There’s been a lot of ventilating and hypothesizing over Nazareth College’s recent withdrawal of an offer to a job candidate.  On Slate, it’s been interpreted as a case of negotiating while female, or a symptom of abusive expectations of faculty in general.  I don’t want to discount the gender dynamics here–might Nazareth have treated a man differently?–or, as you all know, the power that hiring institutions have over candidates, and, for that matter, all faculty.  But, putting my historian hat on, and always considering multiple causes, I wonder if there’s yet another thing going on here: Nazareth making perhaps the right decision, but doing it exceedingly boorishly; and the differing perceptions of how negotiations work.  I’m not excusing Nazareth, but just offering a little more for us to think about.

I think we all agree that withdrawing a job offer, once extended, is highly improper, especially as a result of a negotiating stance.  But let’s think of two other situations that might be analogous in some ways (although no analogy is perfect).  What of a professional soccer team and a free agent.  The soccer team extends an offer to sign an outstanding midfielder, one who they want to play with more of a defensive midfielder mindset .  She’s about the take the job, and then says, “hey, I’m really a forward at heart.  Would you play me at forward all the time?”  Now, the team should have done a better scouting job in the first place, and probably not have made an oral offer of a contract.  But you can also imagine the team thinking, if that’s the way that she is going to play the position, we should sign someone else.  Maybe that’s what went on here: Nazareth should have done a much better job of screening in the first place, and is now trying to avoid having what it perceives as a mismatch.  Another situation: two people engaged.  One says, on the night before the wedding, “I really do want us to move to Alaska, live in an igloo, and only eat seal, and that will make me happy.”  Again, it should never have gotten to this point if the man’s fiancé wants to live in a big city and is a vegan, and the latter shouldn’t jilt his man at the altar–which is what Nazareth did.  But again, I can understand the second man thinking that not getting married would be preferable to going through with the deal.

So, to sum up: I would not be surprised if all of the factors were in play: negotiating while female, too much power in the hands of hiring institutions, perhaps the candidate not judging well how best to approach negotiations, etc., but also maybe Nazareth trying to get itself out of a mess of its own creation.

Once I again, I thank my lucky stars for the privileges that I enjoy, some of which may be due to merit, but many of which are, no doubt, due to my winning the birth lottery through no fault of my own.

Whatcha thinkin'?