Opinion | 6:12 pm | September 18, 2013 | By Scott Stern and John Masko

FORUM: Faculty hiring

Diana Rosen | Staff Blogger

A missing element of the recent conversation around Yale’s faculty hiring is the planned addition of two new residential colleges. Although construction on the project has been stalled, the Yale undergraduate body will presumably be growing by around 900 students sometime in the next couple of years. With such a large influx of students, a larger faculty will undoubtedly be necessary in order to maintain the 6:1 student to faculty ratio advertised on the Yale Admissions website. If Yale truly intends to go forward with the creation of the two colleges, a spike in faculty numbers due to an increased yield rate in the 2012-’13 academic year should be cause for celebration. Instead, the administration has reacted to the high yield rate by drastically reducing the number of offers that it will offer this coming year, aiming to maintain a level of 700 professors in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

As it is, many classrooms are overcrowded. Access to many seminars has become increasingly competitive as large numbers of students vie for the 18 coveted spots. Some students are denied entry to capped language and English courses semester after semester. Even after the madness of shopping, lecture courses are filled to the brim, occasionally leaving unlucky students sitting on the floor. These problems will only be exacerbated by the addition of the two new colleges. When making decisions on hiring processes, Yale should be looking ahead to the expansion of the undergraduate population and consciously expanding its faculty rather than maintaining its current level. This is especially critical given that, as it is, the current number of faculty members in some departments does not appear to be sufficient.

The increased faculty yield rate is an excellent step towards maintaining the same academic quality that Yale has provided for hundreds of years. This year, Yale should not drastically reduce the number of offers it extends, and should hope for a continued trend of accomplished academics accepting offers to bring their work to New Haven.

 

John Masko | Staff Blogger

When new numbers on faculty hiring come out, as they did last week, students and administration are usually quick to jump to conclusions on whether that hiring cycle is a positive step toward the goal of faculty “diversity.” While hardly anyone would argue that a plurality of academic perspectives is a bad thing, our nebulous idea of diversity at Yale is far more remarkable for what it excludes than what it includes.

Last year, the Center for Responsive Politics researched the political donations made by Yale faculty members in a study that crept largely under the radar at the time. Findings that 97 percent of faculty donations last election cycle went to Democrats was by no means surprising, and certainly did not paint a detailed portrait of Yale’s political culture. But it is a painful indication that this school’s ongoing quest for meaningful academic diversity has, so far, failed. It shows that the most important political confrontations in today’s America, dramatized in our at least somewhat representative two-party system, are not happening here at Yale, or at least not among our faculty. While many University resources are expended in disciplines intimately involved with politics, it is apparently Yale students, not faculty, that are charged with bringing in diverse views.

So much of our modern academic culture here at Yale is founded on the idea of increasing “diversity” – diversity of cultures, races, genders and general worldviews and understandings. But such ideological sameness should cause us to consider whether we have unduly favored shallow, less significant forms of diversity, and ignored the sort that should matter most to us in the academy.

Maybe it is time for us, even at the cost of our political self-aggrandizement and comfort, to reconsider what the real meaning of diversity is. More than likely, we will realize that we have been duped – that the sort of diversity that should matter most to us in a liberal arts college has been largely ignored here at Yale.

 

Scott Stern | Staff Blogger

It is surely as much as a comment on Yale’s prestige as it is on the tough economic climate that 57 new professors have already accepted job offers (with 13 more undecided) when only 30 or 35 usually do. Because of this unprecedented yield, only 38 searches for new professors are currently underway. In previous years there have been over 100. Who will fill these future spots?

Yale’s prestige gives us the opportunity to look not just for sterling scholars, but also for a diverse array of faculty. Yale has historically failed to meet its faculty diversity goals. At the end of 2012, only 29.3 percent of professors were female, and only 17.6 percent were minorities.

In a year when Yale inaugurates a white male president and a white male provost , I worry about diversity among the faculty. This is especially important, because faculty diversity is essential to the next generation of professors. At a forum on faculty diversity convened in February, numerous professors mentioned the difficulties they had finding mentors for minority faculty members and graduate students. There are still subconscious biases when it comes to those with whom we associate, and to ignore this fact is to ignore countless scholars overlooked and forgotten.

It’s clear that the homogeneity of the faculty has hindered the hiring of minority scholars. But this need not be written in stone. Yale is always looking to recruit new minds, even if they are looking to recruit fewer this year than in those past.

Who are the 38 lucky scholars sought after by the world’s best university? I don’t know. I can just hope (and agitate) that the administration looks for professors who represent the diversity Yale has struggled so hard to promote. The struggle continues.

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