HERC to ease faculty couples’ job searches

A married couple looking for new jobs in academia have many things to worry about: Buying a house? Check. Getting a dog? Check. Finding university jobs in the same region? As of tomorrow, check.

In one of the first major programs under the University’s faculty diversity initiative, a Web site run by Yale, Columbia University and New York University will be launched today to facilitate job hunting for two-career couples at institutions in the metro New York and southern Connecticut area. The Metro New York/Southern Connecticut Higher Education Recruitment Consortium Web site will eventually advertise positions at over 40 institutions in the region — including the three leader schools — in an effort to promote racial and gender diversity among faculty members. While University officials and professors were optimistic about the site’s debut, members of similar consortiums in other parts of the country said the results of their efforts are unclear.

Kim Bottomly, deputy provost for science, technology and faculty development, said the consortium will boost Yale’s ability to attract and retain underrepresented minorities and women — particularly in science. Fulfilling that goal involves increasing the number of overall job opportunities for the spouses of recruited faculty candidates at Yale, she said. The strategy requires cooperation among the region’s universities, Bottomly said, especially because the region as a whole boasts far more schools than New Haven does alone.

“It allows us to share rather than competing with each other,” she said.

The site will debut Thursday, with more than 950 faculty and staff jobs listed, said Laila Maher, director of the MNYSC HERC. The positions came from 20 different universities in the region as of Monday, but she said the consortium is working to include jobs from the other 20 member universities. And with 130 accredited institutions in the area, the MNYSC HERC should have ample opportunities to expand in the future, Maher said.

NYU Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs E. Francis White said she hopes the Web site will have a major impact on dual career recruiting. She also wants it to help the university communicate with minority candidates for administrative positions as well as for faculty positions, she said.

“I hope this will also have an impact in helping us diversify our administration,” White said. “We should have a presence in the metropolitan area that helps us recruit local people of color.”

Yale astronomy and physics professor Charles Bailyn said this type of arrangement is a step in the right direction for the University, but that the system alone cannot be considered a solution to the problems that two-career couples face in the academic job market. When he received tenure at Yale, his wife, history lecturer Rebecca Tannenbaum, was offered a tenure-track position in Chicago. Bailyn said that although he was very happy at Yale, he seriously considered leaving the University. Both Bailyn and Tannenbaum are currently at Yale, but he said their situation is not ideal because she had to give up a tenure-track position.

“It was the best situation we found, but it isn’t perfect, and I could imagine a better situation arising that would be very tempting to us (although we aren’t actively looking for such a thing),” Bailyn said in an e-mail.

Bailyn said recruiting women is more difficult because they are more likely than men to have spouses with “high-powered careers” — some women tend to marry older men who will often look for senior faculty positions. Bottomly said this trend is especially prevalent in the sciences, which is why a major goal of the faculty diversity initiative is hiring women in the sciences.

Experiences at other HERCs may provide some insight into how successful the MNYSC iteration will be. The first HERC in the country was established at the University of California Santa Cruz in 2000, said Nancy Aebersold, director of the Northern California HERC. It has helped recruiting and retention at its member institutions, she said, but how much it has contributed is unclear.

“Those numbers are really difficult to ascertain, only because academic recruiting is so decentralized,” she said. “Getting that fed back into a central hub is difficult.”

Other HERCs operate in Southern California, New Jersey, New England and upstate New York. A national HERC, slated to launch in late spring, will compile jobs from across the country so faculty couples can easily look at more than one region at the same time, she said.

Physics professor Ramamurti Shankar said MNYSC HERC’s Web site will provide ample options for spouses of faculty recruited to Yale. Many other universities have formal policies mandating that they employ a candidate’s spouse on campus, but Shankar said this would not necessarily be the best system for Yale. The HERC will allow spouses to find positions that are appropriate for them, he said, even if they are not on the same campus.

Under a faculty diversity initiative announced in October 2005, the University plans to hire an additional 30 women and 30 minority faculty members over seven years.

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