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« How to teach a course that is mainly or exclusively composed of Less Commonly Taught philosophical traditions | Main | Weighing priorities (relationships, job types, etc.) when choosing between jobs »

02/14/2022

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bird

As someone who, in a previous year, got an informal TT offer that never resulted in a formal contract, I'd recommend always waiting until you've signed the contract before withdrawing from other searches. I think the pandemic has made these situations more common. There was also that case a few years ago where someone's offer fell through during negotiation.

East Coast

Not until you've signed and the university has received. It is true that others will want to know, but you definitely don't want to be a teaching example in the future!

Eric Hagedorn

Everyone here is talking about the possibility of the school withdrawing the offer before the contract is signed. And they're right to do so. But you should also know that *you* are not committed to the offer until you've signed, and you should feel free to walk if something better comes along.

In my own case, I got an offer for a one-year VAP from school X, but they took over two weeks to finalize the specific salary number and I refused to sign a contract with a salary range on it. I told X I would accept but that I really needed to know the exact salary before signing. In the intervening weeks, I got an interview and offer from St. Norbert College, and within 24 hours of making the offer they had a contract ready for me to sign. I took their offer and apologetically told school X they'd need to find somebody else. 10 years later, I'm still at St. Norbert.

All that to say, don't pull yourself out of other searches until you've signed a contract. You don't know who might come along tomorrow with a better deal.

TT

This really depends on a school's hiring process and on a candidate's status with other searches. At several schools with which I am familiar, a contract takes weeks to generate after an official offer and acceptance, which are either verbal or via email. Some schools can generate contracts quickly but some just take longer. Once a candidate has formally accepted an offer at a school that takes longer to generate a contract, if they have competing offers, they will have to decline them. I think it's up to the candidate whether they want to continue doing interviews after a formal acceptance, but I'd think that puts them in an odd position.

l

This is a job market. Absolutely do not take any steps with other pending jobs until you get a contract, signed by you and THEM. You can use their offer as leverage with other places. But that is a different matter. And to be clear on a more controversial point, even after you have accepted a job, you are welcome to accept a better one, and then decline the one you have not yet started (even with a contract). Wise up, this is a market!

Anon2

TT - Until I have a contract that I have signed, I have not formally accepted an offer. If I tell a school that I agree to the terms, they can still not send me the contract, or the contract may have clauses in it that I do not accept, etc. So, under these conditions, I can't see why I would not entertain other offers that came in while I was waiting to see whether the first school was actually going to send me a contract, that it is written in the way that we agreed, etc.

And, for what it is worth, I know people who have agreed to terms, but the contract either never materialized or contained content importantly different from what was negotiated. So my advice is always that until the contract is signed by both parties, keep your options open.

anon

"Once a candidate has formally accepted an offer at a school that takes longer to generate a contract, if they have competing offers, they will have to decline them"

Just chiming in to also register disagreement with this idea. If there's no contract to be signed, the acceptance we're talking about would not yet be formal enough to motivate declining other offers.

I'm also aware of several schools that are slow to generate contracts, and I've heard about how for some of these schools it's created some challenges for them in recruiting. I guess they should speed up.

Backing out of a postdoc?

If you sign an acceptance letter for (e.g.) a postdoc, is it impossible and/or terribly unprofessional to then back out? For example, if you later (after the deadline for acceptance) get offered a different postdoc which is much much better personally and financially?

SLAC Associate

@Backing out: Once you've signed a contract, whether for a postdoc or a TT job, it's not impossible to back out in order to take another offer (I certainly know people who have done so, for both kinds of jobs). However, you should first take a look at the employee handbook of the institution you've signed with, and maybe even speak to an attorney. By signing the contract, you agree to be bound by the provisions of the relevant employee handbook, and it's certainly possible there's language in there that you must give notice of resignation so many weeks or months in advance of the start of the fall semester. I've never heard of a university trying to collect damages from someone for backing out of a TT-offer, but they might have the legal right to do so.

An attorney

@SLAC Associate: Given the present state of the academic job market, I think that it would be difficult or impossible for a university to collect damages in a case like this. To do so, the university would have to show that they were actually damaged by the breach of contract. But it is pretty implausible that a university could not find, for the same (or lower!) salary, another similarly qualified philosopher to teach the same classes that the party to the contract was going to teach. Hence, no damages. (Which isn't to say that a university's general counsel couldn't bluster a bit--but I think that is also pretty unlikely in this sort of situation.)

Newly Dr

Just a quick legal note: in many jurisdictions (at the least the US, UK, and Aus) a verbal agreement is a legal contract (at least when some relevant provisions are met). So agreeing to take the job could be legally considered agreeing to a contract. Of course, usually what you would actually have agreed to is just to take the job on the condition that the physical contract to come is satisfactory to both parties. And I can't imagine any uni is likely to try to hold you to such a verbal/email agreement.

As for actually withdrawing: it seems to me that it depends on whether the other jobs are jobs that (a) you would not take if offered, given the current job offer or (b) you would consider if offered, even with the current job offer (they are better jobs). It seems polite to withdraw from jobs of type (a) immediately. But I don't think you should withdraw from jobs of type (b) at all.

I'd like to hear what other people think of this idea first, but it strikes me that you might want to let other jobs know that you now have an offer if you think that you have a good chance with them. This might both make you more attractive, and make them hurry up a little on deciding. But I can also see possible downsides. Like them just deciding it would be too much trouble to interview you when there are lots of other good candidates.

I

Let us be clear, one can ALWAYS leave a job. So if a better one comes along before you start the one - even with a contract - you can take the better job. You may be required to give two weeks notice (or meet some other conditions), but no hiring institution owns you. As others note, many institutions would throw you under the bas in a second if their finances changed, and they would do so with the full support of the law.

Mike Titelbaum

Just in case this isn’t obvious to job applicants reading this thread: Another reason not to back out of search A when you’ve received an offer from school B is that A could offer you a job with better terms, in which case you can get more out of B. So by all means wait to get an offer letter from B, and then don’t reply before their requested deadline if it could be to your advantage!

(And yes, it can be a good idea to tell school A that you have this offer from B.)

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