Faculty propose academic areas for 60 new hires

Faculty will increase one percent each year over the next five years at a time when other universities are freezing faculty sizes.

By Hannah Fine

The University will hire about 60 new tenure-track faculty for its planned expansion, the first concrete clarification of University announcements last quarter. Faculty will increase one percent each year over the next five years at a time when other universities are freezing faculty sizes.

Current faculty were asked to propose what specializations the new faculty should have, and University has already received around three times as many proposals from current faculty as there will be positions.

Most of those hired will be junior faculty, according to Provost Thomas Rosenbaum. “I think the University of Chicago has succeeded really well in identifying talent early, supporting their endeavors, and seeing them move up through the ranks. This creates loyalty to the institution and is consistent with our historic approach to developing talent,” he said.

The proposals will be considered in the next few months by graduate division deans and John Boyer, dean of the College. Some current faculty will be invited to make presentations in person to their division deans, who will recommend their choices to Rosenbaum. Rosenbaum said he is looking for hires in “particularly exciting areas…with intellectual need and educational impact.”

Rosenbaum “hopes” to look for specific professors to fill the positions next fall, University spokesman Steve Kloehn said in an e-mail interview.

The University will continue replacing faculty who leave or retire, which Rosenbaum said the U of C’s peers are not able to do in the current economy.

However, Boyer said the decision to expand “is not because everyone else is cutting.” The expansion is the realization of President Robert Zimmer’s plans to strengthen the school “across the board,” which he developed three years ago.

One factor in the new appointments is emerging academic fields, like environmental history. “There are new path-breaking opportunities and the University wants to be at the forefront of these new fields,” Boyer said.

The number of University faculty has decreased since the 1970s while the size of the College has grown. Consequently, the College has lost ground to its peers in student to faculty ratio. “We no longer stand out, so it is time to make a change,” Rosenbaum said.

The administration decided to invest in faculty expansion last quarter, despite recession-caused budget cuts. “We want to move ahead aggressively and prudently to take advantage of that investment,” Rosenbaum said. “Higher education is a remarkably competitive enterprise. There is a time factor here, given the landscape. We hope to have a better chance at making extraordinary hires.”