A junior faculty member writes:
I am an assistant professor, approaching tenure. When I was hired, I received multiple assurances that the university would assist me with a spousal accommodation. When my spouse's work situation changed, I approached my dean and department chair, who were receptive to helping. A suitable position was found, but there was no funding to make the hire. I have no doubt that my department wants to keep me here. I am now on the job market, and have some prospects, including upcoming campus visits. My question concerns the best strategy for proceeding. Should I receive a desirable offer, I am willing to give my current institution a chance to make me a better offer (although I have doubts that they can offer much). My question is whether I should tell them now that I am actively seeking another position, or wait to see if a better offer materializes. My fear is that if I do not get an offer elsewhere, I will have nothing with which to negotiate. On the other hand, I worry about tipping my hand too soon. Thoughts and advice from readers who have experience with this (from either side) would be appreciated.
My view is that if you have previously communicated your interest in some kind of spousal accomodation, all you can do is reiterate it. It would be a mistake to say anything about "looking around," precisely because you might come up empty-handed, and your colleagues might well hold it against you. If you get an offer, then it is quite appropriate to raise the pertinent issues; absent an offer, there is nothing to say, beyond mentioning, when appropriate, the spousal accomodation issue.