Monday, November 15, 2010

Early Offers

I've just been contacted by a student who did a phone interview this morning for a decent TT job. He was distressed, though, by the interviewing department's claim that they were aiming to have on-campus interviews in early December, and an offer out by Christmas. The student assumed that this would require the person offered the job to respond to the offer before departments interviewing at the APA would have a chance to even invite finalists to campus. Thus, whoever gets the offer from the department doing the phone interview would have to accept (or decline) before getting a sense of the other opportunities he or she may have.

This seems unfair. Does the APA have any policy on this? I'd go look at the APA webshite, but, as everyone knows, it's a dysfunctional mess and utterly useless.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

If the philosophy job market should be construed as a draft (as in sports), then maybe it is unfair. But if we're all free agents, then I don't see the problem. You can take this offer, or continue to play the market.

Anonymous said...

Well, most major league sports as I understand it still put in some restrictions on free agent signings. I know the NBA best, and they certainly do: Teams can't contact free agents except during certain periods, can only make offers during certain periods, and so on.

Anonymous said...

This happened to someone I know a few years ago. The offering school was in Europe, and they have a different timetable than the American schools. She had to choose whether to accept the European offer before she even knew whether she had APA interviews at any American schools. It was unfortunate, but she's very happy there.

Anonymous said...

I actually think it's good that departments do this. In this horrid climate, you're probably not getting any other opportunities anyway. Taking the job in December allows one to then say: "F*ck the APA! I'm going to Christmas With Family instead!"

Anonymous said...

By the time the offer is made, people are likely to know whether they have other interviews at the APA. If somebody has other interviews (and the best candidates are likely to), then it puts an unusual pressure on those candidates to take a bird in the hand. It seems like the reason for a department to do this would be to hope to avoid having to deal with competition down the road. But this only works if the best candidates are risk averse (or if they really want to go to the school in question). Maybe they are betting that, given the shitty environment, more and better people will be risk averse.

It seems like sort of a crappy way of taking advantage (and not very good advantage) of a crappy environment. On the other hand, if lots of schools did this, it would break the unhealthy grip the Eastern has on the market, which would be fine with me.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone ever been sued for refusing an academic job after signing a contract? Suppose the applicant took the job, went through the regular market, and took another position-- sure it's a contract violation but irl are there any consequences? My department always assumes non-tt faculty will just break their contracts if they get tt jobs, and we pretty much tell tell them nothing will happen if they do this. I wonder what the actual sanctions would be at other places.

Anonymous said...

It's probably very simple: the department is expecting a hiring freeze in the new year. (Would it be better for the department to proceed in the customary manner and lose the position?)

Anonymous said...

If any department gives me an offer before Christmas, I'm sure as hell gonna be pissed!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 7:21:

Maybe you'll be really lucky and no one will give you an offer at all.

Fritz Warfield said...

As far as I know, the APA does not have a policy on this issue.
Even if the APA has a policy covering this issue, APA policy could at most discourage the practice and certainly could not prevent it. The APA obviously doesn't have that kind of power over hiring institutions and over its members.

Juggalosophy said...

Anon 5:43,

I'm a former Phil-er doing law now. Basically, you'd be on the hook for all of the universities costs to replace you, as well as any difference in salary between you and who they end up hiring (assuming there aren't tons of people lined up to take your job).

The damage it would do to your reputation as an academic might be too much to think about it. You'd better make damn sure the other school gives you a firm, real offer before you breach the old one.

But in answer to your question, you wouldn't go to jail, and the first university probably could not get a performative injunction forcing you to work there. At least not in America. Some European countries might not take such a relaxed view toward contract breach.

Anonymous said...

From the APA website:
" In normal circumstances a prospective employee should have at least two weeks for consideration of a written offer from a properly authorized administrative officer, and responses to offers of position whose duties begin in the succeeding fall should not be required before January 15. "
http://www.apaonline.org/governance/statements/employment.aspx

Ben said...

Here in Europe, where there's no centralized APA type process, this is quite normal. It sucks a bit in so far as candidates get less choice over where they end up, because there's pressure effectively to take the first job offered. I can see the reasons for schools to operate this way - why wait until candidates have all their offers and risk your shortlist all declining yours?

Fritz Warfield said...

Anonymous 9:03pm points to one APA statement recommending a practice. But this statement is not something that departments have agreed to follow and it's not something that the APA enforces in any way (it couldn't even if it tried).

Anonymous said...

If your student finds this distressing, perhaps he should have read the ad a little more closely, as it states the expected timeline explicitly.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, agreed with the previous comment. Also, why is he applying to positions that he doesn't want? I'm sure there are more than enough job seekers happy to get an offer. I only wish that my department had it together to the point where we could do this. The APA is a waste of time and money and the longer we drag out the search the more likely the Dean is to pull the funding. If we could get a decent candidate to sign a contract for 11/12 before the end of 10, that would be excellent.

Anonymous said...

I was on a search committee that did this last year; the offer happened to be extended to a friend of mine (from whose interview and consideration I recused myself due to conflicts of interest). My friend was on the hook for a couple of interviews at the Dec APA, neither of which seemed like they were likely to hire him but at which he was keen to work. He took the job offer, anyway, in mid-December, went to the APA and interviewed, and received no invitation for a campus visit.

Two points:
1. An actual job is better than a possible.
2. It seems unlikely that a college or university would go through the trouble of suing you if didn't take a contract (think of the expense).
3. We can expect this, I think, to become a lot more common, particularly for state schools, where budget lines must be active at the time that state congress goes into session, so as just avoid the state from deleting that budget line for the school. This is due primarily to the fact that legislators are idiots and translate "Not active at the moment" to "Totally unnecessary for the school, obvs." At my institution hiring is almost done on the "non-orthodox" timeline, since the timeline between the final budget from state Congress to the college, and then for the college administration to sort out their budget to the start of the school year doesn't really allow for new position hiring to be approved until the fall term has already begun; this hiring is usually for a January start. It's dumb, but at least they allow the 1/2 year to count towards a person's tenure-track as a full year.

Anonymous said...

Just a word to the wise. Legal questions aside, accepting an offer at X only to then immediately pursue other potential gigs at Y and Z is a surefire way to have the good folks at X hate your guts before you even set foot on campus.

Anonymous said...

Juggalosophy says, "Basically, you'd be on the hook for all of the universities costs to replace you, as well as any difference in salary between you and who they end up hiring (assuming there aren't tons of people lined up to take your job)."

Thankfully, there are tons of people lined up to take your job!

Anonymous said...

"it's not something that the APA enforces in any way (it couldn't even if it tried)."

I think that's true a priori.

Anonymous said...

Does anybody think that if you agree to do X then you ought to do X? I mean, fuck the legal ramifications; most of the agreements I make are either not legally enforceable or are not worth it to legally enforce. But God help me if I think that this excuses me from doing what I agreed to do.

Anonymous said...

"Just a word to the wise. Legal questions aside, accepting an offer at X only to then immediately pursue other potential gigs at Y and Z is a surefire way to have the good folks at X hate your guts before you even set foot on campus."

I doubt it. I've seen plenty of people do just this (and actually get other gigs at Y, leaving X in the lurch) without ensuing hatred. Many people in academia are grown-ups who understand that managing a career is complicated.

Anonymous said...

Thank you 9:45

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:45 (Nov 17) and 9:47 (Nov 18):

Whether your agreement is morally binding probably depends (in part) on what it's reasonable for the department to expect. If it's reasonable for them to expect that you will puruse other positions to some degree even after accepting theirs--and given the earliness of the offer and the insane state of the job market, there's an argument to be made that it is reasonable--then since both parties went into the agreement understanding exactly what they were doing, it's hard to see what's wrong with pursuing other positions.

Furthermore, even if it's prima facie morally wrong to pursue other positions after accepting the early offer (e.g., if it's not reasonable for them to expect you to do so), the fact that accepting another position might have an extremely sigificant impact on one's long-term happiness might make it not wrong.

Anonymous said...

12:53

It's disturbing to hear the reasoning of some ethicists
http://schwitzsplinters.blogspot.com/2006/05/problem-of-ethics-professors.html

Anonymous said...

8:32

Good argument.

Anonymous said...

4:33

I see:

Alf: "It sucks that you poked me in the eye with a stick."

Betty: "Why? I told you clearly that I would."

Anonymous said...

Okay, you lying liars. You think my institution's early search is unreasonable. You go ahead and apply for it. You get the offer. You accept it — telling us that you are going to with us next year. All the while you have applications out — and instead of withdrawing from these, you hold them open, waiting to see what happens. It is not at the moment you renege on your agreement that you become a jerk. It is at the moment you decide that you will wait to see what comes of the other offers. For your agreement expressed an intention to come (absent the unforeseeable, e.g. death, terrible accident, etc.), but you plainly have no such intention if you are already aiming at offers the acceptance of which would require you to renege. Yes, you are a lying liar if you carry out a policy like this. I wouldn't trust you to meet me for a fucking cup of coffee, much less with a position of trust within my department.

Anonymous said...

A personal services contract of any kind is unenforceable by the employer as a practical matter. This is not, as is sometimes believed, because the 13th amendment prohibits slavery. Rather, it's simply because the employer could not force you to do a job you don't want to do.

If the hiring university includes language to the effect that the new hire is liable for damages or is prohibited from teaching at another school for a certain period of time if the hiree breaks the contract, then you might be stuck, but I don't know that universities include that kind of language in new-faculty contracts. (Mine doesn't.)

This is not unlike the new grad student who accepts an admission offer and financial support from his/her second-choice school -- and then backs out after the standard acceptance deadline when taken off the wait list at their first-choice school and decides to accept that. This happened to one of my students some years ago. The second-choice school issued all kinds of threats, but the student has never regretted attending the first-choice school and the threats came to nothing.

Pursuing impoverished grad students or junior faculty members is just not worth the hassle for universities. You might end up on somebody's sh*t list professionally, but it's probably more important to end up at a better school, whether for grad school or a TT job.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 3:49's sentiments. 4:41 seems to be expressing some unwarranted resentment. The massive investment made in getting a Ph.D., combined with horrific job prospects for most of us (at least with regard to good schools in good locations), and the drastic quality-of-life differences between jobs at various schools in various locations, seems to warrant a lot more leeway than 4:41 is giving out.

If I was on a search committee, I wouldn’t be angry with a candidate who kept his/her options open, given the state of the market, especially if our search was early. There is a reason why the APA guidelines suggest that searches take place in the same time-frame for all schools -- it is because it is unfair to candidates not to do it that way. If a department wants to take advantage of candidates by doing an early search, that is an additional reason for giving leeway to those who choose to keep their options open.

Anonymous said...

4:41:

I guarantee if *I* accepted your offer that I wouldn't turn around and accept another one. But you didn't call me, did you? You instead called a bunch of pedigreed douches with lots and lots of publications. And that's the risk you accept when you're attempting to land that type of candidate.

It's not too late to interview some *real* teachers who might be collegial and grateful for the TT offer.

Verification word: surnes

Anonymous said...

Let me get this straight. The department with the resources to hire someone in a bad environment completes a search early. In all likelihood, they do this in order to avoid competing with other schools, (and so, 5:51, acknowledging that they are after the SAME candidates). This forces a candidate, in a market that everybody acknowledges is TERRIBLE for candidates (and so GOOD for departments with resources to hire), into a painful decision: either take this position now and give up the opportunities she has to survey more of the shitty market at the APA (the next week!!), or take the chance of killing all of her chances to get a job by turning the early offer down. Oh, and the norm of the discipline that the department is happily trampling (codified by the APA) is that offers be made later, presumably to protect candidates from having to make this very decision.

The hiring department has all of the power and is making the person with none make a difficult decision that only needed to be made to save the department from the possibility of the candidate's having a bit more negotiating power. A candidate's "having a bit more negotiating power" probably looks just like that candidate's being a douche to the department taking advantage of what should have been the candidate's weakness.

Yeah, wow, do I ever feel sorry for the department if this goes wrong for them.

Word verification: "bulogell." Sounds as cranky as my post.

Anonymous said...

Holy crap, 5:51. Jealous much?

Anonymous said...

I think 11/15 6:02 PM is right (the likely explanation is that the department is worried about losing the commitment for the position). I also agree with Warfield that the APA doesn’t have any authority to demand or require, but can only suggest.

I’m not very sympathetic to the idea that it’s “unfair” to candidates to set an earlier deadline. I can see that it makes life harder for the person who gets the offer, but that doesn't make it unfair. And if someone really does accept the offer and then renege in late January, that sucks. Because of that guy, there’s one job fewer this year (at least this year). Hooray, he stuck it to The Man and beat the system! And, as it happens, screwed one of us out of a job, but what the fuck, it was worth it.

Anonymous said...

If it were the case that the job would disappear forever, then yes, delaying past the drop-dead-deadline would suck for everybody. If the department is just doing it because they want a better negotiating position, then they would likely still have a second and a third choice in late January. If NONE of those candidates (likely very good candidates, in this market) were available, then that would be either very bad luck or bad planning.

In this particular case, it does not seem likely that a private university whose fiscal year ends June 30 would set Dec 31 as a drop-dead deadline for hiring. It seems like a choice. Doesn't it?