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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Hiring freeze impacts student and faculty experience

For many years, the number of tenure-track positions in the college has remained stagnant, despite complaints from certain departments of insufficient faculty.

Andrew Kaufman, professor of studio art, is a member of a department frustrated by the college’s relatively stagnant number of new positions. Studio art classes are consistently over enrolled by double or more their maximum capacity. Additionally, the high demand for intro level classes has forced department members to choose between providing more intro courses for non-majors and more support for higher level classes for majors.

Kaufman said that the number of faculty in the department should ideally allow for eighteen courses, but that in practice a faculty member will typically go on leave, or some unforeseen event happens that forces the department to cut down the course-load each semester. He said that while the administration is normally good about hiring term faculty, oftentimes these term faculty aren’t able to make up for the entire course-load deficit.

When the administration does realize that a department needs more courses, the department is thrown into a frenzy to try to hire new people at the last minute. Kaufman said, “We’re kind of in the middle of nowhere. … It’s really hard to convince people to come in [to teach] just one class.”

Kaufman also said that when the department can find someone, they invest a great deal of labor trying to bring them up to the College’s academic environment. This is a problem which occurs semester after semester, and one that ultimately has a negative effect on students. He argues that the time and labor the department is forced to invest into finding and familiarizing term faculty could otherwise go into improving the major and curriculum. “This is something we’re tired of. Every semester we know we’re going to have shortages and yet it’s going to be pushed back until the last moment. … It gets frustrating to do that labor over and over again,” Kaufman said.

In addition to putting a strain on the department, Kaufman said he suspects this process might in fact cost the college more than opening up a new tenure line in the department, as new term faculty consistently spend money on purchasing new supplies that the department already has.

Kaufman also said that while the current art department faculty does a good job covering a wide range of material between different faculty members, this hiring freeze has left the department significantly lacking in key areas. “We’ve been trying to get someone who does video for years and it took someone to give money to the college in order for the college to recognize it as a necessary component,” Kaufman said.

Some departments say they have found support from the college. Jerod Weinman, chair of the computer science department, said the department has been able to fill every empty tenure-track position as well as bring on new faculty when necessary. However, Weinman noted increased demand on the department has led to reduced course offerings and greater advising difficulties.

In an email exchange with The S&B, Dean Latham wrote that the College sees no reason to expand the number of tenure-track positions at this time.  He cites Grinnell’s nine-to-one student to faculty ratio as evidence. “The hard question is not, ‘Do we have enough faculty?’ The hard question is ‘are our faculty allocated in the most effective and efficient way possible?’ That’s a much more challenging problem, and it’s the one that the administration and the faculty leadership on the Executive Council take very seriously and work hard to address every year.”  yearyear.”Senators aim for more

accessibility and student engagement:

changes planned for campus council and student initiatives

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