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Finding a tenured or tenure-track position is hard enough, but locating two academic job openings at once is next to impossible. Faculty recruitment — a key priority of the University's long-term Plan for Academic Enrichment — gets more complicated when a prospective hire's spouse also needs a position, and universities, including Brown, are facing this situation more than ever before.

In fact, one complicated dual hiring decision led to a clarification last month from the state Superior Court. Since Senior Lecturer in American Civilization Beverly Haviland's position was negotiated when the University was recruiting her husband, Professor of English and former Dean of the College Paul Armstrong, the ongoing legal dispute over her contract sheds light on the uncertainties that can arise when universities hire married or long-term partners who both work in academia.

But while such couples make up 36 percent of professors in America, according to a 2008 study from the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University, Brown has no written policy that concerns married and partnered faculty, said Dean of the Faculty Rajiv Vohra P'07. Nor does the University plan to institute one, he said.

"Having a policy means different things to different people," Vohra said. "What we have is a protocol, or an understanding, about how we help with job placement."

The University addresses dual career hires on a case-by-case basis because it cannot guarantee that tenured or tenure-track positions will be available for both partners, Vohra said, or that both partners will meet departmental standards for available positions. Brown's approach and efforts to accommodate are no different for same-sex couples, he added.

Even without a "written explicit policy," the University has done "a fair bit of hiring where we've found a way to hire couples," he said. "If you look at the actual outcomes, I think we are doing quite well."

‘Good astrology'
"Double hires take a lot of … good astrology, because you can't really control the situation," said Michael Steinberg, director of the Cogut Center for the Humanities and professor of history and music.

Steinberg arrived at Brown in 2005 with his wife, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Italian Studies Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg, who applied for an open faculty spot at the University after Steinberg was offered his current job.

If Stewart-Steinberg had not also been offered a position at Brown, "we probably would have both stayed at Cornell," she said.

But not all academic couples can choose between two institutions with available positions for both partners. Before Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron and her husband Associate Professor of Music Joseph Rovan came to Brown in 2004, they maintained a long-distance marriage while working at institutions in California and Texas.

"It's great to be able to talk about your life, not over the phone," Bergeron said of her marriage now.

Bergeron and Rovan "didn't go on the job market" to find work at the same institution — instead, "the opportunities opened up," she said.

"I think that in our case, the Plan for Academic Enrichment was a benefit, because of the expansion of the faculty that the University was undergoing," she said, which led to the open positions and "possibilities for recruitment" that allowed the couple to move to Providence.

When one partner is applying for a job at the institution where the second partner already works, that relationship may never come up during the application process.

"Sometimes, frankly, I don't even know that we've hired a couple," Vohra said.
When Professor of Sociology Mark Suchman applied to Brown, his marriage to Nina Tannenwald — who was already an associate research professor of international relations — was "no secret, but it was not a formal part of the application," Tannenwald said.

Still, his marriage was a big consideration — if Suchman had not gotten a job at Brown, he and Tannenwald would have both accepted positions at another institution, she said.
"We were willing to do the commuting thing for awhile, but we have children, and it's not sustainable or viable over the long run," Tannenwald said. "That's basically the only choice you have."

Clarifying expectations

While dual career couples "can present a great opportunity" to the University, the general scarcity of available faculty positions means that universities sometimes have to scramble to find a way to employ a potential hire's partner, Vohra said.

For example, the University could transfer funds so that a department that wouldn't normally have an open position can hire, Vohra said.

When no tenured or tenure-track position can be made available, the University may offer a partner a temporary or untenured job — an option both Steinberg and Stewart-Steinberg said they probably would not have taken.

When the University offered Armstrong a position as Dean of the College in 2000, a five-year position as visiting associate professor and senior lecturer in American civilization and comparative literature was offered to Haviland, who held a tenured position at the time at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, The Herald reported in July 2006.

Though Haviland's position at Brown was untenured, she accepted based on the understanding that her contract would be automatically renewed unless she failed to meet the same job performance standards that tenured faculty are held to, according to the Feb. 11 Superior Court decision.

Haviland appealed to the Superior Court when the University only renewed her appointment for two and a half years. Haviland's job performance was evaluated against the Department of American Civilization's standard of teaching excellence, rather than by the standards used to evaluate tenured faculty, according to the court decision.

Because senior lecturers have the "primary responsibility" of teaching classes, the University's "basic commitment" to "ensure excellence in teaching is of paramount importance," Vohra wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

The court determined that it was "reasonable" for Haviland to assume her contract would be renewed for the full five years, and the decision further clarified that in the future, "Haviland's appointment shall be renewed for additional five-year terms" unless her conduct meets the same standards that would determine "adequate cause for dismissal of a tenured faculty member from the University."

Haviland did not sue the University, so the court decision is simply a legal clarification of her contract.

"To the degree that the court placed the special circumstances of this instance above that fundamental University responsibility" of enforcing its standards of instruction, "I do not believe this was a satisfactory outcome," Vohra wrote.

The University's lack of a written policy defining its approach to dual career hires is "sometimes taken to mean, if only we had a policy," disputes and dissatisfaction could be avoided, Vohra said.

But "I don't think in our context that makes a lot of sense," he said, adding that it's "not very fruitful to have a cookie-cutter approach to this."

‘Quality control'

While recruiting top faculty members is central to the University's mission, "recruiting an individual is not just recruiting that person," Vohra said. Administrators try to entice prospective hires in any number of ways, including offering start-up research packages, helping recruits find housing and providing academic positions for their partners.

When it cannot offer two long-term jobs, the University can try to help a partner locate available positions at nearby institutions, Vohra said. Brown is a m
ember of the New England Higher Education Recruitment Consortium, a collaborative search engine of job postings at affiliated institutions in New England. On occasion, the University has collaborated with a nearby college or university to offer a dual career couple a job at each school, Vohra said.

The University works to accommodate the needs of all potential faculty members, but "one has to be clear that there are certain recruitments that are of far greater value to the institution than others," Vohra said.

Of the 100 new faculty positions called for by the Plan for Academic Enrichment, 25 were allocated to the Target of Opportunity hiring program, which allows the University to bypass traditional search procedures when the chance to hire a particularly distinguished professor arises.

But regardless of how badly an institution wants to recruit someone, universities can do more harm than good by offering a position to that person's partner if they are unqualified for the job, Steinberg said.

"I think what a university will ask itself is, ‘Would we hire this person alone?' " Steinberg said. To do otherwise, he added, could be damaging to the institution as well as to the professors' personal relationship.

The 2008 Stanford report found that 29 percent of faculty members thought their departments had, in fact, hired a partner whom they considered "underqualified."  Despite this, professors who are hired after their partners are not less productive than other scholars in their disciplines, according to the survey.

Brown has a "very strict approach to quality control" when hiring for tenured or tenure-track positions, Vohra said, and the University would never ask a department to hire someone "it might otherwise not wish to hire given its own standards."

Because departments are ultimately allowed to decide whether or not they wish to hire someone, the University could not institute a policy that guarantees placement for dual career couples, Vohra said.

"There's no question about it, that we don't always succeed" in accommodating dual career couples, he said. "Nor do I think one would want a system where the only definition of success is that anytime you decide to hire one person, you succeed in hiring the partner as well."

Looking ahead
Though faculty positions are particularly hard to find in the current economic climate, rising numbers of couples make it increasingly important and valuable for university hiring policies to accommodate dual career hires, according to the Stanford study.

Universities appear to view hiring faculty couples as "advantageous," because "more and more one sees this happening at universities across the country," Bergeron said.

Large universities and those located in remote areas are more likely to have written policies outlining their approach to hiring faculty couples, Vohra said. Since it is relatively easy for Brown to shift funds from one department to another, or help organize partner hires at nearby schools, such a policy would not be helpful to the University, he said.

Junior faculty members are at more of a disadvantage when attempting to find dual career positions because they have "fewer weapons on the table," Steinberg said.

Discussing their partners before receiving a job offer could be "risky" for junior faculty, Tannenwald said.

"I think for beginning professors those kinds of things are generally not disclosed and I think it's probably in their interest not to do that," she said.

But though there is no formal point in the hiring procedure for applicants to bring up their partners, academic couples pose "a common enough situation that I don't think at this stage that people find it all that difficult to bring it up," Vohra said.

The University recognizes that dual career hires can be a "very good recruitment tactic," Vohra said.

Faculty couples can be lucrative for institutions because they will probably stay in those positions until retirement, rather than go through another double job search, Tannenwald said.

"They are more likely to really invest in institution-building, because they see themselves more likely to be there in the long haul," she said.

While dual career hiring is "going to have to increase" in the future as faculty couples increase, Tannenwald speculated there may be a "downturn over the next few years" due to the economy.

With less money to spend, institutions have fewer open spaces to hire faculty — which are "the most important resource a university has," Steinberg said.

"The kind of black comedy way to put it is, there's no spousal problem if there's no position to begin with," he said.

When the economy does improve, Vohra said he hopes to hire a staff member devoted to providing resources and facilitating partner placements for potential hires.

For the time being, "we try to do the best we can given the circumstances and, of course, given the constraints we have," he said.

"Once we fill a faculty position — especially a tenured faculty position — we hope to do it in a way that we get the best people we can and that they stay here for a very, very long time."


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