College Implements Hiring Freezes


Photo by Bryan Rubin, Photo Editor

Professor of Geology Dennis Hubbard guiding students in an Earth’s Environments lab. The Geology department is one of the many departments facing staffing concerns after the College announced a hiring freeze this semester.

Each fall, the College begins its faculty hiring process with departments submitting requests to the Education Policies and Procedures Committee, a subcommittee of the General Faculty Committee, asking for new tenure-track faculty positions. This year, however, some departments face unclear prospects following a temporary hiring freeze implemented by the administration.

The Dean of Studies office recently informed all College department chairs that there would be a temporary freeze on permanent hires as the College tries to recover from the year’s short-term financial deficit.

The College is grappling with a $5 million deficit this year due to a drop in enrollment and compounding financial problems. This, along with the larger structural deficiencies at the College, has created a temporary financial pinch leading to the freeze.

“For some departments it’s difficult because of real enrollment pressures,” Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Tim Elgren said. “They have coverage capacity issues. And so, we can fill a lot of those positions with visitors, but when it comes to continuity, you want tenure-track people in those lines. What’s going to happen this year is that the position requests cycle will happen as usual. We’re not freezing the processes.”

Each department’s faculty members — whether in visiting, tenure track, or tenured positions — represent a line on their departmental budget. Given the College’s financial concerns, the College is looking at phasing out some nonessential budgetary lines within several departments, which will become clear after the Board of Trustees convenes Oct. 5.

In the meantime, the College has implemented the freeze to build a pool of possible empty positions to phase out. In order to have as many options as possible once the conversation turns to specific departments, the College is choosing to fill as few positions as possible at this time.

“The idea is that we want to keep many of those options open so that when we do that review, we have the greatest number of options possible, and so that creates a momentary lack of continuity because these vacant lines are filled with visiting faculty members,” Elgren said.

While the issue could be resolved as early as January, the short-term squeeze increases pressure on some departments.

“The policy is for now that many of these positions are not being approved — they’re not being denied, but they’re not being approved for financial reasons at this time,” said Caroline Jackson Smith, chair of the Theater department.

The Theater department is one of many departments facing mounting pressures with the temporary hiring hold. Though the department has visiting professors filling in some of its essential courses, its long-term faculty makeup won’t be clearly solidified until after the hiring freeze ends.

“It’s a decision not to fill faculty positions College-wide, which is particularly disadvantaging us right now, because these are important positions that we will probably not get back as tenure-track positions now,” Smith said. “That’s not to say never. But not now.”

The Geology department is facing similar challenges as they look to a spring 2019 semester in which three tenured faculty members will not be on campus, leaving two tenured professors to teach the core curriculum. This comes after the retirement of Geology Professor Bruce Simonson in 2016, following his 30 years of service to the department.

Last semester, the department applied for a replacement tenured position with the EPPC, which reviews tenure proposals and ranks them based on College-wide need. Although the proposal was approved over the summer, the position has since been withheld following the freeze.

College senior Elena Hartley, one of the Geology department’s student representatives, said this personnel deficit has generated much concern within the department.

“We’re more upset because we were promised a tenure-track position and they’re freezing it for some reason,” Hartley said. “And if we miss out on this hiring cycle, then it will be another year before we can get another tenure track. So we’re all a bit pissed. What the Geo reps are doing is we’re planning on writing some letters to the Dean of the College.”