A diverse faculty body brings a range of experiences and backgrounds to their roles as educators and researchers; they represent multiple races, ethnicities, genders, ages, sexual orientations, and abilities, and they exhibit unique scholarly interests, viewpoints, and teaching and learning styles. 

Faculty diversity has been shown to positively affect student outcomes, including increasing retention and graduation rates. To best serve student needs, an institution’s faculty should reflect the student population, from race and gender to sexual orientation. But according to data from the American Council on Education (ACE), over one-third of higher education students are Black, Latinx, or Native American—and only 11% of faculty reflect those populations. As of 2018, roughly 76% of faculty at postsecondary institutions were white. 

As student bodies become more diverse, many colleges and universities recognize the importance of improving faculty diversity and have put robust plans in place around diversity, equity, and inclusion—but how many are realizing their goals? 

The Benefits of a Diverse Faculty 

Research shows that faculty diversity in higher education supports the success of students from underrepresented groups as well as all students’ intercultural competence.  

The positive effects of a diverse faculty are clear: 

  • In institutions where a majority of faculty are white, students of color may see Black and Latinx professors as role models or mentors, increasing their sense of belonging. 
  • Female students report feeling like they receive more help and support from female faculty. 
  • Black students in STEM courses taught by Black instructors are more likely to stick with STEM after their first year. 
  • Faculty diversity can also lead to a greater variety of scholarship and research, expanding societal knowledge and understanding. 

While the benefits are apparent, institutions are still struggling with recruiting, hiring, and retaining diverse faculty members. 

How to Increase Faculty Diversity in Higher Education 

ACE points to three areas of focus for institutions seeking to improve faculty diversity: 1) attractiveness of faculty positions; 2) hiring, tenure, and promotion processes; and 3) departmental and campus climates for faculty of color. 

To meet these objectives, it is key that institutions ensure campus-wide commitment to diversity efforts, improve hiring practices, and support the success of faculty from underrepresented groups. 

Ensuring Campus-Wide Commitment to Faculty Diversity 

While making faculty diversity a priority is an essential first step, in order to effect lasting change, higher education administrators and department chairs should weave their institution’s commitment to faculty diversity into strategic plans and mission statements, as well as institutional policies. 

For example, institutional policies relating to faculty workloads and faculty review, promotion, and tenure need to be reexamined in light of how they impact faculty diversity. Institutions may need to adjust these policies to better support the retention of underrepresented groups and promote equitable faculty workloads.   

To keep diversity goals top of mind, administrators should also remind community members of their institution’s diversity goals by reaffirming them during campus talks and meetings—and by making them part of any long-term strategy discussion.  

Another essential part of realizing this commitment to faculty diversity is making specific changes to hiring practices. 

Five Hiring Practices to Increase Faculty Diversity 

Faculty affairs administrators and departments can actualize their institution’s faculty diversity goals by taking five important steps in faculty hiring:  

1. Set department-based goals for diversity and inclusion 

The first step each department should take is to discuss long-term goals related to faculty diversity and inclusion in hiring. This involves assessing past successes and failures to inform practices going forward and determining ways that faculty recruitment and selection processes can be more inclusive. 

For example, for business schools that lack faculty from underrepresented groups, departments might discuss dropping the requirement of a Ph.D. for tenure-track candidates and instead consider candidates based on their business experience or possession of an MBA. 

2. Elect an inclusive search committee 

Gather search committees for open positions that include faculty from underrepresented groups that you hope to reach. If you struggle to find those members within your department, reach out to other departments to achieve an inclusive search committee. 

3. Develop a broad recruitment plan 

The hiring manager and search committee for any open position should develop a plan focused on attracting a large and diverse pool of applicants. This should include identifying resources that ensure the wide distribution of the position announcement.  

Search committees can’t simply place an ad and sit back; they must actively seek out diverse candidates by tapping into professional networks and industry organizations to increase their reach. Committee members should also seek out specific organizations, websites, and publications that specialize in recruiting diverse faculty members. 

UC Davis’s ADVANCE initiative, which seeks to increase the number of women in STEM careers, recommends that hiring committees take advantage of industry listservs, email groups, and registries. UNC Charlotte’s similar ADVANCE program also offers a list of resources for finding underrepresented faculty candidates. 

4. Create an inclusive job listing 

The job advertisement should clearly indicate your institution’s commitment to equity and diversity. Research shows that this practice is more likely to result in the hiring of a candidate from an underrepresented group. 

In addition, define the position in the broadest possible terms consistent with the department’s needs. Try not to rely on overly narrow experience requirements and instead indicate your openness to non-traditional career experiences and pathways. For example, if you are hiring a professor of public policy, you might note in the posting that you are open to candidates with extensive public policy experience and that you do not require a master’s degree or Ph.D. 

Ensure job announcements reach a broad audience by including outlets such as minority-serving publications, listservs, bulletin boards, and blogs. For example, you will likely want to post on the DiversityTrio job boards, which receive high traffic from faculty candidates from diverse backgrounds. 

5. Monitor the recruitment plan 

Once the hiring plan has been implemented, it’s critical that you monitor the diversity of the candidate pool while the submission window is open, not after. Committees should be able to monitor applicant data in real time so they can increase efforts to attract candidates from underrepresented groups and ensure the institution’s diversity goals stay on track.  

Supporting Faculty Members From Underrepresented Groups 

To attract and retain a diverse faculty, an institution must provide an appealing, supportive, and beneficial environment for scholars from underrepresented groups.  

Look at your institutional policies relating to faculty workloads and promotion; in many instances, the distribution of labor may not be equal for women and faculty members of color. Invisible labor often doesn’t lead to promotion or tenure, and it can cause faculty to burn out and leave the institution entirely. It’s essential to take note of these inequities and create an inclusive culture with practices that support faculty members from underrepresented groups. Detailed faculty data reporting can make it easier to spot these inequities and track each professor’s workload and path to promotion or tenure. 

Another way to support faculty is by creating mentorship programs dedicated to underrepresented groups or specific departments. For example, Black faculty in predominantly white schools may feel disconnected—both from each other and the institution as a whole. An institution can better encourage the success of its Black faculty by establishing communities where they feel welcome and valued. 

Your institution may also want to pursue discussions and relationships with local and national minority organizations and other associations that focus on strategies for supporting faculty members from underrepresented groups. These organizations could include the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education, the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, and the Association on Higher Education and Disability.  

Digital Tools to Help You Deliver on Faculty Diversity 

The Interfolio Faculty Information System can support your efforts to increase faculty diversity at every stage of the hiring process and beyond. 

Trying to recruit a diverse pool of candidates? Faculty Search enables you to assess your applications during the submission window and intervene if the pool is not diverse enough using real-time, self-reported, anonymous demographic survey responses from 100% of applicants. 

In addition, if your search committee has devised specific evaluation criteria, such as whether candidates offer real-world experience, Faculty Search enables you to make that custom criteria part of your digital workflow. 

As you hire more faculty members from underrepresented groups, Interfolio’s Review, Promotion & Tenure software can help you support them using a documented review process that increases consistency and transparency. In addition, Interfolio’s Faculty Activity Reporting module makes it easy for faculty to document activities relating to student support, service, and diversity. 

Need Additional Help? 

Download Interfolio’s Best Practices Checklist: Achieving Diversity Across the Academic Lifecycle to see whether you’ve adopted the best strategies for recruiting and retaining diverse faculty candidates. 

Academic tenure refers to a faculty member’s employment status within a higher education institution. When a professor has gained tenure, they can only be terminated for a justifiable cause or under extreme circumstances, such as program discontinuation or severe financial restraints.

Earning tenure is a great honor; many academics have “tenure parties” to celebrate this achievement. And although it’s a privilege that professors can strive for years to earn, recent research has shown that many higher education institutions are not rewarding academic labor with tenure.

Deciding who receives tenure is a complex process involving large amounts of professional data—and many stakeholders. And while most universities recognize the importance of tenure for attracting top research talent, there are certainly logistical and organizational complexities of tracking, reviewing, and awarding it.

The History of Tenure

While higher education in the U.S. dates back to the founding of the nation’s first university—Harvard—in 1636, tenure was not a mainstream right offered to faculty members until the twentieth century.

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is responsible for creating standards that ensure higher education institutions are serving faculty members who have earned tenure status. Though the AAUP has worked toward securing rights for academics since its founding in 1915, it wasn’t until 1940, when it collaborated with the Association of American Colleges and Universities, that it cemented the standards of tenure in the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure.

The purpose of the 1940 Statement was to improve the level of support offered to high-quality faculty members. For a university to fulfill its “obligations to its students and to society,” as the AAUP states, it must ensure academics are free to teach with the guarantee of economic security. Over the years, this statement has been endorsed by hundreds of higher education institutions and has made its way into many collective bargaining agreements and faculty handbooks.

The Benefits of Tenure

As the AAUP and Association of American Colleges and Universities assert, tenure improves society as a whole. By ensuring academics are receiving comprehensive rights, colleges and universities attract the most qualified, talented faculty to work at their institutions and, therefore, offer the highest quality education.

The AAUP attributes two specific rights to tenure: academic freedom and economic security.

Pursuit of Academic Freedom

Before tenure protected academic freedom, academics felt restricted in what they could cover in class. They typically avoided discussing controversial topics out of fear it could be negatively received. After the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure passed, however, tenured professors were empowered to cover broader academic topics. This benefits not only individual teachers but also society by providing students with a more holistic, multi-dimensional education.

When institutions grant tenure, instructors gain a level of freedom in both research and publication as long as they meet the core academic duties of their roles.

Adequate Economic Security

The other major benefit of achieving tenure is job security. While many staff and faculty members are hired and employed on an annual basis, tenured faculty maintain employment for an extended period of time, potentially until they retire. Once an academic earns tenure—generally after a probationary period that can last up to seven years—they do not have to worry about being asked to return the following year, except under two possible circumstances.

One such situation is “termination for cause,” or the dismissal of a tenured faculty member for a specific reason. Although this is rare, tenured professors have been asked to forfeit employment for the following reasons:

  • Incompetence
  • Immoral conduct
  • Violation of school policies
  • Negligence

Tenured academics can also be dismissed from their position if the institution experiences significant financial hardship that would make it difficult or impossible to pay their salary. Additionally, if a university decides to cut a program, any associated tenured staff may lose their jobs unless they can transfer their skills to another program within the institution.

With the exception of these two uncommon circumstances, those with academic tenure cannot be dismissed from their role for the remainder of their career.

Trends in Academic Tenure

According to an AAUP survey report from 2022, 53.5% of institutions have replaced some tenure-eligible positions with contingent faculty positions—meaning there are now more part-time and full-time roles that don’t include any tenure-track commitments.

The report found that in 2019, only 10.5% of faculty positions were tenure-track, and nearly 63% were full-time or part-time contingent roles. AAUP expressed concern about this decline in tenure, which it asserts “continues to serve as the bulwark in the defense of academic freedom.”

Although the 2022 study showed tenured and tenure-track positions were declining, the AAUP also found that more institutions than ever before are focusing on equitable tenure opportunities. For example, 82% of institutions currently allow tenure-track faculty to pause their probation period for childcare responsibilities. And while certain groups continue to be underrepresented in tenured positions, nearly 60% of institutions either have DEI criteria in place for tenure standards or are actively considering them, and 39.4% of institutions have had their tenure criteria evaluated for implicit biases.

Qualifying for Tenure

Faculty who are hired on a tenure track first undergo a probationary period, working full time before being granted tenure. The AAUP recommends this period not surpass seven years, though ad hoc extensions may occur—especially in cases where faculty request time off for parental leave or elder care.

During the probationary period, faculty members should have the same academic freedom as tenured professors. And an institution must provide at least one year’s notice before the probationary period expires if it chooses not to extend an individual’s employment through tenure.

But even if full-time faculty have worked with an institution for many years, they do not automatically earn tenure—and the review process can be extensive.

Common Issues With the Tenure Process

There are a number of hidden costs of faculty promotion and tenure review. When institutions rely on a paper-based method of gathering information, they need to print several copies of files containing hundreds of pages. They then need to store and archive these materials, often filling rooms that could have been used as office space with filing cabinets. Not only does a paper-based system cost time and resources, but it also isn’t the most eco-friendly way of compiling data; no one wants to clear a forest with each review cycle.

Additionally, candidates and reviewers are busy people—the longer they endure inefficient tenure and review processes, the less time they have to dedicate to their teaching or research.

Institutions implementing simple digital systems might believe they’re being more productive by moving their paper materials onto their desktops. Though this approach can be more effective than printouts, it may cause as many problems as it solves. For instance, administrators may keep candidates’ information in different places, so when someone needs to review a tenure candidate’s file, they need to search for it or ask other department heads and administrators to share the information. It works, but it is not as effective as keeping all the information in a single interface.

Where paper-based and basic digital processes fall particularly short is in securing confidential tenure materials. When paper files are kept in an area with poor security, they are at risk of being stolen or compromised. Even storing information as digital files in shared drives can pose problems such as file corruption, misplacement, difficulty with permission settings, and files ending up in the wrong hands.

Transitioning to a Digital Interface

To keep up with the increasing demands of the tenure review process, institutions need to ditch the binders and switch to a comprehensive digital system.

The Interfolio Faculty Information System allows universities to move past paper-based processes or patchwork digital solutions and manage all documentation in a single web-based interface. Users cut down on paper waste, get rid of the clunky filing cabinets, and move to a digital system that makes it easier than ever for multiple people to compile, organize, share, and access important files.

Interfolio’s system streamlines the tenure process from start to finish:

  • Faculty can review their peers more efficiently with user-friendly tools created specifically for the tenure review process. The interface allows reviewers to make notes, receive external evaluations, send messages, and send a candidate’s entire digital packet across committees.
  • Administrators can track upcoming events—including when it’s time to initiate a tenure review—and select the applicable faculty, automatically create a review case, and pull in a candidate’s vita for a seamless experience in one platform.
  • Administrators can also monitor the institution’s progress toward diversity, equity, and inclusion commitments by tracking promotion and tenure results over time.
  • Candidates gain peace of mind with a streamlined process and accessible tools that help them build organized, high-quality digital packets with all the information they need to achieve tenure, regardless of their discipline.

To find out what Interfolio can do for your institution, please schedule a demo today.

Every year, administrators and department chairs are responsible for evaluating faculty performance. During the annual review process, these stakeholders will review the information and feedback they’ve gained about each professor in order to see who is eligible for promotion, tenure, and pay increases.

While there are factual pieces of information that play a role in the faculty evaluation process, such as years of service and scholarly publications, other more subjective factors hold significant weight in the evaluation. In order to properly evaluate the more ambiguous elements of faculty performance, universities should have an unbiased faculty evaluation system in place. A purpose-built platform that is designed for the collection of faculty data—and the use of that data in evaluations—is essential for both equity and efficiency. Find out more about how a comprehensive faculty evaluation system can ensure faculty receive necessary feedback and support.

What Is the Faculty Evaluation Process?

The faculty evaluation process is a multi-stage process that incorporates feedback from many stakeholders, including peers and students. Faculty evaluation, as a broad term, can refer to annual faculty reviews that most universities conduct, promotion and tenure decisions, honors and awards, and more. Thus, the results of evaluations can be used in a myriad of ways, including to inform faculty development and advise on faculty’s next career step.

How Does Faculty Evaluation Software Promote Fairness?

One of the primary ways a faculty evaluation system helps the institution increase its equity, diversity, and inclusion is by providing greater transparency. A comprehensive, unified software makes sure your institution is providing equity in terms of pay, tenure, and promotion across multiple demographics. For instance, are female faculty members being offered the same salaries as male faculty members with the same credentials and experience? Are faculty members of color being granted tenure at the same rate as their white colleagues? A faculty evaluation system can answer each of these questions to ensure faculty members are being acknowledged, paid, and rewarded in equitable ways.

Another way this technology improves fairness in the institution is by providing a transparent look at faculty achievements, giving faculty greater visibility into the data and content being assessed for review. While data can be ingested on their behalf, it’s important to use a platform that gives faculty control over their academic story with the ability to curate and validate the various pieces included. This way, when a faculty member is being considered for tenure, the fact that their article won a major professional award three years ago will be included in their review, thereby being acknowledged rather than overlooked. A faculty evaluation system may also track achievements beyond the traditional triad of research, teaching, and service. For instance, a faculty evaluation system could include records of op-eds a faculty member has published and other measures of impact. 

Lastly, software specifically built for faculty evaluation ensures that the review processes are conducted in a consistent manner across all faculty, with documentation and an audit trail along the way.

Who Should Be Included in the Faculty Evaluation System?

In order to ensure your faculty evaluation system is performing at its peak effectiveness, it’s important to determine who should be involved in the faculty evaluation process and who should be integrated into the platform. Faculty members, department chairs, and administrators all need to be included in order for this process to be fair and efficient. Including the faculty member being evaluated in the reporting system is crucial—not only is it useful for them to view the gathered information in order to perform a self-analysis of their performance, but this also creates transparency that encourages them to be active participants rather than passive observers in the assessment process.

The department chair of the faculty member going through the evaluation process should be able to review relevant information that is included on this platform. Whether or not the faculty member is eligible for a promotion, the chair of the department should have access to the faculty member’s quantitative and qualitative information. That way, they can work together to plan opportunities for professional development.

Along with the faculty member who is being evaluated and their department chair, it’s important to include administrators in the faculty evaluation system. While they may not be required to attend every annual review, they will need to be made aware of any departmental changes that occur before or during the evaluation sessions. For instance, administrators should know which faculty members are eligible for tenure. In addition, they may work directly with department chairs to assess which individuals may be eligible for a promotion. An integrated Faculty Information System (FIS) takes the guesswork out of career milestones and can initiate cases—on the correct timelines—in a faculty evaluation system.

Features of a Successful Faculty Evaluation System

In order to provide fair, accurate feedback for all faculty members, a faculty evaluation system must offer meaningful information that can guide academics’ professional growth. This evaluation should contain both qualitative and quantitative information, which the faculty member can refer back to as they develop their skills and experience.

A faculty evaluation system must also contain information that can be used to determine personnel decisions within the department or institution. While annual reviews aim to guide individuals’ professional development, they also determine faculty members’ performance in comparison to the rest of the staff.

One comprehensive faculty evaluation system can serve both purposes. It can gather detailed data from faculty members and compile information over time to reflect faculty members’ performance patterns that can impact department decisions, including tenure, promotion, and merit raises.

Types of Data that Support Faculty Evaluation

As previously mentioned, administrators and peers use different types of quantitative and qualitative data to evaluate faculty on their performance throughout the academic year. Exactly what information is needed in order to develop a fair and accurate faculty report?

Quantitative information

Certain information is necessary for administrators and department chairs to determine which employees are eligible for promotion. For instance, a part-time instructor who has put in a number of years of service and has yielded great results may be given a full-time course load if the university believes they can add value to the organization. In addition, it is necessary that universities collect certain pieces of information for compliance and bookkeeping; storing this information in a faculty evaluation system thereby serves multiple purposes.

Some of the tangible, easily reportable elements that make up a faculty evaluation include:

  • Years of service: The amount of time a faculty member has been with the university is a crucial component in determining whether or not they qualify for tenure or promotion.
  • Prestigious awards and fellowships: It’s worthwhile to keep track of which of your faculty members have earned grants and which instructors have been nominated for teaching awards and fellowships. This information can be used by department chairs and tenure committees recommending to the administration that these faculty members be promoted.

Qualitative information

Data collected regarding a faculty member’s performance that cannot be measured or reported numerically tends to be less standardized and more difficult to gather than quantitative data. Nevertheless, it provides immense value to a faculty report.

Some pieces of qualitative data that should be compiled in a faculty evaluation system and may be shared in annual reviews include the following:

  • Student perspectives: A numerical scale may not be able to capture an educator’s ability to communicate with students. However, the information students share about different faculty members in their course evaluations is worth noting. This may include faculty achievements or ways they can improve their teaching performance to resonate more with their students.
  • Professional successes: Perhaps a faculty member’s recent publications caused a department to gain credibility within its field. It’s important to gather information that suggests educators’ professional growth, as this reflects an asset they bring to the department and institution as a whole.
  • Quality of classroom instruction: A faculty member’s ability to coordinate classroom dynamics and plan out their courses throughout an academic year is an important element of the faculty evaluation process. Although student evaluations can provide useful information, evaluators may want the perspective of someone familiar with the challenges of teaching. This typically involves another educator—most likely the department chair—sitting in on a few class sessions and receiving certain materials, including syllabi, assignments, and exams.

Feedback on Current Faculty Evaluation Systems and Processes

When faculty members, department chairs, or administrators have any questions throughout the faculty evaluation process, they can look to a handful of sources. Faculty members who have questions about the system may be able to communicate their issues or concerns with their department chair or administration. However, every university is going to have different rules and regulations for who can access what data within the faculty evaluation system.

With any technology you implement for faculty processes, you may occasionally find that you have questions or require support that can only be handled by the provider. This is where it benefits your university to use a high-quality faculty reporting and evaluation platform that offers client services, technical resources, and a responsive support team to help you through every step of your journey. More often than not, it benefits the institution at large when administrators contact the platform’s support network. That way, they can resolve issues for all faculty members at once rather than on an individual basis.

Interfolio Streamlines the Faculty Evaluation Process

If your institution is ready to move away from clunky evaluation and reporting systems, it may be the right time to make the change to Interfolio’s Faculty Information System. The most comprehensive platform of its kind, the Interfolio FIS streamlines faculty processes, enabling academic leaders to effectively advance institutions and their academic staff. If you’d like to find out more about Interfolio, get in touch with us to see how integrating our technology into your institution’s review process can improve the accuracy and fairness of faculty evaluations.

Effective faculty recruitment ensures that institutions can attract and retain top talent. Recruiting high-quality faculty members contributes to institutional growth by driving revenue, rank, and prestige, attracting talented students and researchers who can bring new ideas and perspectives to the institution. Additionally, academic hiring is vital in ensuring that the university remains competitive and relevant in a rapidly changing academic landscape.

Understanding the Academic Landscape for Faculty Recruitment

The higher education landscape is constantly evolving, so institutions are always on the lookout for talented individuals who can teach and conduct research in a variety of academic fields to meet shifting needs. But it’s not just about finding candidates with the necessary qualifications and experience to succeed in academic roles—it’s crucial also to identify those who can contribute to the institution’s goals. 

Hiring the best and brightest minds helps institutions maintain their reputation for excellence and stay ahead of the curve, and these efforts require a strong and thoughtful faculty recruitment strategy to attract top talent. To ensure a competitive edge, universities must keep up with the shifting needs in academia, such as the growing importance of interdisciplinary research and greater diversity among faculty members. The academic landscape is complex and dynamic, requiring institutions to be strategic, innovative, and adaptable in their faculty recruitment efforts.

Creating a Successful Faculty Recruitment Strategy

Define Your Institution’s Value Proposition

If your institution is looking to enhance faculty recruitment efforts, there are steps you can take to improve both efficiency and effectiveness. As you develop your faculty recruitment strategy with attracting top talent in mind, consider the value your institution brings to both faculty and students. What sets your institution apart? What are the institution’s mission, vision, and core values? This may include a commitment to DEI initiatives, delivering low faculty-to-student ratios, becoming a destination campus, or offering top-tier research opportunities.

Create In-Depth and Engaging Job Descriptions

Cultivating the relationship with potential faculty members begins with the job announcement, which may be potential candidates’ first exposure to your institution as an employer. Here, you should offer clear expectations for the role while highlighting details that will appeal to your ideal candidate, such as benefits provided by your institution, how the institution supports work/life balance for faculty members, and the academic opportunities they could see from your institution throughout their career. 

When it comes to academic hiring, it’s important to note that some candidates may shy away from jobs if the description is not an exact match, so be careful and inclusive with the language used. While it’s vital to detail departmental needs and expectations for an open position, it’s also wise to leave room for flexibility in order to attract a wider pool of candidates representing diverse backgrounds. In essence, the job announcement is a sales pitch, so careful thought must go into attracting the best and brightest candidates on the job market.

Form a Search Committee

A core component of academic hiring is assembling the faculty search committee, which will be responsible for carrying out the search plan’s disciplined steps. Consisting of multiple faculty members—including tenured and untenured individuals—along with a committee chair to ensure the integrity of the search, the search committee will develop the evaluation criteria for candidates. Research demonstrates that groups of individuals with varying viewpoints arrive at sounder decisions, so the committee should include faculty with an array of sub-disciplinary knowledge, members from underrepresented groups, and individuals with relevant expertise from outside the department. This approach with divergent perspectives will be beneficial during the initial review of applications, the panel interview process, and when it comes time to select the ideal candidate for an offer.   

Throughout each part of the process, committee members will need to be prepared to demonstrate how they have sought diverse, wide-ranging candidates, and they will need to record all activities. Using a faculty information system (FIS) for academic hiring enables the recording and retention of data, beginning with job advertisements and continuing to applications and dossier review through to interactions with candidates. Gathering this information allows you to compare the makeup of your candidate pools with national standards and helps support your DEI initiatives. 
At University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), search committees evaluate the diversity of candidate pools using data gathered in Interfolio. UMBC then compares their data to national standards, helping spot potential problems before it’s too late. From there, they can check back in with committees about their approach and any signs of implicit bias, ensuring their recruitment processes are more inclusive. These efforts are modernizing faculty recruiting and hiring practices at UMCB, helping the institution prioritize faculty diversity.

Use Digital Channels to Boost Your Reach

Digital channels are an essential part of the recruitment process, helping search committees expand their reach when advertising job openings. Are you leveraging social media, job boards, and your institution’s website to connect with potential candidates from all over the world? These channels also allow for more targeted advertising, delivering your job ads directly to individuals with the appropriate skills and experience to fit your needs. Ultimately, utilizing these channels for job advertising can save your search committee valuable time while also increasing the likelihood of finding the right candidate, making this an important piece of your faculty recruitment strategy.

Build Relationships With Academic Networks

Your relationships within academic networks can be highly beneficial when searching for new faculty members. While attending conferences, job fairs, or even sparking engagement with peers in online communities, your opportunities for collaboration with like-minded individuals from other institutions become much more significant. These relationships can prove invaluable when it comes to academic hiring. Through your connections within the field, you may even learn about academics seeking new opportunities who are the perfect fit for your institution—before their resume hits the open market.

The Benefits of an Effective Faculty Recruitment Strategy

Faculty searches are among the most important tasks at higher education institutions because these decisions will impact both the near- and far-term future. But when faculty recruitment is approached more thoughtfully using best practices, the benefits extend across faculty, administration, and the institution as a whole. With an effective faculty recruitment strategy in place, search committees can access a more robust pool of qualified candidates, existing faculty gain more trust in the process, and institutional goals—including DEI initiatives—can be more easily attained.

Track Review, Promotion, and Tenure Processes Post-Hire

Once you’ve identified and hired the ideal candidate for your desired role, their journey at your institution is only just beginning. A faculty member is a major investment, and keeping them engaged—from hire to retire—should be a priority. It’s important to use tools that enable efficient, fair evaluations of faculty while also giving faculty members under review a positive experience and a seamless way to share their contributions. Digitizing this process can be beneficial for everyone involved, housing relevant details in one convenient location and delivering a consistent source of reliable information to all parties. 
As faculty members move throughout their career journey at your institution, you should consider tools that help you seamlessly manage appointment, workload, and advancement processes. Interfolio offers a simple-to-navigate, searchable database of your entire faculty, helping you visualize career paths as well as anticipate and plan for upcoming milestones.

How Georgetown University Enhanced Its Faculty Recruitment Efforts

With different schools and departments each following their own individual approach to faculty hiring, Georgetown University faced issues with incomplete reporting. “When you have this kind of Wild West, it’s impossible to gather all the demographic data from all of the processes across the University to see how well you’re doing in attracting diverse faculty,” said Charlie Leonhardt, Georgetown University’s Director of Online Initiatives and Innovation.

By adopting Interfolio across the university, Georgetown was able to connect Workday to faculty recruitment through Interfolio’s API, creating greater consistency and making the faculty hiring process much easier for departments, candidates, and administrators alike. While the university previously had incomplete and isolated pools of new faculty demographic data across campus, the team now has one central and complete source of demographic data, gathered in Interfolio and then automatically sent to and stored in Workday.

Using Interfolio to Meet Your Academic Hiring Goals

Interfolio’s comprehensive FIS covers the whole academic recruitment process—including the job board and applications, confidential letters, fair committee review, and collection of diversity data. With Interfolio, your institution can save time for faculty hiring committees, enable efficient and fair recruitment decisions, recruit more strategically and effectively, and deliver on diversity and inclusion efforts. Reach out today to learn how Interfolio can help support faculty recruitment at your institution.

Each faculty hiring decision is an opportunity to strengthen your institution. Securing top talent attracts students and research funding and brings new perspectives to your campus.

That’s why it’s critical to have an effective faculty recruitment process in place.

To help your institution achieve this goal, this article guides you through best practices for each stage of recruitment.

The Faculty Recruitment Process

Develop A Position Description

Creating a position description will guide your efforts in all subsequent faculty recruitment steps because the description is a specific statement of what type of candidate you need for the role.

The challenge is to strike a balance between broad, inclusive language and specific details on what your institution wants. The former will encourage a diverse pool while the latter will help others understand the role and the attributes you value most.

To be welcoming, you should state your institution’s and department’s commitment to diversity and encourage applications from individuals whose research, teaching, and service will foster academic diversity and excellence. 

To achieve specificity, the position description should detail responsibilities, minimum requirements, and the department’s or school’s values and mission. You can also provide a sense of how much flexibility the role will offer in course design and other responsibilities.

Form and Train a Search Committee

Once your department has created a position description, you’ll need to form a search committee with a diversity of viewpoints and backgrounds. Members of the committee should include members of underrepresented groups.

If appropriate, you may also want to consider including faculty from outside the department with relevant expertise.

It’s also preferable to have an odd number of members to avoid deadlocked votes.

To guide each search committee, your institution should establish a uniform training program that teaches the institution’s procedural, ethical, and legal guidelines for searches as well as any best practices your institution has developed.

The more you establish uniform practices, procedures, and training in your faculty recruitment process, the more likely you’ll achieve your institution’s faculty recruitment goals.

Develop a Search Plan and Agree on Decision Criteria

Once the search committee is in place and trained, they can develop a search plan to find the right candidates that match the position description. 

The search plan should detail how you will advertise the job and build awareness among relevant groups. 

Make sure to build diversity into the search plan by including steps that involve actively reaching out to groups and networks to attract diverse candidates. You can find specific resources on how to attract a diverse candidate pool in this article.

The search plan should also specify how the search committee will ultimately pick a candidate for the position and what criteria it will weigh. The committee can rank its selection criteria in terms of departmental priorities. In addition, committees should agree upon the system of ranking applicants (such as on a scale from 1 to 5).

If your institution has specific requirements for how searches should be conducted and how hiring decisions should be made, the search plan would also need to include these requirements.

For example, if your institution requires a certain number of interviews or a practice lecture before students, be sure your plan explicitly incorporates these steps.

You’ll also want your search plan to spell out the hiring timeline, which is built backwards from when you want the new hire to start.

Implement the Plan and Monitor the Candidate Pool

With the plan in hand, the search committee should post the job opening on all planned platforms and begin personal outreach to increase applications.

To ensure you’re on track to achieve your diversity goals, you can regularly monitor the number and diversity of applications received. You may also want to compare the diversity of the candidate pool to the known diversity within a field.

For example, if the opening is in biology, you would want to compare the relative percentage of female applicants in your pool to the relative percentage of female graduates with a biology PhD (which was 51.4% in 2019).

If only 25% of your candidates for this position are female, then you’ll want to take corrective actions to increase the percentage of women in your pool before the submission period closes.

Review Applications, Conduct Interviews, and Select a Candidate

Your search committee likely will have begun reviewing applications while the submission period was open, and after the submission date closes, the search committee would review any remaining applications.

If you still haven’t met your diversity goals, you might also solicit applications from specific qualified individuals.

Depending on your search plan, you might then create a long list of candidates based on the previously established criteria and conduct remote interviews. This process would in turn inform your short list of candidates.

The remaining steps of the process, including interviews and candidate selection, would follow the procedures you established in your search plan.

As you begin to weigh candidates, be careful not to commit these cognitive errors, including over-reliance on a first impression or falling prey to group-think.

Conversely, be sure to follow these additional best practices, including having a core set of questions you ask in each interview and interacting with faculty candidates in more than one context. 

You can also find best practices for this stage of recruitment and all the other stages in the Interfolio White Paper: The Modern Faculty Recruitment Playbook.

A Modern Approach to Faculty Recruitment

Before you start working on a massive Excel spreadsheet or binder to capture all the details of your new faculty recruitment process, you should consider that it’s much easier to capture and implement standard procedures through a digital platform.

With Interfolio Faculty Search, your institution can establish an easily accessible digital source of truth for applications and faculty hiring procedures and create digital workflows that ensure academic hiring follows those procedures across your institution.

At the same time, individual search committees can customize their search in a number of ways: establishing the exact evaluation criteria they will be using for their search; creating the position description and list of required materials; and pushing the job posting to specific groups and sites.

If you’re not sure where to advertise the position, the module can help with that too by collecting data on where applicants are finding your postings. You can then prioritize advertising spending on those sites that yield the biggest number of applicants.

Once the position is published and you begin receiving applications, you can easily monitor the diversity of the candidate pool because Faculty Search collects real-time, self-reported, anonymous demographic survey responses.

You can read more about how your peer institutions have benefited from adopting Faculty Search’s digital advantages by reading this eBook: Achieving Faculty Excellence through Recruitment and Hiring.

And if you’re interested in seeing firsthand how Interfolio Faculty Search can help you modernize your institution’s faculty recruitment, you can request a demo of the module.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to the nearly 1,000 registrants from academic and faculty affairs, technology, HR, and other university roles who made the 2021 Interfolio Summit, earlier this month, a uniquely valuable event.

Here, we’re going to share just a few of the things that made the two-day virtual conference so worth everyone’s time.

We’re going to focus on five recurring themes—feel free to hop down to what interests you the most:

  1. An Academic/Faculty Affairs Community of Practice
  2. Progress on Faculty Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
  3. Achieving Efficiency (with Integrity) in Faculty Affairs Personnel Processes
  4. Integrations: Faculty Affairs and the University Technology Ecosystem
  5. Successful Change Management: Real People and Faculty Affairs Technology

1. An Academic/Faculty Affairs Community of Practice

The 2021 Interfolio Summit provided a unique venue for interaction to academic/faculty affairs professionals, as well as those in university technology and HR whose work touches faculty employment.

Whether in the form of the 20 prepared sessions, the lively chat throughout, the audience Q&A, or the “Meet the Speakers” breakout rooms, the Summit this year provided a space to talk about successfully supporting faculty in the modern university. 

In “Maximizing Efficiency with Creative Uses of Interfolio Review, Promotion & Tenure,” Elizabeth City State University’s Dr. Farrah Ward, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dr. Joy Smith, Dean of the School of Education and Business showed how they have extended their use of the platform beyond academic evaluations to include faculty credentialing.

With “Documenting Personnel Processes and Increasing User Adoption,” Arizona State University’s Chantel Powers, Academic Personnel Analyst and Katherine Sackman, Academic Personnel Specialist, gave a detailed walk-through of their model for ensuring that the very practical “nuts and bolts” of their procedures are as easy as possible to locate, maintain, and carry out. 

And during “Stories from the Field: Managing Interfolio Long-Term,” Lauren Wolk, Senior Consultant, and Kelly Doolan, Project Manager, from the Interfolio Professional Services team announced the Interfolio Certification program, a newly formalized course by which academic professionals can demonstrate their full competency with the Interfolio Faculty Information System.

2. Progress on Faculty Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Early in planning the Summit, Interfolio recognized that the issues of justice and equal opportunity continue to pose a pressing challenge throughout the US and global society—no less in higher education faculty affairs than anywhere else.

Right from the opening keynote address by Dr. Ebony O. McGee, Associate Professor of Diversity and STEM Education at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College (“Beyond Recruiting: Retaining Underrepresented Minoritized Faculty & Graduate Students”) this year’s Summit included an explicit and searching focus on issues of faculty diversity, equity, and inclusion in modern higher education.  

Our panel “Moving to Outcomes: Faculty Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives” saw academic leaders from Stony Brook University, Dartmouth University, Colorado College, and the Consortium for Faculty Diversity discussing specific tactics they’ve used, as well as the outcomes.

The panel provided concrete recommendations for building lasting diversity, a truly inclusive environment, and an equitable work experience for scholars. 

Among many topics not limited to diversity, equity, and inclusion, “HBCU Leaders in Conversation” offered a look into current challenges and successes of the US’s historically black colleges and universities. Attendees got to hear a lively discussion between Dr. Stashia Emanuel, Vice Provost for Academic Services at Kentucky State University, Dr. Patricia Williams-Lessane, Associate Vice President at Morgan State University, and Dr. James Palmer, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Prairie View A&M University. The panel discussed specific outreach and faculty support approaches, current recruitment and retention efforts, and especially how the Interfolio Faculty Information System has directly enabled progress on their strategic plans. 

In “Streamlining Insights with Reportable Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Activities,” Bridget Mullaney, MD, PMP of the Facet Project Team in the Office of the Provost at Emory University shared a model Emory employs to successfully track faculty members’ DEI-relevant professional activities and enable both the scholar and the institution to tell that story. 

3. Achieving Efficiency with Integrity in Faculty Affairs Personnel Processes

This year’s Summit continued to showcase how higher education institutions use Interfolio to make faculty affairs processes more efficient and best use faculty, staff, and administrator time. Equally clear, however, was the commitment to maintain excellence in the personnel decisions or data storytelling regardless of the level of convenience.

In a session on change management (more below), Molli J. Herth, M.Ed, Program Manager for Faculty Affairs and Development in the Office of the Provost at George Mason University mentioned that certain features had already reduced the administrative burden of managing hundreds of cases across different workflow stages and types.

In the panel “Achieving Strategic Goals with a Faculty Information System,” panelists Allysceaeioun D Britt, PhD, MPH of Meharry Medical College, Ed Collom, PhD of California State University-Fullerton, and ​​Alyssa Kupka of DePaul University shared many ways that faculty affairs and administrative workflows at their universities are operating more successfully than ever before. 

“Process should dictate the system, not the other way around,” said Dr. Britt. “And Interfolio was able to do that.”

Across this and other Summit panels, we heard how:

  • Total time to complete certain reviews had decreased
  • Faculty had been “given back” time that they could use to focus on excellent teaching, research, curriculum development, mentoring, community engagement, and other core academic activities
  • Professional staff at the university are able to be a greater support than ever to faculty, and are freed up for their own professional growth, by a centralized system really built for this work
  • Provost and other administrative offices have been given the space to revisit and reconsider inherited processes
  • (Last, but far from least!) Those who already had the faculty-friendly platform in place experienced relative ease of adjustment—and capacity to react—when the COVID-19 pandemic struck

4. Integrations: Faculty Affairs, Interfolio, and the University Technology Ecosystem

Another aspect of this year’s Summit was a focus on how the Interfolio platform, which often reflects the needs of a provost’s or faculty affairs office, can most productively interact with other systems at the institution.

In “Harnessing APIs to Streamline Faculty Hiring with Seamless Integrations,” Georgetown University’s Merced Ada, Rebecca Cpin, Christopher Davis, Emily Fitzgerald, and Charlie Leonhardt broke down how they built an integration between Interfolio Faculty Search for recruitment and their HR system, Workday. 

For those focused on integrating with faculty evaluations, J. Reuben Wetherbee of the University of Pennsylvania gave a detailed presentation on three ways that he was able to leverage the Interfolio Review, Promotion & Tenure API to extend the reach (and the time-savings) of the module.

And in a panel focused on Interfolio Faculty Activity Reporting, speakers from Scripps Research Institute, Bowling Green State University, and the Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences shared how they’ve connected a wide variety of critical campus systems to exchange data with the Interfolio platform.

From faculty data originating in HR and ERP systems, to grants and other financial data, to courses, and even a projected IRB connection, the speakers at these different institutions stressed the value of bringing in data that another unit on campus has already vetted.

“The depth of reporting [available via Interfolio] has been really important as far as faculty academic career growth—because there’s a lot of support that we can give our faculty when we know more about what they’re doing, their productivity, and where we’re lacking in supporting them.”

Katrina Schreiber, Administrative Manager, Research & Academic Affairs, The Scripps Research Institute

5. Successful Change Management: Faculty Affairs Technology is for Real People

Finally, echoing a persistent theme central to the growth and expansion of Interfolio usage worldwide, nearly every client session shared to some extent how they had successfully managed the “human element” of adopting new faculty affairs technology. Namely, that a change in systems really means a change in what people do.

In “How to Successfully Lead Change Management and Faculty Adoption Initiatives,” New York University’s Mike McCaw and George Mason’s Molli J. Herth (mentioned above) generously shared the strategies their institutions had used to systematically bring all needed user groups onboard. 

Other speakers from various institutions shared many successful faculty affairs change management choices throughout the Summit, such as:

  • Internal workflows of data validation and sign-off from deans, before piping it into the central Interfolio system (“Contemporary Uses of Interfolio Faculty Activity Reporting”)
  • Demonstrating security of system access to faculty members (“Achieving Strategic Goals with a Faculty Information System”)
  • In some cases, introducing the system with a hybrid model for a year before requiring it—in other cases, making it mandatory institution-wide from the jump (“HBCU Leaders in Conversation”)
  • A “train the trainer” model to distribute support for faculty members and others across campus units (“Documenting Personnel Processes and Increasing User Adoption”)

Next Year: August 2022 in Washington, DC!

We are thrilled—and grateful to every contributor and attendee—that the 2021 Summit turned out to be such a lively and welcome hub for faculty affairs dialogue and expertise.

We haven’t even gotten into all of the sessions here, such as those on the ethics of academic data management, the Interfolio product roadmap, the global social purpose of higher education, and others. 

But mark your calendars! After two entirely virtual installments in 2020 and 2021, we are proud to announce the 2022 Interfolio Summit will take place in person, August 3-5, in downtown Washington, DC. We look forward to sharing next year what we’ve all learned in between—and to continuing the conversation every day.

In Conversation: Adrianna Kezar + Andrew Rosen

Thursday, June 18, 2020 / Noon – 1 PM ET

Join Andrew Rosen and Adrianna Kezar for a discussion about the pressures on higher education and the future of faculty.

As colleges and universities prepare for uncertainty with respect to tuition and research revenue, state funding, and endowments, many institutions are also exploring the expansion of revenue opportunities.

While it is obvious that COVID-19 will have short and long term impacts on the business of higher education, what are the implications on tenure, non-tenure track, and contingent faculty? Are we witnessing the dawn of a new era in this existential crisis?

About our featured guests

About Adrianna Kezar

Adrianna Kezar is the Dean’ s Professor of Leadership, Wilbur-Kieffer Professor of Higher Education at the University of Southern California, and Director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education.  A national expert on change, governance and leadership in higher education, Kezar is regularly quoted in the media, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Atlantic, Boston Globe, Washington Post, PBS, and NPR (national and local stations), among others. At the Pullias Center, Kezar directs the Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success, and is an international expert on the changing faculty. Her latest book is The Gig Academy: Mapping Labor in the Neoliberal University (October, 2019). 

About Andrew Rosen

As CEO at Interfolio, Andrew Rosen brings a proven track record of successfully introducing and scaling innovative, problem-solving technologies into new markets. Andrew started his career as an early co-founder of Blackboard where he and the team successfully built and scaled the Learning Management System throughout the education marketplace. After taking Blackboard public, Andrew left to grow Presidium Inc., an early education start-up focused on end user support services and then joined the Education Advisory Board as General Manager of its Education Technology. At EAB, Andrew and his team evolved analytics and predictive modeling technologies to address the rising issues around student retention and student success. Most recently, Andrew served as the Sr. Executive Vice President and Head of Product at MicroStrategy, a world-class enterprise analytics platform company.

Free eBook: Rapid Digital Transformation for your Faculty Affairs Processes

Compiled and published in the time of COVID-19, our free eBook pulls together best practices around online faculty evaluations and professional reviews, planning ahead for future digital transformation, and more.

This post continues our series by a onetime academic job seeker, now academic-at-large.

The idea of adding more online work to your to-do list may be anathema in 2020, but for academics who find themselves at points in their careers where they really need to make connections, online networking has been an unexpected blessing this pandemic year. “In this new world, [social media and blogging] looks more and more like THE essential toolkit for networking,” wrote Neville Morley in a blog post on COVID-era academic networking. Here’s some quick advice for academics looking to connect more between now and whenever it is that we can again gather in hotel conference rooms to chat over subpar coffee.

Be kind

“Absolutely basic principles,” wrote Morley about academic engagement on Twitter, should be: “Don’t pull rank, don’t dump on people, and if you have lots of followers take some responsibility for their engagement with people who engage with you.” This is not a COVID-specific bit of advice; the best academic networking, Robin Bernstein wrote in the Chronicle a few years ago, is “radically sincere, deep, and generous.” But when everyone is feeling pretty fragile for one reason or another, the advice to “be kind” goes double. See how you can be helpful, and reach out to peers, not just more powerful people; horizontal networking also yields benefits.

Get the basics nailed down

During this time, if you have the bandwidth, make sure your online presence is complete, and that you own it—you should have at least one website or page that’s not tied to your current university. Select—or take—a good headshot to use across platforms; there are many tips for doing this at home to be found online. (At least one platform—LinkedIn—says that profiles with photos attached get many more views than profiles without.) Pick through your previous writing and presentations, gather up the gems, and put the best stuff on that page that you own. Make sure your CV is updated, wherever it can be found.

Find your people

Other standard advice for academic Twitter users pre-COVID still applies: Tap into subject-specific Twitter lists maintained by people you already follow in order to find new connections; lurk on the outskirts of conversations, see who’s the most constructive and interesting, and follow them; look at hashtags for topics that interest you, and find people that way. If you attend virtual conferences, which are a particular artifact of the COVID era, take advantage of any of concurrent Twitter events that are going on.

Sign up for virtual events

Some scholarly organizations have convened Zoom chats for people interested in connecting around a topic. Check with your associations to see if there are any you could join. Even if you can’t find a time that feels natural to speak up during the Zoom, try to find a way to participate in the chat: sharing links, for example, or adding corroboration to a comment. After the event is over, make sure to connect with participants whose work you found interesting on Twitter or LinkedIn, to continue the conversation.

Think outside the Twitter box

LinkedIn, wrote Eva Lantsoght in a post about why academics should use the tool, “can be a source of consistency as you switch institutions.” Lantsoght recommends using LinkedIn to keep connected with people who change their emails often, as many academics do. She advocates linking out to Slideshare to show off presentations; participating in groups by asking and answering questions; and making sure to keep your profile up to date. And for researchers whose work requires them to connect to people who work outside of the academy, or who may look for jobs outside of academia, LinkedIn is the place to be.

As we all live more in front of screens this year, it’s important to be even more intentional with our time online. These recommendations for online networking will help you build community among academics, whether looking for new positions, research opportunities, or simply connection.

What online networking tactics and groups have been fulfilling and valuable for you this year? Share your recommendations and stories with us on Twitter.

This post continues our series by a onetime academic job seeker, now academic-at-large.

Impact on research time

“Almost overnight, COVID-19 turned me into an elementary school teacher, a housekeeper, a hairdresser, and a professional worrier — all things I am terrible at, with the exception of the latter,” wrote economist Olga Shurchkov on Medium in April. Looking back at her post seven months on, as many academics with children have gone more than half a year without the benefit of open schools or childcare, and mothers across the economy have borne the brunt of COVID-related disruptions, onlookers are worrying that the hairline fissures in academic mothers’ CVs that began opening up in spring and early summer may be developing into full-blown cracks.

In April, editors for three journals in political science and philosophy reported evidence that the volume of female authors’ submissions had declined since COVID-19. For many, anecdotal reports from journal editors were the first sign that something was wrong. More systematic studies followed. A team surveyed American and European scientists, starting in April, to see how COVID-19 was affecting their usage of time; the results were published in September. Those who chose to respond to the survey (a self-selecting group, to be sure) reported that overall, their working hours had dipped—in average, the group that used to work 61 hours a week was now working 54. Influencing this average was a  much bigger portion of the surveyed scientists that were working 42 hours a week or fewer, as opposed to before the pandemic hit. 

Time-pressed scientists seemed to be reducing hours devoted to research, rather than teaching or administrative tasks. And female scientists, scientists with kids under five, and especially female scientists with kids under five were the hardest-hit when it came to losing research hours. The survey results were echoed by other work on U.S. faculty members, among whom the professors with kids in the 0-5 age range reported having the hardest time doing work—a finding that anyone who’s taken full-time care of a kid under 5 could probably have predicted. 

Tracking the rates of publication

Studies tracking rates of publication followed these time-use surveys. In May, a group of researchers reported on their look at 11 pre-print repositories and three platforms for registered reports in the sciences. Assigning gender to authors’ names using an algorithm, the group analyzed more than 300,000 submissions. Importantly, the researchers looked at author order, showing that the numbers of women in first-author positions had dropped, when compared to the previous two months and the same two months in 2019. In those fields, the group pointed out, first authorship often gets assigned to a junior scholar; the implication is that junior women’s productivity was taking the biggest hit. Women’s names were also less commonly associated with work done on COVID-19—the very work that, of course, was being rapidly produced in response to the pandemic.

Also in May, a group of economists reported the results of their study of rates of submissions of preprints and working papers in that field, breaking down the data by seniority level and gender, and looking in particular at whether women were authoring preprints analyzing COVID-19. Which economists, the group wondered, were able to jump on the interesting research situation the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns has produced? For economists, the pandemic is a natural experiment of epic proportions, but the people who find themselves equipped to take advantage, this group argues, are not those who have children at home, and/or are more cautious about abandoning previous research to start something new.  “It is mostly senior male economists who are currently exploiting the myriad research questions arising from the COVID-19 shock,” wrote the group. 

Since the flush of springtime and summertime interest in COVID’s effect on women doing academic research, institutions have been looking for solutions. An organization called 500 Women Scientists has called for funding agencies to give grad students and postdocs gap funding, departments to offer teaching releases, and for institutions to reduce the use of student teaching evaluations in considering decisions around hiring and promotion, since caregiving academics with little time to give seem more likely to get dinged on evals when students get dissatisfied with online teaching.

But of all the interventions, a common-sense approach to evaluating the parts of mothers’ CVs that represent 2020 (and 2021) may be the hardest to implement, but the most beneficial. One academic and mother who spoke to Science about her situation mentioned that she was having trouble imagining how she would represent the pandemic in official documentation summarizing her research career. “I can’t give as many talks, I can’t participate in conferences, I can’t do trainings, I’ve had to shut down collaborations,” she said. “How am I supposed to account for this on my CV?” In her case, as in so many others, a little understanding might go a long way. 

What has been the pandemic’s impact on your research? Share with us on Twitter.

This post continues our series by a onetime academic job seeker, now academic-at-large.

How are faculty doing, emotionally speaking, right now?

For many, the answer is “profoundly burned out.” “Anyone else feel like they’ve been working non-stop since March and are about to crash?” asked Arcelia Gutiérrez, a professor of Latinx studies at the University of Kentucky, on Twitter recently. ”And we have no breaks this semester, and we’re already on week 8 of the semester.” In a piece in EdSurge about faculty burnout, Kevin R. McClure, a professor of higher education at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, noted that many faculty’s lack of time off in the summer of 2020 added to the feeling of stress that people were feeling in August, facing the fall semester. “Summer is normally a time of restoration for faculty and staff, and many believed if they could just finish the spring semester, they would have a chance to recover”—but a summer devoid of travel plans and childcare, and full of work to set up online or hybrid learning for the following semester, simply didn’t do the trick. 

Faculty and staff reported to McClure that it wasn’t just the fact that the summer was full of work that has left them feeling tapped out, but also the nature of the work. Endless meetings about an ever-changing and hopeless situation; hard work put into plans that may never be implemented; lack of communication from leaders, who were, themselves, overwhelmed—the summer, and the beginning of the fall semester, have seemed never-ending. Commenting to Inside Higher Ed about the piece, McClure said that he had received a pile of feedback after it published: “What I heard over and over again was people saying, ‘That’s me. This is how I feel.’” 

Much self-reported faculty stress comes from a perceived disconnect between people’s personal situations and the amount of work the university continues to expect. This pandemic academic life—no childcare and school, for parents; huge teaching burdens for those who are adjusting to new platforms; no travel for research; restricted access to materials—is not normal, five scientists wrote in a group plea published in Science in late August. “With the start of the semester upon us, we continue to receive a massive influx of emails from colleagues detailing service expectations, research disruptions, and complex new policies,” they wrote. “All of this can feel incredibly overwhelming.” The group argued for transparency, respect for personal needs, and aggressive triaging of what’s necessary: “Don’t hold yourselves, or your students, to the same standards as 2019.” 

What can be done?

Some senior professors have urged their fellows to step up, this semester and this year. Nicholas H. Snow, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Seton Hall University, argued on Inside Higher Ed that research scholars should “make teaching and serving undergraduate students your highest priority” this year. “Our institutions and our undergraduates need us. They need all of us. They need us to be accessible and inclusive,” Snow insisted, urging his senior colleagues to “go to your funding agency; get a no-cost extension…ask them to allow your postdocs to join with us in the classroom.” This was the time, Snow thought, for the “haves” of academia to put research goals aside and put their shoulders to the wheel. 

A sentiment many faculty share—one that, for some, is a saving grace—is the sense of common cause with their students. “Doing my best, kids—and I know you are, too,” tweeted classicist Christopher Polt, of Boston College, with a modified Spiderman meme attached. (For those unfamiliar, the meme usually features two Spidermen pointing at each other, and is used to signify a recognition of sameness. In Polt’s version, a single Spiderman, the “professor,” points at a group of students—the whole group recognizing one other as going through the same turmoil.) In replies to the viral tweet, professors described feeling a cathartic sense of identification with their students, who are having many of the same problems as faculty: lack of childcare, exposure to COVID, spotty internet, family stress.

A little bit of grace and recognition goes a long way, in the fall of 2020.

How are you navigating these times as a faculty member? How could institutions better support you in your work? Share with us on Twitter.