With dual-career families becoming more common in recent years, Yale has faced difficulties in finding jobs for the partners of recruited professors. But if discussions between Columbia University and Yale are successful, recruited professors’ partners may have a new way to find jobs in academia.

The two universities are currently in talks to create a Higher Education Research Consortium, which would collect information on available faculty, staff and administrative jobs at academic institutions in the New York metropolitan area so that academic job-seekers can look in one place for jobs within commuting distance. Columbia approached Yale and several other nearby universities this year to discuss such a program, and planning is in its earliest stages, said Jean Howard, vice president for diversity initiatives at Columbia.

“We are interested in what this HERC might be able to offer us as part of our recruiting strategy,” said Valerie Hayes, director of the Yale Office of Equal Opportunity Programming.

Hayes said the University is in preliminary negotiations with Columbia and does not have any set deadlines for work on the consortium.

Yale’s previous efforts to find jobs for professors’ partners have primarily focused on positions within the University, Graduate School Dean Jon Butler said, and the search is often especially hard when both partners are at the faculty level.

“In general, it is not easy to find within the same university two full positions for a couple,” he said.

Butler said the problem is a relatively recent one, but it is becoming more frequent.

“We are increasingly recruiting faculty whose spouses are also academics,” he said. “Thirty years ago, that was uncommon. Today, it is very common.”

Currently, the Provost’s Office works with departments individually to help recruited scholars’ partners find jobs, Hayes said.

Howard said her office is interested in increasing support for recruited professors’ partners. Broadening job searches to include positions at other colleges and universities offers spouses and partners more opportunities, she said, and increases the chance that the recruited professor will choose to work at Columbia.

“We are not contemplating a program at Columbia that we guarantee to hire the partners of everyone we hire,” Howard said. “We want to put a lot more emphasis on helping people connect up with resources outside the university.”

In spring 2005, Yale successfully recruited Susan Stokes and Steven Pincus away from the University of Chicago to tenured positions in the history and political science departments, respectively. Stokes rejected Yale’s first offer, in February 2004, because there was no position available for Pincus, former political science chair William Foltz told the News in March 2005.

Astronomy professor Charles Bailyn said he faced a similar problem teaching at Yale while his wife, Rebecca Tannenbaum, was still a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Tannenbaum was hired as a lecturer in the History Department at Yale in 2001, but Bailyn said the University lacks a formal system for resolving such problems.

“There’s no procedure or policy to do this on a regular basis,” Bailyn said.

Princeton and Rutgers universities created the New Jersey HERC in 2003, and it now includes 19 colleges and universities as well as nine community colleges in the state. The Northern California HERC, which includes Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley, was created in 2000, and the Southern California job bank was created in 2003.

Howard said a possible HERC for the New York metropolitan area might also include New York University, the City University of New York and Fordham University.