couples in the same dept

Chuck Gasser csgasser at
Fri Jun 5 08:47:20 EST 1998

My comments on this are potentially biased by the fact that I am half
of a same department couple.  My significant other (SO) and I were
hired at the same time.  We are both plant molecular biologists, but
our particular projects do not overlap.  I later learned that many of
the issues mentioned in several of the posts were discussed by the
department prior to hiring us.  However, I also know that there was a
strong sentiment that they were glad to have the opportunity to get two
good people at one shot!  We have now been here for more than eight
years, both have advanced at at least a normal rate, and both of us
have been awarded tenure.  I can say that many faculty members who I
trust to be honest with me have clearly stated that they are VERY happy
to have hired both of us.

Most of the posted worries concerning faculty couples relate to what I
consider unprofessional behavior - bringing personal issues to the
lab/faculty meetings, picking sides on the basis of affinities not
related to the question of concern, preferential treatment, etc.  All
of these are significant problems if they occur, but they occur in
departments completely independent of the presence of couples.  One
could as well say that members of departments should not become friends
with each other.  Couples who are hired should just be especially
sensitive to these issues to prevent their becoming a problem.

I will admit that there have been a few times that aspects of working
in the same department have made additional tension in our personal
lives (e. g. competing for the same pool of entering graduate
students), but I do not belive that our personal relationship has ever
interfered with our dealings with the department or our colleagues.

There are infinite reasons for someone to leave a department at some
point in their career.  Aspects of spousal emploment represent only a
subset of these.  A spouse is as likely to need to move due to changes
in a job at another organization as they are to have to move if they
are in the same department.  This issue seems constant for all hires
that have a SO, and are thus independent of hiring both in one
department.  The only way to avoid it is to hire single people only -
not a reasonable option!

I had no worries about hiring a SECOND married couple into our
department when the possibility arose.  In fact, none of the issues
raised above were even mentioned this time in faculty meetings
discussing the hire. I know that all of the department in perfectly
pleased with the result of this second hire.

Bottom line - hire people who behave professionally independent of
their relationships and you are okay.  Hire otherwise and sinlge or
coupled you the department will suffer the consequences!

Chuck Gasser
csgasser at

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