Parameters to consider in hiring

Clerk’s committee has compiled the following list of parameters to consider in evaluating positions. These would apply both to tenure-track and non-tenure-track hiring. We have compiled these from our past practices and from comparison with those used at other schools.

What we’d like from you is:

  1. Tell us whether the items on this list are appropriate. Are we missing anything we could consider? Is there something here which should not be here? Can you suggest different language or a different focus for a priority we have listed?
  2. Tell us which of these parameters should be prioritized, and which should be given less weight or eliminated.

Here are the parameters we’ve come up with, listed in no particular order:

a) Existing or future staffing patterns, including a list and count of current faculty, history of class sizes, and ratios like student credit hours per faculty member and majors per faculty member

b) Current extent of reliance on adjuncts and visiting faculty to cover the program’s curriculum

c) Enrollment trends over time, including number of majors and graduates

d) Departmental curricular needs (including general education courses provided by the department)

e) Consideration of the College Mission Statement and planning documents.

f) Personnel planning related to future retirements or possible departures of current faculty

g) Promotion of new programs approved by faculty

h) Recent departures or loss of program participants

Note: There will be no request for proposals for tenure-track hiring this year. Jane has decided that while we are in budget deficit, we cannot add people to potentially permanent positions. If your program has a need for additional teaching, please contact Beth about adding temporary positions to cover your needs.


UPDATE: We thought that last year’s solicitation for proposals for tenure-track faculty hires might be of interest. It is here: Position Request Memo



  2. Dave,

    Will Clerk’s Committee also be examining majors that should be eliminated as part of this process? With the current enrollment trends, it seems very difficult for the College to continue offering majors in some fields such as a few of the foreign languages. If we do not make some tough decisions about where to cut, we shall have a difficult time right-sizing this college to make us profitable again.

    • Clerk’s committee has not discussed eliminating majors or closing departments, nor have I heard administrators advocating that as a solution to our current budgetary problems unless they were to get far worse. It would likely not be the role of Clerk’s committee to make those assessments. When we’ve looked hard at prioritizing or cutting departments and programs in the past (most notably in 1997-98 and in 2008-2010) it has been with independent committees.

      There has been some discussion of whether we can sustain non-departmental minors which require significant additional teaching to cover. That discussion is still in very early stages as far as I know, and it has not been formally discussed by Clerk’s.

      The budget estimates provided to the Board of Trustees last weekend, which in my opinion were far more realistic than those I’ve seen in prior years, show us leaving the realm of structural deficits within a year or two, faster if some of our enrollment work bears fruit. Cost cutting measures, including the difficult staff reductions last spring, and growth in our endowment have helped us get to that point of guarded optimism. We do need a solid incoming class of traditional students next fall to provide enough revenue to reach those goals.

      • Some additional thoughts. I found this comment troubling when I initially saw it posted, and I’ve thought about it some more in the few hours since. I thought I’d say something further.

        Questioning the value of specific programs, or speculating about cutting them, does not seem helpful. Pondering the future of the college and discussing strategies to better it is certainly appropriate, but we should do so carefully and in broad terms, at least initially. Regardless, such hypothetical cuts are not the topic of this particular post.

        Also, this comment has the potential to be hurtful to colleagues in the programs named, and is not based on any initiative the college is undertaking. If you want to propose that the college eliminate programs or cut in significant ways, or to claim that certain programs are worthy of cutting, it is your right and duty to say so, but it seems inappropriate to me to do so anonymously. Anonymous negative comments can create deep mistrust between people, and they seem antithetical in some regards to Quaker process.

        I’m going to leave the comment here, because it is definitely antithetical to Quaker process to stifle conversation or censor anyone. I encourage colleagues to be mindful of how their words might be perceived by others. Our strength lies in our community, and we should not underestimate its value or its fragility.

        If people want to talk with me in confidence about this post or about how to help Guilford survive and grow, I would be happy to listen.

    • In response to Anonymous1, as a member of Clerk’s Committee I will not be considering eliminating majors unless I am told that is necessary by the President and the Dean. It would be inappropriate in the extreme.

      Second, one thing that would guarantee declining enrollment would be eliminating departments, which would no doubt make the academic as well as the general press. The narrative that Guilford was one of those old-fashioned liberal arts colleges that couldn’t think of better things to do than eliminate costs would not be a good narrative for us, even if it were only the perception rather than the reality.

      Third, I know everyone has reason to worry about voicing unpopular ideas, but if we cannot, as a community, model healthy discussions about difficult topics, then I think we need to work harder on our community ethos. Integrity demands standing behind one’s statements; it is especially ironic to me that Anonymous1 could not stand behind their opinion if they thought it was truly beneficial to the College.

      Untenured people certainly have reasonable concerns about raising the ire of their senior colleagues; there are better venues for airing such concerns than anonymously on a discussion board.

  3. Would/Should (b) also include overloads of current faculty?

  4. Thanks, Dave, for your comment on the “anonymous” issue. Agreed. However, I’d like to suggest that anonymous does bring up a broader subject that relates directly to staffing and hiring, namely the direction we want to see our college go in terms of growing through our current financial distress. The anonymous author seems to suggest that some foreign languages should be eliminated because of perceived or perhaps low enrollments (I do not know the enrollment numbers for foreign languages). To me, this attitude is representative of one of the ways we might consider changing our curriculum to react to enrollment needs. However, I couldn’t disagree more with the anonymous author’s sense that what would be good for the college (let alone good for our students) would be to eliminate programs or entire fields of study based on course enrollments. This speaks to the criteria (parameters A & C) listed above as well.

    For example, what are we currently doing to ensure that students are flocking to majors because of the “value” (perceived or real, whatever the difference might be) of those majors, rather than because the courses in the higher enrolled majors are easier, less rigorous, or less demanding of proactive critical thinking? If we design our college curriculum to reflect our enrollment aspirations based on perceived student interest in academic disciplines – and here I say “perceived” because not a ton of our students come to Guilford with a specific major in mind and stick to it to the end – then the “liberal arts” heart of our academic project as a college will (continue to) suffer. And even deeper on the same point, do we want to attract traditional (17-18 year old) students to a liberal arts college who are coming primarily to study a specific subject? I am curious what the concept of “liberal arts” means to the anonymous author. Sure, we can give up the liberal arts ghost and become a reactionary vocational university if we wish. Personally, I think such a decision would be myopic and disastrous. However, another option would be to consider what we think would be valuable for a broad and deep education for our students, then create the academic environment and require a broad curriculum for such learning, and teach with rigor instead of for the numbers. It is my opinion that our best chances for long-term growth and vitality would be to focus on how well we are educating our students. The best liberal arts colleges in the country have high academic standards, and focus their energies on student-centered rigorous pedagogy, which is very attractive to prospective students, and is a long-term boon for enrollment. Thus, I find a distinct value in the comment by the anonymous author, as I think these types of large directional issues are of paramount importance as we revisit the issue of hiring.

    We are building several exciting new programs that will need staffing, and we have several academic programs that are doing a brilliant job of educating their students, but are woefully understaffed. How many German language professors do we have at Guilford? How big a program is the anonymous author expecting German to be in order to be worth keeping for our students? I can assure the anonymous author that our students who study German learn well, love learning, are inspired to be international travelers and global engaged citizens, and are enthusiastic about seeing the world from a multiplicity of perspectives. We also have several programs that are heavily staffed but are perhaps focused on numbers more than on their students’ educations. It’s hard to tell. Are we even trying to discern such things? The PPR review ignored academic rigor and excellence altogether. When will we assess how well, thoroughly, rigorously, and “excellently” we are doing what we profess we do? “Excellence” is not based on numbers, after all. Until we assess how well we are doing what we do, I believe it will be difficult to come to consensus as a faculty on criteria for hiring. I find it rather dismaying that “a few of the foreign languages” were given the 非常可怕 head-shake by the anonymous author, but I do think that the anonymous comment shines a valuable light on vital larger issues that do indeed have to do with hiring.

  5. Eric speaks my mind more eloquently than I could say it. Such comments as this by Anonymous divide us and play on old fear that originated from the prioritization plan a few years ago. Dave clearly stated in his email to us that Clerk’s was attempting to create a standardization for hiring, not firing faculty or dissolving programs. We are a liberal arts school. And until we are not, we need to celebrate Arts & Humanities along side STEM and Business regardless of the value the outside world places on these areas. The market changes and cycles and so do educational trends. And finally, what would my Health Science majors at this school be if they couldn’t pick up an instrument and express, feel, breathe, and process at a different level? This beautiful balance makes for healthy folks. Yay for Liberal Arts!

  6. I know Eric said a lot more than just this, but I feel compelled to express that I find it troublesome, somewhat divisive, and not particularly accurate to apply a blanket condemnation of courses in larger majors as “easier, less rigorous, or less demanding of proactive critical thinking.” Our jobs sure would be easier if that were true!

  7. I agree that this is a very important and very difficult discussion to have; I think we’ve been skirting it for a while. I also firmly believe in the value of a liberal arts education. Providing tools and opportunities for students to learn to recognize and appreciate different ways of being in, experiencing, and understanding the world is urgently required for present and future global and local well-being and is core to our mission.

    I’ve heard that there are probably too many liberal arts colleges for the current population. If that’s true we need to ask: For what reasons should Guilford, in particular, be among those that persevere? Hopefully because we have something valuable and distinctive to offer, including the opportunity for “non-liberal arts” majors to become liberally educated while preparing for their, chosen careers. And please let’s remember that Guilford is not, and has never been, a for-profit institution.

  8. Anonymous,

    Thank you for continuing this conversation. My point was that we just don’t know much about the comparative academic rigor of different programs. Students genuinely have a sense that there are majors at Guilford that are much easier than others. I don’t know if their perceptions are accurate. I really wish we could consider factors other than mere student numbers or popularity (word choice?) when we consider the value of particular majors. Sorry you find this thinking divisive.

    best wishes…


    • Hi Eric, I also found your comment suggesting that large departments are less rigorous to be divisive so it wasn’t just “anonymous” who felt a bit put out by that comment.

  9. Dave, I support all the criteria Clerk’s has put forward here and would offer two comments back. First, is there a way to structure the process related to recruitment of faculty that would promote cooperation and conversation between departments and programs? If we can do what we can to move away from a zero-sum game of securing faculty lines, I think we will see Guilford as having much more flexibility and much more collegiality between faculty members of different disciplines and programs. One way to do this would be to find ways to promote team-teaching and joint appointments as part of the process for successful hiring proposals. We do this, to some extent, now with consultation with the IDS programs. However, finding additional ways to promote departments and programs to find common ground and ways of turning two positions into one or three positions into two would be helpful. Doing this before proposals are submitted though would be key. A related point would be to develop some common datasets that are accessible to everyone related to the metrics mentioned here. We have these now and they are posted in the IR website; however, finding a way that these data could be put into a dashboard would help faculty interpret not just their needs but also their needs relative to other departments and programs. Again, such a college-wide view of need would help situate the development of proposals that could otherwise be spun up without a lot of context. Having said all of that, data only get us so far. Eric’s comments about quality would not be captured; neither would the gaps in teaching required courses just inside a major be captured by college-level dashboards like this. Finding ways to put data in front of faculty and using that to help foster conversations about the needs across campus are goals that would promote the kind of collegiality and common purpose we particularly need in these times.

    • I echo Kyle’s assertion that data will only get us so far. I also caution us not to assume that the data is always accurate and/or that we know how to read it. Numbers can be misleading if taken out of context. Of particular concern: what effect do study leaves, course releases, and unpaid overloads have on such data?

  10. I wonder if there is a way we can look at diversity of students in different programs as one of the criteria for hiring. If we are truly dedicated to recruiting and retaining students of color, it seems that this should be something that we should try to take into account.

  11. Thanks, Eva, for letting me know that you shared the reaction that my comments were divisive. I hear that, and apologize. I do care, and do not wish to be divisive, and take responsibility for writing something that was received that way. Please note that I am not (in no way) saying that Psychology, which has a lot of majors, is easier than Philosophy, which has less majors. I am not saying that Religious Studies is easier than Physics, or that Sports Management is easier than Music. What I am saying is that we simply do not know, because we do not, or at least have not to date, made any efforts to discern the academic rigor of our programs. Some programs MIGHT be quite a bit easier than others, and yes, I do think this dynamic might be a contributing factor in students’ selection of particular majors. Please remember that my comments were in response to a suggestion that we consider laying down particular programs, presumably because of lower enrollments.



    • Thanks Eric, and I believe we should keep and strengthen our FL program and I absolutely agree with everything else you said in your post! I just felt compelled to comment on the rigor/size issue. I realize that’s not the main point here, but would like to note that some programs might be easier for some students and harder for others. I’ve had lots of students give up on psychology and go to another major and do quite well. That doesn’t mean that the other major was easier, it could be that it fit better with the student’s’ way of thinking and learning. I also want to note that when I looked at the GPA distributions across programs, I did not see a noticeable difference between the large majors and small majors. I realize that GPA is not a good indicator of quality or rigor, but it does call into question the idea that students are choosing majors because they are “easy As.”

  12. I appreciate the ongoing open conversation as it helps to understand the meaning of our community. A couple of quick observations. It would be remarkable, and perhaps ironic, for Guilford to cut foreign language programs during the tenure of someone who is likely to be our first genuinely bilingual president. If anything, we could do more to promote the study of non-native languages, since our students can easily imagine their world as understandable simply through the English idiom (though English, as a native language, is spoken by about 5% of the world’s population). The historian Jacob Burckhardt told his students, “one can never know enough languages,” and this was in tri-lingual Switzerland. Imagine, instead, if more of our students could read the news, literature, and research of others in their native languages. That is only a beginning of their experience of a deeper and broader global community.