Faculty size to remain constant

Despite a strong endowment performance in fiscal year 2011 and signs pointing to stabilized University finances, administrators say they have no plans to increase the number of faculty at Yale.

Though Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences witnessed dramatic growth in its numbers over the past decade, the current total of 691 associate, assistant and full professors marks a decrease of nearly 20 members since last fall. The faculty size has hovered around 700 since administrators first decided to stall hiring after the national economic downturn hit in 2008. While the University’s finances slowly improved over the past three years, Provost Peter Salovey said Wednesday that authorized faculty searches occurring this fall are still mainly intended to fill vacancies created by retirements or departures, not contribute to an overall growth in faculty that four department chairs said is necessary.

Salovey said he understands the desire of department chairs to increase their individual faculty sizes, adding that while many searches will remain delayed, this year is more “auspicious” for hiring than the past couple of years have been.

“We don’t have the space or the funds simply to allow the faculty to grow in an ungoverned way,” Salovey said. “That doesn’t mean that there aren’t fields in which the faculty can grow.”

But two years into the stalled hiring process, the chairs of four departments — computer science, mathematics, geology and geophysics, and East Asian languages and literatures — said the number of faculty in their departments needs to grow.

While administrators said last fall that they were unlikely to grow the faculty until Yale’s strained budget had recovered enough to support additional professors, University President Richard Levin said in a town hall meeting two weeks ago that the budget had stabilized. Despite this improvement, Deputy Provost for Academic Resources Lloyd Suttle said in a Wednesday email that administrators plan to keep the faculty at around 700 members for at least another year.

With a focus on renewing but not growing the faculty, administrators authorized only 35 searches during the 2010-’11 academic year, but that number has more than doubled to 71 searches this year, Suttle said. The increase marks a return to the roughly 75 searches conducted during a typical fall, Salovey said, and is possible because administrators took a conservative approach to hiring last year.

David Bercovici, chair of the Geology and Geophysics Department, which has not hired anyone since 2009, said in a Tuesday email that faculty turnover and growth are essential to helping his department keep up with developments in science-related fields and remain competitive with larger research institutions such as Harvard and Stanford.

More courses are needed in a number of geology and geophysics subfields, such as natural resources and energy science, Bercovici said, adding that the department has two to three vacancies it needs to fill and has had to hire lecturers to offset its faculty shortage.

Beyond the stalled hiring of the past two years, the Mathematics Department also decreased in size over the past decade as other departments grew, and remains smaller than mathematics programs at Yale’s peer institutions, Yair Minsky, the department’s chair, said in a Wednesday email.

“I think some growth is necessary, particularly in certain departments, if the University is to remain competitive,” Minsky said.

Before the University’s dramatic faculty growth began, there were 599 FAS ladder faculty in the 1999–2000 academic year.

Comments

  • ldffly

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that in the 1970s, the Yale Faculty of Arts and Sciences totalled about 1000 members. Currently, that total is around 700. What could have happened?

    On a related matter, for those worried about the quality of education in the College, this might indicate what might happen when the new Colleges open. (I hope they never do!) I suspect you might see an announcement from the administration along the lines of “Oh sorry. You know those new faculty members we projected? The ones supposed to help educate all those extra College students? Well, we really can’t afford them right at the moment. We’ll try to get by for a little time. We expect you’ll like spending a small fortune to take courses from a number of graduate students.”