Hiring professors at Yale just became a lot harder.
In a departure from two previous rounds of budget cuts, which have largely spared academics, the University has begun clamping down on faculty hiring by more heavily scrutinizing all faculty searches. As a result, most searches intended to begin this year have been delayed at least a year, and searches that were not yet authorized are now much less likely to be approved. Searches in their final stages and those deemed necessary to keep departments running will move forward.
“If a department is understaffed, a search is more likely to go forward,” University President Richard Levin said.
In meetings with the heads of all academic departments earlier this month, Levin, Provost Peter Salovey and the deputy provosts explained which faculty searches would continue and which would be delayed as the University attempts to recover from a 24.6 percent plunge in the endowment. Though only provosts are typically present at these meetings, in light of the University’s finances, Levin said earlier this month that he would attend to provide additional input.
Some recruitment efforts have progressed far enough that deferring them would be impractical, Deputy Provost Charles Long said. If a department has already pinpointed top candidates for an opening or even made an offer, he said, postponing the search would reflect badly on the University.
But to convince the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ steering committee — which works with departments to authorize all new hires — to assent to searches that have not been approved or are still in their early stages, administrators said departments must present an even more compelling case for the position’s necessity than before. Otherwise, Long said, they will postpone every tenure-track hire that can be delayed under the new guidelines.
Faculty searches that fall into three categories will generally be able to move forward, Long said.
Departments that need more professors to keep up with student demand for their course offerings will most likely be granted slots, as will departments that would struggle without faculty in core specialties — such as the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department, which has a vacancy in northwest Semitic languages.
“We’re not trying to add luster, but not cause long-term damage, either,” Long said.
The steering committee will also consider green-lighting searches that will add diversity to the faculty by bringing in more women and minority professors, he said.
Even within those guidelines, departments will have to make a strong argument for their searches, Deputy Provost for the Arts and Humanities Emily Bakemeier said.
But administrators cautioned that the heightened scrutiny does not represent a blanket freeze on faculty hiring. Levin said the hiring picture will become more clear after the Yale Corporation meets in December, when they will offer more specific guidance.
Though the University’s financial difficulties have derailed departments’ hiring plans, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences will continue to grow, administrators said, but at a slower rate than in recent boom years. The faculty has added 60 professors over the past five years, growing by about 10 percent each year, Long said.
The deferrals come as a blow to department chairs who had hoped to expand their faculty and offerings. Anthropology department chair William Kelly said he is concerned not only that departments will not be allowed to expand, but also that they will not be allowed to fill newly-vacant positions that, in some cases, have been occupied for decades.
“That’s going to have serious consequences for our department profile,” Kelly said.
All eight department chairs interviewed who had sought to complete a faculty search before the new guidelines said they have been told to hold off for better economic times.
Though History Department chair Laura Engelstein said the department has been allowed to move ahead with two previously planned searches, two positions will remain vacant and further searches may also be deferred. Engelstein declined to comment on the posts under discussion.
But while it is tougher now to win approval for faculty searches, Engelstein said, the high standards are not new.
“Never, even before the crisis, did the administration give you authorization in some abstract way,” Engelstein said. “You always had to say, ‘Remember that wonderful position we can’t live without?’”
The Comparative Literature and East Asian Languages and Literatures departments are still attempting to win approval for faculty searches but know they will likely be told to wait, said Haun Saussy, a professor in both departments and the chair of the East Asian Studies department.
Other departments now slated to operate with vacancies include the Italian, Neurobiology and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations departments, their chairs said.
The Neurobiology Department has been denied permission to start a new search after a recent hiree decided this past summer not to take a position, chair Pasko Rakic said. The department does not have any other searches in progress.
The slowdown in faculty hiring comes along with the 7.5 percent cuts in personnel spending and additional 5 percent on top of prior 7.5 percent cuts in non-personnel spending that the University has asked departments to make this fiscal year.