FAS Increases Faculty Searches

As the Faculty of Arts and Sciences begins to recover from the recent economic downturn, faculty searches in a number of Social Sciences departments are increasing, allowing the departments to hire junior faculty and fill positions vacated by retiring faculty members.

While several department chairs continued to emphasize that the school is suffering financial woes, these administrators said they view the upward trend in searches as an opportunity to restore pre-crisis faculty sizes.

“We’re still in straitened circumstances—it’s not a boom,” said Economics Department Chair John Y. Campbell. “But our department lost a number of junior faculty members last year ... and, fortunately, FAS has said we can replenish it.”

After FAS Dean Michael D. Smith announced a freeze on the majority of searches in 2008—and the school offered a retirement package for tenured professors in FAS the following year—faculty growth stagnated.

This September, Smith announced that the FAS budget deficit had been reduced from $35 million to $16 million over the 2011 fiscal year, meaning that more resources could be devoted towards searches.

With 43 searches authorized across FAS this year—a sizable increase from the 34 conducted in 2010 and 24 conducted in 2009—Dean for Faculty Affairs and Planning Nina Zipser said the current level of searches was sufficient “to maintain the strength of each division.”

The History department was one of the hardest-hit by faculty attrition. The number of tenured and tenure-track History professors has decreased from 57 in 2006 to 47 in 2010.

Today, the department is in the process of conducting five faculty searches, including two searches for Latin American historians, one for a modern Chinese historian, a joint search with History and Literature for a historian of ethnicity and immigration to the United States, and a joint search with the Department of African and African-American studies.

Retirement and faculty attrition have also taken their toll on the Anthropology department, according to Chair Theodore C. Bestor.

“The size of the faculty of anthropology has not grown very much over the past decade, and in fact, we’ve had a number of people who retired or left for other jobs and were not replaced,” Bestor said.

As FAS fast-tracked the promotion of junior faculty members in the past several years in order to maintain the number of tenured professors, many departments—including Economics, History, and Social Studies—saw a decline in the number of assistant and associate professors.

According to Campbell, while the Economics department would sometimes directly search for senior faculty members in pre-crisis years, there has been a renewed focus recently on recruiting younger academics.

“We don’t want a faculty that’s too top-heavy,” Campbell said. “We always want young, talented, new people coming in—fresh blood.”

— Staff writer Kevin J. Wu can be reached at kwu@college.harvard.edu.

— Staff writer Matthew T. Lowe can be reached at mlowe@college.harvard.edu.

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