Last Friday I received my contract for the 2011/2012 school year.

I was disappointed (to say the least) when I opened it. It was a 10-month contract for $53,800. The amount was up $2,800 (only a 5.5% increase when I was told 10%).  I was expecting at least a $5,000 increase based on the conversation that I’d have with the dean of our college.

Also, it was still a 10-month contract, which I was sort of expecting – but when I found out that the other new professor in the department ALSO got a 10-month contract for no extra work, well, I got a little angry.

I took the weekend and a day or two to think about it and resolved that I’m going to attempt to negotiate my contract.

I feel a little greedy doing it, but I also am putting in a lot more work above and beyond what most people in my similar position are doing.

What I plan on doing is returning my contract unsigned, with the changes that I want, and a letter of explanation.

So what am I going to ask for?

I think I’m going to ask for either my base salary (no raise) on an 11-month contract (+1 month for being chair, +1 month for my extra iniatives in the department – which is the reason the other faculty member got an extra month). This would bring me to $56,100. I don’t think this is unreasonable.

Actually, let me rephrase, I’ll settle for that number above.

I’ll ASK for an 11-month contract with the raise amount. This would be $59,180. I don’t actually expect to get this much. While I would LOVE to have that much I don’t see it happening.

I plan to make clear in my letter to the Vice President that the first month is for chair duties and the second month is for the projects that I want to see happen in the department including (but not limited to):

  • Starting an American Chemical Society student chapter here on campus. I’ve already made steps towards making this happen and have even devised a plan to integrate students from the local community college to increase transfers from that school.
  • Starting an Honor’s section of General Chemistry in tandem to the “regular” General Chemistry to attract more honor’s students. This year 3 of my 25 General Chem students are Honor’s students. Next year that number will be up to around 10. When 1/2-1/3 of your class is an Honor’s student it helps to provide them a little more bang in the class. I am planning on offering them a 30 minute weekly seminar where we go more in depth to the topics we cover in class and really start to show them the connections. This would take the form of an Honor’s Contract that they’d make with me. I’m VERY excited about doing this, but also I recognize that it will take time from my class prep and chair duties.
  • A complete revamping of the Chemistry curriculum for upper division students. Right now our class offerings are inefficient to the upper division students. I want to revamp the upper division classes to they get a breadth of chemistry knowledge rather than in depth study of just 4 topics. Both myself and the other Chemistry professor see this as a great option, it will just take planning and initiative to make it happen. Both of which are expected to come from me.
  • Starting a monthly “Science Saturday” for local 4th – 6th graders on campus to expose them to our program at a younger age. I see this as a way to get our undergrads connected to the science in a fun way AND to bring future students to campus. We’ll offer this as a free program that we’ll fund through soap sales in December from the Chemistry department and plant sales in the spring from the Biology department. As well, we have a grant to start the initial program.
  • Starting a summer research program on campus including:
    • Grant writing to fund summer research (including faculty summer salary compensation)
    • Time investment in finding research collaborators (will spend two weeks this summer with a collaborator brainstorming grant ideas on my own dime)
    • Time investment in getting preliminary results of said research during the summer

I personally want all of these things to become sustaining entities or well on their way to being sustaining by the end of the next academic school year. All of these are things that will better our department and increase student enrollment over time, but without the monetary compensation for my efforts it will be difficult to motivate myself to do these things in addition to teaching and chair duties – especially since most of these activities would take place during my weekend and summer time.

I also want to make it clear that the additional 11th month in the contract would only be expected as long as I am continuing to make progress on these goals with the end point expectation being that eventually I would procure summer research funding that would pay for my own summer salary and stipends for students.

So – I have to ask. Do you guys think I’m being unreasonable? Should I just take what is being offered or try to fight  for what I think is fair? Keeping in mind of course the fact that our school is in a huge financial hole right now.

(P.S. – It should be noted that I know for a fact that another school in the same family of school’s is DESPERATELY trying to fill a Chemistry position for the Fall. It is in Nashville, which would not be a bad location, and could be  a huge bargaining chip in my favor. I don’t want to leave, but just saying the pieces are out there for an exceptionally successful negotiation.)


22 Responses to Negotiation

  1. Lissa says:

    This is a tricky situation, and one I do not envy. Is there a particular person to whom you could field some questions about the contract? Personally, considering the rough economic times for the school (and everyone), I wouldn’t want a letter “on the record” showing that I want more money, even if there are justified reasons for it. Whatever you decide, good luck!

  2. In Debt says:

    I don’t think you’re being the least bit unreasonable….and I’m not just saying that ’cause I’d LOVE for you to come to Nashville. *wink*

    I hope in spite of their financial woes that they are willing to negotiate with you. It kinda stinks to have the carrot replaced with a stick.

  3. Are you sure that a letter is the proper format for the initial step in the negotiation? If the person who makes these decisions is a generation older than you, s/he may respond better to a face-to-face meeting, as that would probably have been the norm for most of his/her career. It also gives you the opportunity to explain in more depth anything that s/he has questions about.

    • SS4BC says:

      No, I’m not sure about a letter. And you’re right, the person in that position is MANY generations older, so a face-to-face may be the best way to approach the situation.

      Also, it will help make clear that I’m not trying to “money grab” but instead want fairness. But then, I also do tend to give-way in meetings face-to-face more than I should – which is why I was opting for the letter.

  4. Yes. Do it. You need to protect yourself. You agreed to do something very time consuming and potentially dangerous for your career. They need to reimburse you for it. They’re going to treat you like a doormat if you don’t stick up for yourself. Especially since you were led to think something different when you agreed to be chair. Obviously they must have made some mistake and need to correct it post-haste.

    Good luck! And Nashville is quite nice.

    • SS4BC says:

      Thanks! I was really hoping for your opinion since ya’ll are both in academia as well.

      • I would approach it as, “There must be some mistake. In my meeting with X, I was given to understand that my salary would be Y. I’m afraid that if that isn’t rectified, I simply will not have the time to chair the department. I’m very worried that it will cut into my research and teaching time as it is.”

        “Additionally, as you know, I have been key in implementing initiatives P, D, and Q which blah blah. I am aware that an additional month of salary is being given for extra initiatives, and I expect that out of fairness I will be given an additional month of salary for these initiatives on top of my chair responsibilities. I care a lot about this department and I am taking on significant additional responsibility, but I need to be compensated fairly for it. I love this department and I love working here. I’ve been asked to apply for a job in Nashville and I would really rather not have to do that, but I’m worried I may have to.”

      • Yes, what N&M said!

  5. Nicky says:

    You should absolutely try to negotiate. I’m in academia (in sociology) and I know that many women do not negotiate for as much as they should for a whole variety of reasons. From what I know, I think academia may be different than some other fields in that negotiating for a higher salary isn’t really held against you, unless you’re asking for really outrageous things when you’re first hired. You’re really not asking for anything unreasonable considering the significant increase in your workload. Yes, the school is not in the best financial situation, but from everything you indicated about your own credentials as well as your plans for the department you are definitely in a strong position to negotiate. The worst they can do now is say no (from what you said it doesn’t seem like they don’t have or don’t want anyone else). Most importantly, what ever you get paid now will be the starting point for your next raise when the time comes, because most likely the university will survive this crisis. If you don’t take the chance by asking you may be cheating yourself out of way more in the future. *Fun fact-on average men negotiate for about $4000 more/year than women which can translate to almost $500,000 over the course of a life time.

  6. Karilou says:

    Absolutely go for it!! You need to determine how best to go about it, but you took the chair position based on what you were told about a salary increase. Basically, the school went back on an agreement. Sadly, such bait and switches are common and many people don’t fight for what they deserve. Besides, the worst they can say is no.

  7. Serendipity says:

    You do need to protect yourself and perhaps a long with a letter, you could arrange a meeting. That way, you can go over the important points in your letter, along with letting them know that your working on different projects to benefit them as well. And I know this is totally off the subject, but you have motivated me to take on a lot more intiative on my end to help improve myself as an employee and make myself more valuable. Especially since my review will be in the end of summer.

    • SS4BC says:

      I’m beginning to think a meeting would also be a good idea. Just to clarify the expectations of the position. I tend to buckle more in meetings than I do in writing, which is why I thought a letter would be a good idea. But now I’m beginning to think a meeting in addition to a paper list of my roles outside of a faculty member and chair would be a good plan of action.

  8. If there have been any mistakes I’ve made in moving up the corporate ladder, it was always settling for the amount they offered me. If you’ve been putting in the extra work, you deserve the raise.

    I think a big reason women make less than men is because we never ASK for what we deserve. The worse they can say is NO.

    go for it!!!

  9. I’m afraid I don’t have any experience in this matter to offer any advice, but it sounds like sounds like you bring a lot to the department and you should be fairly compensated for that. Best of luck!

  10. Daisy says:

    I don’t think thats unreasonable in the least!
    I think your more valuable than what they’re giving you.

  11. Fight for it. It’s yours. The worst case scenario is they turn you down.

  12. Little Lamb says:

    it never hurts to ask!!!!

  13. NDChic says:

    One thing to remember is that the reason that men make more money is because they are more willing to negotiate. It never hurts to try. Good luck.

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  15. Kathryn C says:

    You are definitely not being unreasonable. Just because you are asking to be compensated fairly (asking for more $$$) for your hard work, doesn’t mean you are greedy. One suggestion I have is to over shoot the raise you want to get by a little. Meaning, if you’re hoping to get $59,180, ask for just a hair more because they are going to negotiate you down to $59,180. Obviously don’t ask for a huge amount over that’s ridiculous because that would then look greedy, but ask for a small amount *more* than $59,180. Then, they will say no to that number and they will negotiate you down to the $59,180; it will look like you’re conceding but in reality this was the number you wanted the whole time. This is standard negotiation and you’ll do great at it! Good luck, I can’t wait to hear the results…..

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