When is ambition "disloyalty?"

Apparently, normal career development is read as “disloyalty” when a colleague thinks he owns you.  Inside Higher Ed yesterday tells the story:

By many accounts, Desdemona Cardoza was the hands-down favorite to lead California State University’s Los Angeles campus when James M. Rosser — the president since 1979 — eventually stepped aside. Cardoza had spent 22 years as a faculty member and administrator there, and had worked closely with Rosser since he appointed her provost in 2007.

The prospect of becoming president there appealed to Cardoza, but something nagged at her. “I had this sense that if I was going to move up to a presidency, I really needed to have some experience on another campus, and with a different president,” she says. So when she was nominated for the open provostship at Cal State’s campus in nearby Long Beach this spring, Cardoza decided to pursue it.

The decision cost her her post at Cal State-LA. In March, days after telling Rosser that she would visit Long Beach as one of four finalists for the provost’s job there, Cardoza learned that Rosser had told the head of the university’s senate that he planned to begin searching for a new provost. Through a spokesman, the president declined to talk to Inside Higher Ed about the situation, saying it would “inappropriate” to talk about what he called a “personnel matter.”

But according to Cardoza and others familiar with Rosser’s thinking, the president viewed Cardoza’s decision to make what he considered a “lateral move” as evidence of her disloyalty to Cal State-L.A. “Obviously you don’t want to be here,” Cardoza recalls Rosser telling her.

His stance took her aback. “I was doing what everybody says   you ought to to advance yourself. I didn’t feel like I was ready to be a president, and that I needed to work under a different president with a different style,” Cardoza says. “People ought to have the right to look for other positions.”

Perceptive readers will note that male faculty usually do not get punished, but rather are rewarded, for seeking out opportunities outside of one’s institution.  (At least, I’ve never seen or heard of men routinely punished for exploring extramural job opportunities, although I have heard of men who didn’t get great retention offers, just as I’ve heard of women who did get great retention offers.)  Cardoza did the right thing in informing the President herself when she was invited to interview on campus–that’s also what I understand is expected of faculty job candidates, who should inform their department chairs if they’re invited to a campus interview if they’ve kept their job searches confidential to that point.  (At least, when I was on the market 9 years ago and was reasonably fearful of retaliation by colleagues if my job search was unsuccessful, I didn’t tell the department Chair until I had been invited to four campus interviews.)

At least Cardoza can fall back on her tenured position in the Psychology Department until another administrative position becomes available.  I can only speculate on what effect Rosser’s temper tantrum had on the morale and esprit de corps of his other top administrators.  As we like to say around here, Jeff Spicolli-style:  Awesome!

How have you and/or your institutions handled job searches from within?

0 thoughts on “When is ambition "disloyalty?"

  1. See, this is exactly why people in academia feel like they have to keep their job searches a closely-guarded secret. Here’s the deal: she treated it like a job; her immediate superior treated it like a marriage (and marriage to a passive-aggressive spouse, no less).

    I hope she gets the CSULB job and never looks back.


  2. Oh, scratch that last bit — according to the article, she didn’t get the job. And it looks like she is indeed going back, after a leave. I hope they don’t treat her like crap. But they probably will.


  3. At my first job, at Stepford SLAC, all the new faculty were from Ivies and Public Ivies, so they should have been not only smart but confident … you would think.

    However, I was the only one who did not actually believe that if one got an offer, and resigned effective the end of the academic year, that the college would not sue me for “breach of contract.”

    Where they got that idea, I don’t know. They also thought that if they left that job, everyone would talk to each other and they would never be hired anywhere else.

    The smog is pretty bad at CSU-LA, maybe it’s getting to that president. But this is why I don’t like working at places like CSUs, too many provincial egos, or private schools, same problem.


  4. In addition to the general craziness of someone being sanctioned for the legal–and societally desirable–ambition to be occupationally mobile and to develop her talents, there’s the additional craziness that these two schools are part of the same system. If I was running the Cal State system I think I’d be on the phone quickly with the guy down in L.A. to say don’t take actions that would inhibit people from considering opportunities throughout the system. Talent A at institution A-B might well be the perfect fit for an emerging problem or challenge at Institution A-G. How do levels of “loyalty” overlap and fit together here, anyway? I worked for a federal agency once that had very different “branch” operations all over the country, and it was made pretty clear to the workforce that “homesteading” (i.e. becoming too comfortable and digging in at one particular place) would NOT be looked on with favor when personnel rewards were distributed. This seems like a very provincial mentalite at CSULA.

    Slightly off-topic, but I’d love to know whether there’s any consensus as to what a “Public Ivy” really is? Somebody I know works at a place that so self-idenfities, and I don’t know, it seems like a pretty amorphous category of academic being. Does the term have any coherence of use or application?


  5. It seems to me that she was wise to seek out experience elsewhere. Indeed, too many administrators have spent their entire careers at one institution (which I think leaves them with less imagination).

    She was showed courtesy by informing President Jerk that she was interviewing. Quite frankly, I don’t think that one has to inform anybody about a campus interview at any rank.


  6. A few years back I was on a search for provost where we all went to a hotel in the airport. A few days in, it totally felt like a hostage situation. Candidates would fly in, interview for 45 minutes and fly out. We were all cautioned about the need for absolute confidentiality.

    Of course, at the finalist that has to be dropped, and I think you always have to assume — given how interconnected and insular the academic world is — that someone will know someone at your institution and place a call to check you out. In my recent interviewing process, I notified New President because someone High Up that I interviewed with made a point of saying that he knew him. I can’t be fired, but it made sense at that point to let NP know and not let him be blind sided by the call.

    Of course, another response to someone you value being on the job market is to ask them what they can do to keep you.


  7. Tenured Radical writes, “Of course, another response to someone you value being on the job market is to ask them what they can do to keep you.” Yeah, but this is academia. Even valuable, mission-critical people are often permitted to resign because administrators lack the money, social skills, and/or common sense to make a retention offer. (And, it needn’t necessarily involve money! A friend of mine in job negotiations told an administrator recently that the only thing she cares about is seeing their organizational chart and being clear on who she reports to. That’s her bottom line, borne of a disastrous first job.)

    Indyanna makes a good point: since this was an intra-system fracas, there may well be repercussions system-wide, not just within the admin structure of CSU-LA.


  8. Well I’ll have to report back next year, but my understanding is when a man leaves he is doing it “for his family” or whatever, and while no one likes it it’s no big deal. When a woman leaves it’s definitely considered disloyalty. I think in the same way men are allowed to be ambitious and women are supposed to be nice/maternal. My male supervisors seem to view my position more like a relationship and less like a job. So no surprise to me there. I bet if she went ahead of time and got permission from her supervisor and he got to “lead” and “guide” her career search he wouldn’t have had a problem with it. But just doing it is considered “going behind [his] back” and I’ve noticed my male superiors take it personally when it is a woman.


  9. FrauTech good points. The dude has been Prez of CSU-LA for 31 years! I guess she got tired of waiting on him to step down and thought she’d need a more varied resume than a career solely at CSU-LA. Foolish woman! How dare she consider what she might like to do with the rest of her career?


  10. Wow. I mean, just, wow. Disloyalty? I’m pretty sure this crazycakes president would like it if he had the power to lock her up for treason. The board of CSULA ought to be looking into easing this fellow out the door ASAP. It’s clear that he’s lost his tenuous connection with reality!


  11. Heh. I’m just picturing a Henry VIII-style internment in the Tower, followed by a show trial and execution. I’m sure that’s what Rosser would prefer, but live like a tyrant, die like a tyrant.


  12. Re Tenured Radical’s experience — I’ve had it, too. Another time the search was very public (sunshine laws and all) and it was speculated that the reason we didn’t get better candidates (including candidates that had jobs) was that people didn’t want their employers to know they were testing the waters.


  13. Z–who knew? I thought I had it bad, but I guess my arrogance led me to believe I’d get another job offer. (Pretty dumb, in retrospect.)

    Is Cardoza’s experience more typical than exceptional? I’ve always chalked up most whinging about being “outed” as on the market as just whinging.


  14. On the one hand, one of the many things that caused my grad program to go into receivership was when my male adviser interviewed for the TT job I have right now. The powers that be couldn’t deal with his disloyalty. On the plus side, his insider knowledge really helped me on my interview!

    On the other hand, in the academy as a whole, this is one of the many things that results in female professor’s considerably lower salaries at most institutions. Women correctly perceive that they will be punished for seeking out career advancement, something that happens much less frequently to their male colleagues.


  15. I’ve seen a (male) search candidate for a high adminsitrative position say that he didn’t want to give a public presentation to the faculty (as all candidates were doing) or meet with any of them because then it would be known that he had applied for this job. He only wanted it public if he got the job. Strangely enough, the (senior male) members of the committee wanted to go along with this, and have only the other two (female) candidates give public presentations. Fortunately, this didn’t happen (and he wasn’t hired).

    Personally, I’ve received nothing but support re: another job offer. My chair’s first question was: “What isn’t making you happy here and what can we do about it?” And then she listened to my answer. She was a very good chair.


  16. Anecdata: As I’ve mentioned before in this space, I changed jobs when my salary was low and the uni wouldn’t raise it. Whereupon my move was spun as ‘selfish’ and also, of course, vaguely ‘crazy,’ because geographic location #2 was in most respects inferior to geographic location #1. As if anyone could find a higher-paying job that was completely better in all respects.

    The idea that individuals act to improve their own personal circumstances still doesn’t apply to women, who are regarded as property, the instruments of others. I imagine Cardoza’s plans for herself sincerely shocked Rossiter. It’s as if your toaster decided you’d placed it on the wrong side of the counter, too close to the oven for its comfort, and tried to move itself to the cooler side of your kitchen.


  17. TR’s approach is the right one – and it suggests a generous view of what this moment can mean. Instead of walling off someone and accusing them of disloyalty, it is much better to simply ask, “so what would it take to keep you here?” A job offer somewhere else can serve as an opportunity to reconnect with your present institution, to claim a new role, or to acquire the resources you need to move forward with your own work, or your own efforts at institution building. It sure worked that way for me. Also, asking that basic, kind question ensures that you don’t end up looking like a pathetic moron (WTF, Rosser?!) on Historiann’s blog.

    To answer H-Ann’s initial query, though, I think (as perhaps we all do here) that ambition becomes disloyalty whenever it is gendered female, or marked as racially distinctive. I’ve never seen a white dude have to apologize for exploring an opportunity somewhere else, though weirdly, I have seen white dudes who refuse to look outside of their home turf for opportunity called meek. All sorts of domestic metaphors in play here, no?


  18. Pingback: Further thoughts on loyalty : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

  19. and again, I feel lucky to be at SLAC, where I can walk into my Dean’s office and tell him that there is a really good job and I might apply for it. Of course, this is a dean that once told me he liked it when his faculty were keeping an eye on the market because it was smart and because it meant that they were also making sure they were staying productive!


  20. Pingback: Summer is ready when you are : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

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