotiate salary, but how salary steps and so forth are set out varies, so do your homework on this before negotiating too.)

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