Yale faculty often hired in pairs

Future Morse College Master Frank Keil and his wife, professor Christie Lockhart, had a good deal going three years ago at Cornell University, where both were renowned psychology professors. But then Yale came calling and was able to lure the two star academics away — although only after making job offers to both of them.

“I think they were very responsive and they reached out and they really tried to make everything work,” Lockhart said of the Yale recruiters. “Obviously, we really wanted there to be something for both of us.”

The efforts Yale makes to accommodate couples in which both partners have jobs sometimes succeed, as they did with Keil and Lockhart. But sometimes these attempts fail, as in the cases of distinguished political science professor Rogers Smith and associate dean and Latino cultural house director Rick Chavolla, who are both leaving Yale largely because their wives received good jobs in other cities. Their departures raise the question of how Yale handles recruitment and retention of faculty when both halves of a couple frequently figure into the employment picture.

Smith is leaving, but he still had high praise for the attempts Yale made to find a job for his wife, Mary Summers.

“I think that the University definitely made every effort,” Smith said. “It so happens that my wife’s substantive interests can be better pursued at [the University of Pennsylvania].”

Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead said Yale realizes the career options for a spouse are often important when the University tries to recruit professors to New Haven.

“In the modern world, it’s just the case that people’s spouses tend themselves to have interesting careers and commitments, so that when Yale wants to hire one person we often have to figure out how we can accommodate the second person,” Brodhead said. “[But] we don’t just make jobs for people willy-nilly. … Our dominant value has always got to be that we get the most qualified person in each position.”

History professors Glenda Gilmore and Ben Kiernan were dating when they both were promoted in 1999, and the fact that Yale tenured both of them was a major factor in their decision to stay in New Haven. At the time, the University of North Carolina also was wooing the pair.

Gilmore said she feels the University makes efforts to accommodate faculty partners but added that she believes there is still work to do.

“I do think that we could do a better job of thinking about the family,” Gilmore said.

She said family concerns often thwart Yale’s recruiting attempts. For example, she said, Japan scholar Sheldon Garon of Princeton University declined Yale’s offer of tenure partly because of the career of his wife.

“I think that we could direct some of the resources we use for recruiting to this part of recruiting and retention,” Gilmore said.

Provost Alison Richard, Yale’s chief academic and financial officer, said Yale has recently assigned human resources representative Donna Cable to work on helping spouses find places within the University.

“The fact of the matter is that our faculty [members] tend to have very talented spouses and partners,” Richard said. “Talented people tend to hook up with talented people.”

Gilmore said respecting the careers of people’s spouses is a broader issue than simply recruitment because a majority of Yale’s professors are male.

“It’s really a feminist issue, too,” Gilmore said.

One reason there is so much pressure on Yale as an institution to help with jobs is that New Haven does not have as many employment opportunities as a city like New York or Boston.

“We’re at a slight disadvantage to institutions located near other universities,” Yale President Richard Levin said. “It’s more of a challenge for us.”

But Levin added that he feels the University is becoming more aware of the importance of looking at both halves of a couple when working on recruitment and retention.

“We’re beyond thinking about whether its good or bad — it’s the world today. If we want world class faculty, we have to be concerned about couples,” Levin said. “We have gradually become more flexible in dealing with these dual placements, but it is always a challenge … Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not.”

But Keil, who came here with Lockhart three years ago, said he feels Yale makes many efforts to work within the hiring constraints posed by a two-career family.

“They worked very hard to meet our needs. It’s always a challenge,” Keil said. “We’ve certainly seen less efforts made at other places.”

Future Morse College Master Frank Keil and his wife, professor Christie Lockhart, came to Yale when the University lured them away from Cornell, but only because the University made offers to both of them.
Barbara Wexelman
Future Morse College Master Frank Keil and his wife, professor Christie Lockhart, came to Yale when the University lured them away from Cornell, but only because the University made offers to both of them.

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