Thursday, January 19, 2012

Faculty Search updates

We've had a narrow field of candidates for this year's search. We advertised for a one-year position with the possibility of continuance. We had in the tens of applicants and chose about 4-5 to follow up on. Here are some reasons for us not following up on applicants: incomplete applications, never mentioned teaching in the application, wrote a cover letter addressed to an R01-type institution, among others.

Of those we had narrowed down, we then asked for a "essay on faith / worldview". Religious institutions vary in the stringency of their requirements for faculty. Some don't care what your beliefs are as along as you can support the mission of the institution. Some (rare and fringe) institutions insist that you interpret the holy scripture just like they do. We are in the middle of those extremes; we need you to really believe in our faith but not be in our denomination.

For example: One of our top three candidates returned a statement of faith explaining that they were a cultural [other faith completely]. We had to let that one go. Now we are down to two; one who is an excellent academic fit, very qualified, honors, etc. but s/he wrote in his/her statement of faith that they had been brought up in our tradition but didn't really believe it anymore. The other is a great faith fit, but not academically the desired discipline. The "faith plus/ field minus" candidate could certainly contribute to the whole department, but not for the sub-field we were looking for. We could re-arrange the loading to take advantage of his/her skills.

Whether or not the department is rigorous in the "faith fit", the applicant has to be hired also by the Dean, Provost and the Board of Visitors. And they are far more stringent on the "faith fit" than the department is. So there's no use throwing it all out the window for the right "academic fit".


  1. Hm... my statement of faith was always one sentence. "I am a confirmed Episcopalian" I think for a Catholic school I mentioned I'd had Catholic Baptism and first communion, but was confirmed Episcopalian. I wonder if shorter statements help or hurt. Maybe they would make me write a longer one.

  2. I can only say for us, that "guarding" was disadvantageous.

  3. I'd like to know more about what you think of all this.

    I assume you take your faith very seriously, but departmental and institutional considerations aside, do you think the hiring people based on their faith is justified?

    More broadly, do you think institution such as yours have a role to play in modern society. If so, what is this role and do you see this continuing forever or do you think that at some point in the future we can grow beyond the perceived need for these institutions.

    Finally, do you mind telling us whether your institution is a one that serves a faith-based minority?

  4. my problem is always that I'm happy to spew about the social justice aspect of religion I am not a true believer and thus have no faith. Strangely enough this works out OK for some places and not for others. I'm surprised since faith is such a stringent req. that you don't request that upfront. I know the logic is that is makes for a smaller pool but if it is such a big part, well then, you may as well pic from the pool you've really got.

  5. I work at a private, Christian university, and we have a similar hiring process. Although, I can only speak from the side of being hire as I have not been involved in a search from the other side yet. My institution did not require us to write a faith statement, but they did require 3 spiritual references. Those people had to write a statement about how they know me and my spiritual/moral character. The university I work for is a PUI, however they are branching out into the graduate programs (which happens to be where I work). On the undergraduate side of the university, they require (or at least have in the past)that you be a member of their specific denomination. However, they have found that as they expand into the graduate level it is very difficult to find qualified applicants within their specific denomination. I am very thankful for this because it has caused them to open up their hiring process to all Christians (no specific denomination) at the graduate level (I would not have been hired if not for this).

  6. Pramod (and all) Thanks for your comments and questions; I have been thinking about your question since you asked, the necessity for religious institutions like ours. 1. Yes, I think discriminating among our candidates to choose those that will fulfill the mission of the university is justified (and the supreme court does, too- I should read more about that) 2. We definitely are a religious minority. But 1 and 2 don't answer the need for a religious institution in the first place. I have really been thinking about this and have not come up with a cohesive, well thought out rationale. I am definitely NOT avoiding your questions, but if I don't answer soon it will because it feels like a task that requires that kind of quiet time and thoughtfulness that is a luxury right now.

  7. @PUI Prof: I saw your reply only now when your new posts turned up in reader. Thanks for the answer!

    I'm not religious, but I think I kinda agree that it may be important to have religious institutions, even more so in the case of those those that serve minorities. And from there I can kinda see the rationale for limiting recruitment based on faith.

    Anyway, lots of food for thought here and I really appreciate your taking the time to answer my question.