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Workflow in Interfolio Faculty Search, part 1: position approval

Interfolio Faculty Search | Releases

Starting today, we took the first step in an expansion of the Interfolio Faculty Search module to accommodate more complex administrative workflows around academic hiring. We’re starting with “position approval,” broadly understood: what has to happen before you accept any applications.

Today’s release

Taking our cue largely from our direct market research—including interviews with people directly involved in academic hiring at institutions located in California, Washington, New York, Louisiana, Texas, and elsewhere—we are seeking to address some known, widely reported difficulties around faculty hiring and academic recruitment in higher education.

In this first release, we added a set of functionality to support “position approval” workflows. Essentially, the development work released today makes the official approval process around future academic hires (i.e. the “paperwork”) more efficient and consistent, and better documented.

But, wait. Why is position approval oversight a big deal? Aren’t we basically talking about red tape?

Bureaucracy and equity: why effective oversight of new positions makes a difference

From talking to lots of experienced people directly involved in faculty hiring in higher education—some of them with a faculty background, some without—it’s become clear that we must consider these pre-recruitment “approval” processes from the perspective of what happens when there is not enough oversight.

Clearly, having a formal review process that runs a proposed new search or hire past multiple sets of eyes is a key way that colleges and universities ensure the integrity of their faculty hiring.

There may be business and legal compliance reasons why certain offices at the institution need to at least be notified of—if not sign off on—a new hire. But more generally, when opening new faculty searches is too much of a “Wild West” in terms of decentralization, a number of pitfalls are possible:

  • Oddly enough, only white male candidates keep getting hired!
  • Actual violation of anti-discrimination law, such as inappropriate qualifiers in written description.
  • The institution or academic unit can’t really afford this particular hire at this time.
  • At a higher level, if the right people don’t have consistent view into proposed new positions, the institution may continue to make an excessive investment in certain departments or disciplines, and neglect development of others.
  • Also, fraud.

It’s considerations like these—which we’ve heard from our product research, to conversations with clients more informally, and even in new sales conversations—that provide the context for our technical investment in a more useful feature for position approval workflows.

Future investments in academic hiring workflows

In the near future, we’re going to have a lot more to say about our plans to expand the potential for shared governance and administrative workflows in the Faculty Information System’s hiring module, Interfolio Faculty Search.

One thing we can say, now, is that we’re making sure to design these “process improvement” expansions (a priority, clearly) in a way that will also serve future data reporting well. Our academic hiring workflow investments will enrich the Faculty Information System’s capacity to provide client universities with new kinds of factual insight into their academic hiring patterns—insights they have not had available before.