Taking Charge — Episode 6

Phil Chen, the Beresford Provost, walked into Marie’s office.  They greeted each other and shook hands, and then sat across from each other at Marie’s conference table.

“Phil, I want to outline a new hiring strategy and get your opinion.”

“Sounds great.”

“Let me provide a bit of background first.”


Marie discussed her analysis with George of the high costs of tenure track faculty members and the poor returns on these investments.  She also showed him how 17 faculty members provide 80% of Beresford’s brand value.

“This does not surprise me, but the results are a bit more extreme than I would have predicted.”

“I want to increase the 17 to 25 with strategic hires of proven stars.”

“That will be expensive.”

“At the same time, I want to stop hiring tenure track junior faculty.”

“The new stars won’t be willing to teach the classes we typically impose on junior faculty.”

“We will still hire junior faculty, but not tenure track.”

“Full time, non tenure track?”

“Yes, they will get a one-year appointment initially.  If they do well, we will then give them a three-year appointment.  If the three years go well, we will give them a rolling five-year contract.”


“Each year that performance is maintained, the five year horizon will be pushed out another year.”

“If performance is not maintained, the horizon will not be extended?”

“Exactly.  These faculty members can secure promotions, but not tenure.  They will not get release time for research, although research accomplishments will contribute to assessments for promotions.”

“This is a huge change.  Over time, the tenured faculty will disappear.”

“That’s the plan.”

“What about the stars you hope to recruit?”

“We will offer them financial incentives to accept five-year rolling contracts as well.  These folks will inherently be very self-confident, accomplished researchers.”

“How are we going to explain this to the faculty?”

“I am glad you said ‘we,’ because I need your help.”

“I understand your logic in all this, but there will be push back.”

“Let’s start with the upside.  The eight new hires will be two in each of four areas.   We will ask a select faculty committee to recommend the four areas.  Once the areas are decided, we will appoint faculty search committees for each area.”

“So, five committees with eight members each.  This will result in roughly 40% of the tenure track faculty members involved in the process.  That will enable significant buy in.”

“Once we have the recommended areas, we will hold an off-site with the school deans and department chairs to finalize the four areas.  I want these areas to cross-cutting, leading-edge areas.”

“This will be a very difficult process.”

“My criterion is niche dominance.  Any area we pick has to offer the potential for Beresford to be a top player.”

“Can you give me an example?”

“Water.  Due to our location, we really know the Hudson River.  We have been studying the river for decades in terms of weather, climate, environmental issues, the river’s role in commerce, recreational venues, and so on.”

“That’s a great example.  Hopefully, it will motivate defining three or more additional focus areas.”

“During the last portion of the off-site, I will introduce the new policy on hiring of junior faculty members to the deans and chairs.”

“This will not go well.”

“What kind of reactions should I expect?”

“People will ask questions like. What will it mean to be a faculty member?  Tenure used to be the ultimate success, but its value will quickly fade and what will replace it?”  Phil offered.

“How do you think they will react to our new faculty stars not having tenure?”

“I know each dean and chair pretty well.  None of them would ever have been characterized as stars.  They will feel viscerally threatened.”

“Um.  I will have to think about this.”

“There will also be some very practical reactions.  Without release time, what will be the nominal teaching loads?  Will extra compensation still be available?”

“The teaching load question is negotiable.  I would like to raise salaries and get rid of extra compensation.”

“That will be positively received if the raises are significant.”

“Another fear, that is pervasive among faculty members, is that compensation will evolve to being based on students in seats and their evaluations.  If your course is low on enrollment, your paycheck decreases.  At an extreme, this could lead to zero payment for teaching a course that is poorly rated by students.”

“Wow.  Seems almost paranoid.  But, the key is that we have to find ways to increase faculty members’ sense of security.  Five-year contracts would seem amazing to most of society, but academia has been cloistered for many centuries.”

“I have found that many people seek academic positions because they like the faculty lifestyle and security, rather than because they want to research the nature of the world.  Your plans will likely frighten them.”

“You and I will have to talk this through quite a bit more before we roll it out.”

“Perhaps you and I should meet with each dean individually before the off-site to get them to help us.”

“That’s a good idea, Phil.”

“Glad you like it.”

“Please draft a script for those meetings that we can discuss when we next meet.”

“Will do.”

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