I am interviewing for a tenure-track position in the United States. I am currently a tenure-track faculty member at another US university. In my cover letter, I stated that I wished to keep my search confidential, at least until the flyout stage. Now that I am at the interview/flyout stage, I am trying to figure out a strategy for providing a contact/reference from my current department without damaging my relationships if I stay in my current position. I already have three official letters of reference from faculty at other institutions.
What sort of communication between a prospective department and a current department is typical/expected at this stage? Could it be limited to calling a junior faculty member for a discussion? What sort of contacts should I prepared to offer or what sort of statements should I be prepared to make? (I realize one option is just to ask the prospective department, but that is a conversation I would like to be prepared for before opening.)
Some relevant details:
- My current department is small. There are just a few tenured faculty, most of whom are quite close to the chair. (or who I don't know well because they have been on sabbatical/other reasons.) If I ask a tenured faculty member to give me a reference, the chair would likely know.
- I have been told that my chair "holds a grudge." I could see this being true.
- I do have a junior faculty member in my department who I have revealed my search to (they are also quietly searching). I think this person would speak well on my behalf. This person is not in my direct specialty.
- I believe I have a good reputation in my current department.
- My other major mentors at the university are in the administration for my department. I don't think these people hold grudges, but I am not convinced they have an incentive to keep my search confidential.
- I applied because the new department is in a city where my family lives, it is also higher-ranking than my current department. I am early pre-tenure but I could not afford to pass up this opportunity.
This question is related: Should I request a letter of recommendation from current employers that don't want me to leave? However, my situation is different as I have a current position and more of an incentive to keep the search private. I also have some indication that my current chair may not be pleased by this.