Academics in Love

PrawfsBlawg takes up a subject near and dear to my heart: job searches by legal academic couples. Or does it? The post is titled Ariela Migdal on Feminism and the comments veer in all sorts of directions….

Once upon a time it was next to impossible for academic couples to find jobs in the same institution, or even the same city. Now it's just difficult.

Interestingly, the University of Miami School of Law has a proud history of hiring academic couples and making them feel at home. When Caroline and I got hired (she as a visitor with tenure elsewhere, then as a tenured prof, me as a brand new junior hire), we became the third, yes third, academic couple serving on the faculty, and that was not counting the professor-administrative Dean couple, or the previous couple that had since divorced. It was comforting to know that we need not be trailblazers. Even so it took a few years to educate some members of the community that we don't think in lockstep, and that while we can sometimes be trusted to convey messages to the other, neither of us ever speaks for the other.

I have found that our having different surnames and not flaunting the connection at work sometimes leads to interesting conversations, especially with students. We both find that it also tends to cut short all sorts of other potentially interesting professional conversations, especially the ones that start, “we were wondering if you would consider moving to…”.

Having just served on the entry-level hiring committee, I've had a chance to see the couple-hiring question from the buyer as well as the seller side. One thing I like about the way UM dealt with us was that we were treated independently, and the place went to some pains to ensure that we knew we were each being considered on our own merits, rather than treating me as an appendage of my more-accomplished LSE-tenured spouse. We tried to do the same in our entry-level hiring this past year. Sometimes that meant making an offer to only one half of a couple, sometimes it meant the full court press for both.

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