14 new faculty searches allowed after hiring freeze

Cassie Buchman, Editor-in-Chief

After several years of dealing with hiring freezes at the university, 14 faculty searches of both Unit A, or tenure track, and Unit B, or annually contracted faculty members, have been authorized by Eastern President David Glassman.

There were nearly 40 requests for new faculty made when the searches were announced in August.

The seven Unit A searches are for communication studies, elementary education, biological sciences, chemistry, marketing, accounting and finance.

Unit B searches will take place in the school of technology, counseling, creative writing, clinical psychology, art education, computer science and criminology.

Provost Jay Gatrell said these searches are part of a three-year plan to address critical instructional needs at the university.

“We had to look at program need, accreditation,” Gatrell said. “(We looked at) the curriculum we have to teach, made sure that curriculum is delivered and then we looked at the resources we had.”

Even with a budget passed by the state, alleviating some of the university’s funding woes, it is still a conservative spending year, which will govern what the administration is able to do in terms of faculty hires.

“We have more needs, we’re going to address them in the future,” Gatrell said. “My hope is we’ll be able to address these needs going forward.”

Gatrell said he will work with Glassman and the college deans to address future staffing needs on a case-by-case basis as new opportunities emerge, additional resources are identified and curricular needs arise.

“I would hope that we would have all of our searches done in mid-to-early spring,” Gatrell said.

Some positions, in clinical psychology and counseling, will be filled sooner because of an immediate need.

These new hires come after years of a significant drop in faculty.

According to data used by EIU-UPI president Jon Blitz at a recent Board of Trustees meeting, from academic year 2011-2012 to 2017-2018, there was a 34.1 percent decrease in faculty.

Between academic year 2015-2016 to 2017-2018, there was a 17.5 percent decrease.

Blitz said this percent decrease does not tell the entire story, as faculty losses were not uniform throughout the university.

“You can have a big department, with a lot of subspecialties, so if you lose a few key people, it really hurts, no matter how big the department is,” he said.

Blitz said in chemistry, six tenure track faculty have left since May, with two of them retiring and the other four leaving because of instability in the state.

“This blame is not on Old Main; it was done to us by Springfield,” Blitz said.

Blitz said seeing his colleagues leave has been awful, and has had an affect on morale among faculty.

“We’re getting a hire,” he said. “That’s fine. That’s great — the provost has told me he’s committed to rebuilding. But how many years is that going to take?”

Blitz said it is hard to know what the institution is going to look like after being rebuilt.

“Are we going to have the same mission? Student body? What do we do going forward in the rebuilding process? You don’t necessarily want to go back to way you were,” he said.

As provost, Gatrell said his priority is to move forward by expanding all of the units, but also making sure they have the intellectual talent and research capacity they need.

“(Hiring faculty) gives us the opportunity to bring new people to campus, people who are excited about their disciplines, professions, and bring energy,” Gatrell said.

In his State of the University Speech, Glassman said he is committed to restoring the internal funding to faculty scholarship to past levels “and beyond” as soon as it is financially possible.

Blitz said faculty taking on bigger teaching loads to make up for a lack of staff impedes on research.

“I applaud them for doing what they can; but dollars are still so tight that they cannot commit the kind of money that really makes a difference,” Blitz said. “The will’s there, but the place runs on money. We don’t have it.”

Douglas Klarup, interim dean of the College of Sciences, said the areas the college are getting new faculty in are ones where they are experiencing growth, including the criminology and computer science programs.

Departments will request what they need, then Klarup will work with them to sort out what the new hires will be.

“It’s very helpful, as you might expect,” Klarup said. “Because of the hiring freeze, many departments have had to stretch their teaching resources, and so this will help alleviate that.”

To replace people who have retired, there have been temporary hires of Unit B faculty made to replace them in required areas. Current faculty members bridged over to make up for these specialties when they could.

But it has been awhile since the college has been able to do a more permanent faculty hire.

“We’re getting back into the normal process,” Klarup said. “As the year unfolds, staffing needs will change, we need to be flexible there.”

Chris Mitchell, interim associate dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, said this academic year, he agrees that it is important for the University to budget very conservatively.

He declined to comment further, but did write in an email that he and Anita Shelton, interim dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, are pleased with the hires authorized by the president and the provost.

“They move us in the right direction as per our curricular needs,” Mitchell said.

The recently-ended budget impasse has had an adverse affect on student recruitment and enrollment, though Gatrell said despite this he is confident the university can recruit faculty.

“I’m optimistic,” Gatrell said. “I wish we had more resources, but I have reasons to be optimistic.”

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]