This year, the History Department welcomed seven new full-time faculty members — but professors warned this may not be enough to fill existing vacancies.
Despite the influx of new faculty, including two senior and five junior appointments, department chair Naomi Lamoreaux said she expects that faculty retirements and remaining empty positions will leave eight-and-a-half vacant departmental “slots” — or faculty positions — by December 2015. All but one of the seven new positions are simply filling holes where faculty members retired or died, Director of Undergraduate Studies Beverly Gage said, adding that the hires do not signify an increase in the size of the history faculty.
History professors interviewed said vacancies in their department were the consequence of decreased hiring after the 2008 recession.
“[The administration] never said there was a hiring freeze, but they certainly slowed down hiring,” Lamoreaux said. “There have been a lot of vacancies they haven’t filled.”
History professor David Sorkin, who was one of the seven new hires, said that while adding so many new faculty members at once is slightly unusual, the hiring decisions make sense given Yale’s hiring cutbacks six years ago.
According to history professor Peter Perdue, the new hires will help the department get back on its feet after sharp limits on faculty searches began in 2008.
“Now we are getting back closer to ‘normal,’” Perdue wrote in a Tuesday email.
Still, Perdue said that there will still be major gaps in faculty appointments, particularly in Russian and Southeast Asian history.
Gage added that only three faculty members — professors Rosie Bsheer, Noel Lenski and Sorkin — were hired as a result of searches in 2014. Professors Rohit De, Isaac Nakhimovsky and Julia Stephens were hired several years ago, but delayed coming to Yale in order to finish postdoctoral fellowships. None of these new faculty members were hired under the new guidelines set forth by the Academic Review Committee’s April 2014 report.
Stephens, who was hired this year, explained that the unusually large number of faculty joining this year creates new opportunities for collaboration across fields, both in geographic areas and thematic interests like histories of empire, gender, sexuality and law.
In addition to these new faculty members, the department is running searches for two more professors: one junior faculty appointment in 20th century Chinese history and one open-rank appointment in modern European history. Search chairs began reviewing applications this fall and expect the positions to start in July 2015.
While some history majors interviewed said they had never felt the effect of faculty vacancies in the department, others expressed concern.
“I’ve noticed a gap in a lot of places,” said history major Alexander Jacobson ’17. “Until this year, they’ve actually had a bit of trouble covering a lot of Asia, and Africa outside the Middle East.”
Still, he noted that he felt Yale is addressing these areas more actively than other universities.
Perdue also explained that though there is still some confusion surrounding the new ARC hiring policy, he thinks that given its focus on increased faculty input and cross-departmental appointments, it will be much fairer than the former system.
Still, other professors were more hesitant about the new policy.
“One principle is very important, which is that departments are supposed to, under the new rules, regain control of their vacant slots and how they use them,” Lamoreaux said. “We hope they will live up to that principle, but it remains to be seen.”
Lamoreaux also expressed concern that the new policy will limit the number of hiring searches that can be done each year, adding that she expects some departments will have to wait to hire new faculty. She explained that she and other department chairs plan to meet independently of administrators to discuss each department’s needs and discern how University policies have affected them.