Faculty hiring holds up

Consistent with a pledge University President Richard Levin made in December, and despite the recession, Yale is continuing to hire faculty at a normal rate.

In interviews, six administrators and eight department chairs said the University has been actively recruiting candidates for several dozen faculty positions. And because of this, the administrators said, Yale is better positioned to attract the qualified candidates, as competitors cut back on — or even cancel — faculty recruitment.

“If we are careful and strategic, we can come out of this in a stronger place,” Deputy Provost for Science and Technology Steve Girvin said. “As [White House Chief of Staff] Rahm Emanuel says, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”

Earlier this month, Levin said faculty salaries above $75,000 would be frozen and any new faculty searches would have to be approved, though searches authorized at the beginning of the academic year would proceed as planned.

Since his December announcement, no faculty searches have been canceled due to budget restrictions, the administrators said. Yale College Dean Mary Miller said a few new searches have even been initiated since December, when Levin announced that the endowment had fallen a projected 25 percent.

Among Yale’s peers, Cornell, Harvard and Johns Hopkins universities have slowed faculty hiring in recent months. With fewer institutions looking to hire, candidates are likely to receive fewer offers, thereby increasing Yale’s appeal as a potential employer, Girvin said.

“We are still making offers to faculty, especially in areas where there are special opportunities to increase diversity, build in cutting-edge fields or [address] enrollment pressure,” Provost Peter Salovey said in an e-mail message.

And hiring has been more successful this year than in previous years, Graduate School Dean Jon Butler said, adding that this can be attributed in part to a smaller pool of potential employers. At the same time, he said, recruitment to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences has not been completely successful thus far — some candidates have already declined Yale’s offer in favor of another university.

“We’re still in competition with other institutions,” Butler said. “Competition is good for the market overall, though it may not be good for Yale.”

Butler and Girvin both said many offers have not yet been made, since the real offer season only began this month and will continue into the summer, making it difficult to make a final pronouncement on Yale’s position in the market.

But though this season’s hires are not complete, Butler said the number of open, ongoing searches — generally between 50 and 70 — is the same as in past years.

The eight department chairs interviewed said they were confident that hiring during the difficult economic climate would benefit both their individual departments and Yale as a whole.

“If Yale is willing to be bold in the face of the economic trouble with regard to faculty recruitment, they have an opportunity to add significant strength to the faculty,” said Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry chair Scott Strobel, whose department is currently conducting one search that was initiated before Levin’s December announcement.

The Political Science Department has made the highest number of offers, Butler said. Six offers for junior professors and three offers for senior professors have been made, political science chair Frances Rosenbluth said.

Butler noted it is important to differentiate recruitment for junior faculty from recruitment of senior faculty, who already hold posts at other institutions. Because senior faculty are recruited directly by other schools and are not actively on the job market, the level of competition between schools remains the same as in past years, he said.

But others said Yale has an advantage in senior searches as well. Anthropology Department chair William Kelly said Yale could benefit from reluctance on the part of other schools to pursue the more risky, time-consuming senior searches. Additionally, senior faculty often have spouses who would also need to be employed by the university, and Kelly said Yale has the flexibility to accommodate such requirements.

Miller said the University has a “strategic advantage” in its pursuit of several senior faculty at public institutions, which often do not offer extensive financial aid to students.

“It’s not just about them,” Miller said. “Because of our need-blind [admissions], teaching undergraduates here is a stimulating prospect.”

Harvard currently has 28 faculty searches open, down from the larger number the university had proposed at the beginning of the academic year, Harvard spokesman Robert Mitchell said. He declined to comment on how the reduction in Harvard’s recruitment might affect recruitment at Yale.

Cornell Dean of Faculty William Fry said he thinks cutbacks in recruitment at his institution are leading some candidates — who might otherwise receive and accept offers from Cornell — to take positions at other universities.

“Cornell has fewer searches this year than in other years, in certain fields, so we won’t be making offers,” Fry said. “It’s a buyer’s market. It’s a good time to be hiring.”

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