Hiring in the experts

Faculty members spend a lot of time standing before their class, sharing their knowledge and expertise. The way in which those faculty are hired and maintain their teaching jobs at Oakland University is a complex process.

Virinder K. Moudgil, senior Vice President for academic affairs and provost describes OU’s hiring process as being fair and decentralized, since it begins at the department level and ultimately makes it’s way to his desk for final approval.

A demand for new hires

According to Moudgil, it all starts with a growth in enrolment, or need for additional faculty to teach classes within a department.

Before the Board of Trustees approves their annual budget, University President Gary Russi asks Moudgil what his academic needs which includes hiring new faculty are for the year.

This process starts at the department level. Department chairs share their faculty needs with the dean of their respective college or school.

“When we get the opportunity to hire new faculty, typically in the fall, for the following year, I prioritize our needs,” Ronald A. Sudol, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said.

Deans, like Sudol, report to Moudgil about their faculty needs.

“We have eight deans total,” Moudgil said. “At the beginning of this budgetary process, I will formally request the deans to tell me what are their faculty needs … all report to me ‘these are my needs for the next semester or the year after.’”

Prioritizing the need

Moudgil and his staff look at all of these needs and put together a budget.

Cuts in state funding, but an increased enrollment, cause OU to prioritize hiring, Moudgil said.

The hiring needs are looked at realistically, finding a balance between needs and what OU can provide.

Karen Miller, chair of the history department and head of the association of university professors, has seen the way the university has to prioritize.

Miller said there was a previous request to hire a professor in medieval studies and a professor who specialized in China.

The administrators at the university decided hiring a professor for medieval studies was less of a priority.

The deans, department chairs and Moudgil ultimately agree on a compromise. Moudgil presents it to President Russi, who presents it to the Board Of Trustees. The BOT approves the process.

The search for new faculty

Once the budget is established for the year, Moudgil formally informs the deans in a written statement that they can go ahead and hire faculty.

The process relies on departments to make the hiring decisions. Deans and Moudgil typically don’t tell departments who to hire, however.

“Even though (hiring) is my ultimate responsibility as chief academic officer of this university, the fact is, it is bottom up. I only come in the picture later when I sign who is going to be hired,” Moudgil said. “The faculty decide who is going to be their colleague.”

The departments are given more of a say when it comes to hiring new faculty members.

“The actual decision making, the recommendation on who should be hired as say a tenure-track professor, comes from the faculty in the departments of the college,” Sudol said.

According to Moudgil, the department puts together a search committee, typically consisting of three to four people.

The committee compiles a list of expertise they want in their new faculty member.

The search committee creates an advertisement, which is shared with a national journal, or paper called “The Chronicle of Higher Education” and possibly several other publications, Moudgil said.

The applications go to the department’s search committee.

Some positions receive few applications, but others will receive many more.

“We are in a really tough job market … I have colleagues that are conducting searches that have hundreds of applicants,” Miller said. “These are people that are really strong, stellar candidates.”

Firing becomes rare

Miller said hiring these top-notch faculty members has minimized firing.

“We have been hiring so well over the past decade … if you make an effort and are diligent, you will very well meet our (faculty) criteria,” Miller said.

Moudgil said to maintain a position at OU, three criteria must be met: the faculty must be effective teachers, be seeking scholarship advancement for themselves and students and service to the community.

Getting fired is uncommon and it is usually someone who is truly not doing their job.

Other reasons for dismissal include illegal activity and not being granted tenure.

Getting the job

Moudgil said once the top candidates are chosen in the hiring process, they will give a public presentation on campus.

According to both Moudgil and Miller, students are invited and asked to make observations about these candidates.

Their input is considered when the department creates their list of their top three or four choices.

The diversity office have to approve the top candidates, making sure there is a diverse pool of people.

“The list comes and our office of diversity — Joi Cunningham — she has to sign off. She has to certify that this pool that was brought to our campus is appropriate. Unless she signs, I will not sign,” Moudgil said.

The last person to sign off is Moudgil. After he signs, the department can offer their top candidate a job.

Granting tenure

The person will either be offered tenure track, which requires two review cycles which occur once every two years.

The cycle includes reviews from students, faculty peers, the department, the college or school and a university committee, according to Moudgil. Moudgil is the person to decide whether to grant tenure.

“If they receive tenure, then they do not go through this review cycle again, although the department will make their own decisions about the progress of the faculty,” Moudgil said.

According to Miller and Moudgil, most faculty go through this smoothly and if they do not, there is time for them to fix it.

However, if the tenure-track faculty member is not granted tenure, they will lose their job.

“I will say this, that we are very fortunate and I say this in all honesty that the faculty we hire are so good, most of them get tenure, because they are doing their job,” Moudgil said.

Contact managing editor Megan Semeraz via e-mail at  [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @MeganSemeraz