Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Salary Laundering and Tying Arrangements

I will return to the sociology of the interesting subculture I have been examining next time but, a few blogs ago, I mentioned UF had dropped 90K on a search firm for a law dean which is a bit like hiring a search firm to find yourself. Evidently there is no end to the money pot.

The Law School determined its hiring priorities several months ago. It interviewed and hired some terrific people. But then comes the provocative and vague email:

"The Appointments Committee is pleased to announce the call-back visit of a junior lateral candidate, * * * , on Thursday, March 20th.  This position will be made  available from joint funding from the Provost and the College of Medicine.  Bob will provide additional details about how we acquired the position during his tea-time meeting in the faculty lounge at 3:00 p.m. tomorrow.  If you’re unable to attend tomorrow’s session, please feel free to  speak with * * *  or me to learn more. "In the meantime, please mark your calendars and plan to attend the office interviews and job talk on the 20th.  As always, thank you very much for your participation in our appointments efforts."

I made an email inquiry to the author of the email and asked two questions:
1. Are we looking for someone in the areas in which the candidate teaches.
2. Is this hiring based in some way on to whom the candidate is married.

The author did not respond but the dean did indicating it would all be explained at the Tea Time meeting. 

So it seems,  out of  the blue,  we are going to have another interview. And, it's not a field we were interested in but the person will be here anyway. Plus, its a "freebie" in that the University and the Med School are picking up the tab.  Let's say the tab is 100K a year and assume it really does not evolve to come out of the law school's pocket as these things often do.

Why would the University -- supposedly strapped for funds -- decide essentially on its own to hire someone for a area in which there is no need for teachers. In fact, in this area, law school enrollment is already so low that the School may have over committed to hiring in that area.  This kind of like saying to the Law School "we are buying a new super duper movie Robotics machine for you even though you do not need one." Naturally, you understand this is all hypothetical.

It's either an example of having more money than you know what to do with or, YES-SIREE-BOB, the trailing spouse issue and yet another instance of salary laundering.  Let's say the lead spouse is Phil and the trailer is Angie. So where is the equal opportunity here? Is it that everyone had an equal opportunity to hitch their wagon to Phil? Of course not. I guess Phil just gets to designate as part of his deal who else will be hired.

There are two things I do not understand about these things. First, why not give the 100K to Phil.  If he would not come here without it, then it is part of his salary. (Antitrust experts who know about the single monopoly profit response tying arrangement will understand this.)  In fact, from this angle it is  really Phil hiring Angie since it is part of his compensation that will have her name written on the check. Phil and the University have agreed to launder some of his salary through Angie. The second question is where is Angie on this? Does Angie like being a conduit for some of Phil's salary? Or if she does not see it that way, how about just getting to cut in line to get something that others who did not marry Phil will never have the opportunity to get. Doe she cut off other drivers, cut in the movie line? What's the difference? It's all a version of feeling entitled.

Now it could be that a school is out there who is really looking for someone in both fields and both are highly qualified. I've seen those cases and it can be fine. In fact, being a large school means being able to make offers to people who otherwise might not find jobs  in the same area.  But suppose the school had completely different hiring needs.

But remember this is all 100% hypothetical.

1 comment:

Eric Rasmusen said...

It's a fact that to attract some good candidates, you have to offer their wives (or, in some cases, husbands) a job. I've wondered whether universities realize the full cost of this. The spouse will in many cases be a negative, in the sense of hurting the academic atmosphere by diluting it. But it's also true that in some cases you would be willing to pay X a salary of $300,000 if you had to, so it is reasonable to settle for $200,000 plus a $100,000 job for spouse Y.