Despite the distinct endowment decrease of the previous year, the hiring freeze put into place on campus last year did not and does not affect the faculty positions. According to SU’s provost, Jim Hunt, the hiring freeze only applies to staff positions that become vacant during the freeze, at which time the position will remain vacant for a nine month period before it is filled – unless the vacant position is essential to the department, wherein senior staff can then make a case to fill the position.
These staff positions include most everyone that makes our campus run beautifully – from physical plant to the business office, but does not apply to any of the professors.
Although the campus is still adjusting to the tighter belt, the only pull back in faculty has been in full-time professors, which cost the university the most money. Tenure-track positions are being filled at the same rate, and the university will continue to hire enough professors to keep our student-faculty ratio at the ever-boasted 10:1.
While it may come across as if we are sacrificing the livelihoods of the sweet ladies who never bat an eye at the contents of our trash cans or the employees from whom we get our morning high-fives for the sake of our intellectual capital on campus, Hunt ensures that “the goal on campus is to keep the jobs that are currently in place.”
With the economic nose-dive that has been affecting campuses nationally, there has been a general decrease in demand for professors as many universities are pulling their tenure track searches, according to Hunt. In contrast, this year we are hiring on tenure in the communications, sociology, religion and Latin American art history—all of which are replacements with the exception of the last, which is a new position made available by a $200,000 grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.
Additionally, next year we will be looking for professors to fill tenure positions in the history, anthropology and philosophy departments. Southwestern will also be hiring its first tenured environmental studies professor, thanks to the Mellon Foundations grant.
Molly Jensen, a religion professor newly on tenure track this year, stresses the importance of maintaining a strong presence of tenured professors on campus, as “tenured professors have more time and resources invested in the lives of students and colleagues, which is one of the aspects that draws professors to the university.” Allured by the community-centered education Southwestern focuses on and the warmth of all those interacting on campus, Jensen is seeking to bring her area of expertise in Judaism to the religion department on campus with a unique perspective on integrating religious themes with social and political movements as well as sustainability. Jensen participates in “non-profit work as a real-world application of academic expertise in the social justice field,” which gives her a cosmopolitan and integrated liberal arts perspective she hopes to pass along to students on campus.
Southwestern’s newest visiting professor in the sociology department, Reginald Byron, was drawn to the university because of the impact the professors are able to have on their students through the close relationships, a sentiment many tenured professors echo.
“The beauty of education is in its ability to transform the lives of real people. Educational experiences that empower students to become active participants in our world are far more important than those that only require the rote memorization of material. It seems to me that most Southwestern faculty members share this sentiment,” Byron noted.
As the university struggles to stretch its budget as far as possible, it is a relief to many students to know that we are still bringing in inspired and diverse faculty to enrich our curriculum and expand our cache of socially-oriented intellectual resources.