Opinion 139: Say NO to Academic Blackmail

By Doron Zeilberger

Written: Sept. 16, 2014

Tomorrow, our department is supposed to vote on the "accelerated" promotion and tenure of one of our colleagues, who got an offer elsewhere, and it is part of the "retention package".

While I very much appreciate the high quality of that candidate's research, it does not seem to be any better than the research of those that did not get "accelerated". But even if it would have been much better, I am still against acceleration, since one should not give-in to "blackmail".

It is a well-known, and in my humble opinion, despicable, "algorithm", to get "accelerated" promotion and/or tenure, and a hefty raise to boot, by soliciting a "better" offer from (an often much inferior) department at another university, and "threating to leave" if the outside offer is not matched. While in this particular case (to be considered tomorrow) I understand that the offer was genuine (and hence the poor committee and dean of that outside department would wind up wasting their time), in other cases, in the past, the "outside offer" was, at least partially, bogus, and I was told by a former chair that it suffices that "X has been approached" to be considered for a "retention package".

It is very demoralizing for those faculty members who do not like to play these games, or to "bluff", that their pushier colleagues get accelerated, and get a much higher salary, because they threaten to leave. So, let us


In quite a few cases, letting the blackmailing candidate accept an offer from another department, is beneficial to both departments, it raises the average quality of both of them!

Opinions of Doron Zeilberger