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Professor hiring freeze causes concern in affected departments

Published: December 5, 2008
Section: Front Page


The hiring freeze recently instituted by the university in response to a $10 million budget shortfall for the 2009 fiscal year will impact both the courses and the nature of instruction students receive in the immediate future. As part of a package of cutbacks meant to deal with the university’s deficit for the current fiscal year, 10 or 12 of 16 ongoing faculty searches will be suspended.

The departments affected by the hiring freeze include Biochemistry, History, Math, Politics, Romance Studies, and Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, according to an e-mail by Dean of Arts and Sciences Adam Jaffe. The Hornstein Professional Jewish Leadership Program was also affected.

An examination of three of the departments Jaffe named revealed numerous courses currently being taught by lecturers, not full professors.

The History and Politics departments both have three classes now taught by lecturers, while the Mathematics department has 14 such courses. Politics and Mathematics currently have three professors on leave each, while the History department has four professors on leave.

Asked about the impact of the hiring freeze, History Department Chair Jane Kamensky explained that the department was had been looking for two tenure-track positions this year, but that she has had to suspend the search.

At the time the searches were suspended, the department had received over 300 applications.

Before the freeze, Kemensky said, the department hired Stephen Platt, an expert in Modern Chinese History. Platt will replace Prof. John Schrecker (HIST), who retired at the end of last semester.

Politics Department Chair Steven Burg also regretted the suspension. In particular, the failure to replace Prof. Jeffrey Abramson, who took a position at the University of Texas law school, “creates a major hole in the curriculum, in an area of great importance to our undergraduates and to the historical character of the university,” Berg said in an e-mail.

“The teaching of constitutional law and civil liberties,” Berg continued, “is reflective of the institution’s historical commitments to inclusion and equality, and to teaching generations of students to be sensitive to these concerns.”

With Abramson gone and the department’s other political theory instructor Bernard Yack, on leave, both Political Theory offerings for the 08-09 year are being taught by Timothy McCarty, a Politics Department graduate student. McCarty did not respond to requests for comment.

Berg also lamented the termination of the Arts and Sciences Faculty Travel Policy. One of the programs eliminated due to the budget shortfall, Berg said.

In the meantime, both Berg and Kamensky hoped the search process would be reopened next year.