As I have noted before, if there is one modal complaint of the newly hired Assistant Professor in the laboratory sciences...
...(i)t boils down to a failure of the hiring University to live up to the spirit (and even letter) of what was promised during the recruiting phase. The space that magically becomes "shared space". The startup funds that get reduced or restricted. The surprises that one is supposed to pay for "out of your startup". The new building renovations that are slow, "Oh just use this temporary space for now" becomes "Well, you have a lab we promised that to the next sucker". Etc. The excuse is almost always "The dean won't go for it", "The dean denied it" and the like while the Chair insists s/he went to the mat for you. Everyone has problems doncha know....
This brings me to today's edition of "Ask DrugMonkey".
Or, more accurately, "Ask the DrugMonkey Blog BrainTrust" which is otherwise known as you, DearReader.
I received the following note:
As a result of your readership population at Drugmonkey being skewed toward the "Assistant Prof" ranking, I wonder if you're amenable to posting an anonymous question from this Assistant Professor regarding how best to handle hostile department chairs.
Very briefly-- I negotiated a startup package last spring in an amicable way with the old chair; The new chair acts as if the written and signed documents outlining the startup package aren't worth the paper they're written on and that jr. faculty don't deserve 'big' startup packages in general. [I know] another professor ... who has had the same problem. So far we've both decided 'not to start a fight with the department chair.'
My thought is quite simple. If you have signed documents*, it was part of your recruiting package and the reneging is over substantive stuff (when is it not?) then you have to go to the mat on this. This is the ONLY time you have this sort of leverage over the institution, even the senior Prof with competing offer in hand may not have this amount of power. The institution has just begged you to come through the recruiting process, after that it is all down hill, baby. You are asking them for permission to stay (more or less).
So I'm thinking this new hire starts the process of fighting back by first politely indicating to the new chair that s/he expects the promises to be upheld, recruiting friendly senior faculty to assist if possible and ultimately taking it up the ranks. What think you?
*one big question is about who does the signing. As I mentioned in my prior post (I think) it is an old trick for the Chair to promise all kinds of stuff...only to have it turn out that the Chair really has no formal authority to promise anything on the behalf of the University. Everything must be signed by some sort of Dean or other senior administrator on behalf of the University.