The Counter-Offer Game

by Jane S. Shaw

Professors know the game. The best way to get a raise at a university is to come up with an outside offer. If your university wants to keep you, it will match the offer with a raise. Some professors, I understand, have made an art out of this process.

At the University of North Carolina, the game is getting a little harder to play. The system-wide revolving fund for counter offers, which was once $10 million, has not been replenished by the legislature, and it’s down to between $35,000 and $58,000. University officials are upset because they fear losing faculty.

With funds so low, it’s not enough to claim you have an offer; you have to prove it. The Raleigh News & Observer noted that “campuses ask their professors for a written offer letter from the competing university. ’It’s insulting,’ said Randy Woodson, N.C. State chancellor.”

It’s insulting? When you are about to ask the taxpayers for a raise — not because you are doing a better job but because some other school is willing to pay more — it is wrong to require evidence that you have a bona fide offer? I don’t quite get it.

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