I am a tenure track assistant professor in the "Department of X and Y" which is a single department for now. Though my PhD is in X only, I now teach classes in both areas. My research is mostly in the field of X, and my tenure committee consists of researchers in X.

These two areas have a significant salary imbalance. The starting salary of assistant professor in Y is close to the salary of full professors in X.

This department is about to be split into "Department of X" and "Department of Y", and I sense that this may not be a very happy divorce. I am now approached by the future Dept. of Y to be involved. I can see 3 options:

  1. Stay in Dept. of X and forget about Y.
  2. Stay in Dept. of X and get a courtesy appointment from Dept. of Y.
  3. Get an joint appointment.
  4. Move to Dept. of Y completely

How should I evaluate my options?

My feeling, so far, is that option (1) should be the safe option. I may loose most of my students, but likely stay out of trouble. Option (2) means I teach for both departments, which may not make sense, as I will be getting my salary from Dept. of X (much lower) and do half of the job in Dept. Y. My teaching and service in Dept. Y will also not contribute to my tenure case. Option (3) makes more sense financially and can potentially broaden my research area, but it may be impossible to keep two department chairs happy (especially when there are conflicts between the two).

Are there other factors I should be considering?

Update: Option (4), moving to Dept. of Y completely, is not an offer that is currently on the table. It is unlikely to ever be there, as I don't have a PhD in Y.

  • 13
    I assume you are not considering "4. Go to Dept. Y and forget about X."
    – JRN
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 4:46
  • 3
    Do you care about more about your research or more about your salary? Is the salary at Dept. X sufficient for a good living?
    – Mark
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 10:38
  • 4
    Option (4), go to Dept. Y and forget about X, is not an option that is being offered or considered. Plus, it wouldn't be realistic to shift my research into field Y quickly enough to make a strong tenure case (I'm 3 years into my tenure clock).
    – user39093
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 14:03
  • 4
    I have been told that not yet tenured people should be very wary of joint appointments and tenure committee considerations. "one cannot serve two masters" and all that. How tenure is decided on a joint situation would be very important to consider!
    – BrianH
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 16:13
  • 6
    @BrianH - and if you are the first one up for tenure under the new structure, you likely become the guinea pig. Just how acrimonious the split was could impact the first individual quite badly. Tough position to be in, but we here have no insight into the politics of the split.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 17:32

1 Answer 1


As in comments, for sure avoid getting yourself in the cross-hairs of political fights, as a tenure-track person.

Next, indeed, having mixed allegiances is not a good thing when you come up for tenure.

Possibly "being interdisciplinary" is a good thing, depending entirely on departmental politics. I've seen it go both ways (in my U.S. R1 univ): evidence of not being a real mathematician [sic], or, alternatively, being one of a new breed of mathematician.

  • What's wrong with staying in Department X? Other than having fewer students in the short term, it sounds like Department X is doing well? I'm not sure what might be causing the fissure in your department, though.
    – Parrever
    Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 2:22
  • Nothing wrong with staying in Dept. X. Getting involved in Dept. Y would mean more money and more students.
    – user39093
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 2:59
  • 2
    I finally decided to stay with Dept. X. "Having mixed allegiances" does look like problematic when I come up for tenure. "Serving two masters" is probably not possible in terms of service. As Dept Y figuring out their tenure evaluation standard, there are just so many variables. 20% more salary may not worth the headache. So I'm staying.
    – user39093
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 3:03

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