Faculty hiring yield spikes

In an era of budget shortfalls and cuts, the faculty hiring process this year was a little too successful.

Over the past few years, Yale has aimed to hire approximately 30 to 35 professors each year in order to keep the size of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences constant at roughly 700 professors. But this hiring cycle, Provost Benjamin Polak said a greater percentage of professors have accepted job offers made over the past year than was expected: 57 new professors will join Yale, and 13 have yet to respond to their offers. While Polak interpreted the high yield as a “good sign” for Yale’s academic reputation, he said the sudden influx of professors will put additional pressure on an already strained budget, causing the University to slow hiring for next year — almost more than ever before.

“It was a good year for hiring — frankly, a better year than we expected — but from a planning point of view with the budget, it causes a few problems,” Polak said. “Every silver lining has a cloud.”

In contrast to the 109 searches for new professors that were conducted during the 2012-’13 academic year, only 38 searches are underway this year, and 36 of those are searches that “rolled over” from last year because a job offer was never made, Polak said. Only two new searches have been approved so far this year in the entire Faculty of Arts and Sciences, he said, adding that that figure is “close to an all-time low of new searches.”

Polak said he wanted to continue the incomplete searches from last year despite budget constraints because he does not want to penalize departments for holding out for a perfect candidate.

The newly hired faculty members span all three divisions — 19 are in humanities departments, 14 are in social science departments and 24 are in the sciences and engineering. Eight of the new professors are senior, tenured faculty while the remaining 49 are junior, tenure-track faculty.

Polak said the number of new junior faculty hires in the sciences and engineering is “really spectacular” because it means that young scientists are choosing Yale as the institution at which to build their careers.

“Our searches for junior faculty in the humanities always have a good yield because we’re top-ranked, but for the yield to be this high in the sciences, that is really saying something,” he said. “It’s a good sign. Those departments are working hard.”

Department chairs interviewed said they are excited about the new hires.

Holly Rushmeier, who chairs the Computer Science Department, said she is glad that her department was able to convince its new professor, Ruzica Piskac, to come to Yale because “competition for top new faculty is very tough” and the department needed an additional professor with expertise in programming languages to keep up with the expanding field of computer science.

Still, Rushmeier said her department urgently wants to hire more faculty.

“Interest in computer science continues to build, and our classes are getting much larger,” she said. “We desperately need additional faculty.”

While History Department Chair Naomi Lamoreaux said her department is healthy overall, one of its programs — History of Science and Medicine — is struggling. Though the department secured approval to conduct searches for new professors for the program during the past two academic years, the three professors who were given job offers did not accept, she said.

Lamoreaux said that “the situation is so serious” that the department is going to try to get approval to continue searching this year despite the restrictions on new searches.

Chair of the Electrical Engineering Department Jung Han described Polak’s decision to limit new searches this year as “reasonable and expected” but added that he is concerned about the future of his department, which dropped in size to 10 professors during the 2012-’13 academic year. The department has since hired four junior faculty, which Han said is “a good step in rebuilding the department.”

Forty-three of the new hires have already arrived at Yale, while the remaining 14 will begin teaching by next fall.

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