Step 70: Apply for a Tenure Line

I apologize for the very late post; some search-related duties kept me busy.

Now that the job posting is public (please advertise it widely!), I want to describe the administrative process we went through to get the approval to post the ad. This is a part of faculty life that I’ve never thought about before, nor have I read about it anywhere, so I thought it would be useful to describe. I’m not sure how much of this applies outside of Oxy, and other institutions may have completely different terminology and procedures.

To start, the college often refers to funding a faculty as a “tenure line” – that is, from funding someone from assistant professor level, through their promotions over the years, until they retire. I like to think of tenure lines as belonging to a department: for example, if someone is retiring, the department may try to hire a new faculty to replace that person. This is not entirely correct, since departments can grow or shrink, and sometimes entirely new departments are created, but I imagine that the total number of tenure lines across the college only changes slowly.

The application process starts with a position request completed by the department. The request is half about the need for a new faculty member, and half about how such a hire would impact the rest of the college. I found the latter particularly interesting, since these considerations presumably only exist at small liberal arts colleges. Beyond the need to fill a gap or to remain competitive with peer institutions, the other departments and/or campus entities should also be benefiting from the new faculty. Reading back through the request for this post, I get the feeling that this is the heart of how the college grows, by the careful consideration of whether the new faculty would contribute to the college’s strategic plan, and how it generally enhances the quality of the education here.

The position requests usually takes several weeks to write, although for us it took less time due to great collaboration within the department. The completed request is then sent to our Academic Planning Committee (APC), together with signatures and at least one support letter external to the department. APC, a committee composed of the Dean and faculty from a cross section of disciplines, then decide whether to approve the request. Since it’s mostly tenured faculty who serve on APC – while it’s possible for untenured faculty to be appointed by the Dean if it was felt that they would offer a missing perspective, such appointments are unlikely – I am not privy to the discussion that occurs. All we get, via a response to the department chair, are comments on the position request, and whether an acceptance is possible after revisions.

Assuming the revisions are completed, the final obstacle before posting the ad is the detailed search plan. As the name suggests, this document covers the details of how the search will be run – from the exact ad to be posted, to how applications will be processed, to the timeline for the various interviews. The most interesting part of writing this document, at least for me, was the discussion on how to ensure we are reaching out to underrepresented applicants; in particular, borrowing an idea from a search in Philosophy, we are reaching out to diversity-focused organizations for help. This and other such strategies seemed to satisfy our Affirmative Action committee, who worked with the Dean for the final approval of our search.

Which is where we are now: job ads posted and waiting for applicants. I will likely write about the search process again when I am allowed to, since it’s fascinating to be on the other side of the job market. As I said at the beginning, please do share the ad with anyone you think would be interested in the position.

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Step 70: Apply for a Tenure Line

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