The Powers That Be around here let our department chair and personnel chair know last week that they'd be letting every unit put in a request to search for a new TT position in the fall. These decisions need to be made earlier rather than later for a number of reasons. The big one is that if we decide in summer, then the committee can be basically set up and write up a job description early. That way the ad goes out, and we can request materials early. And we can do phone interviews early. And then we can invite candidates to campus at the end of spring semester. Otherwise, since we don't start back until the end of January, it's February before we have campus visits, and then we're late trying to make offers and such (and paperwork here takes forever). Then, as sometimes happens, our first choice candidates already have offers we can't compete with, and on down the line.
So we met to discuss the issue. (And here, let me explain that all meetings of State agencies are completely open to the public unless we invoke a specific state law, and we didn't invoke that at this meeting because it wouldn't have been appropriate. So you all could have come and sat in this meeting, and even asked to speak. Which is all to say, I'm not violating any confidentiality stuff here.)
Our chair prepared some numbers about enrollments, and so forth, which pretty seriously demonstrated that in three of our core areas for student majors, and for our first year writing courses, we're having serious difficulty covering our courses. (In a given semester, most TT faculty teach one first year writing course with 5 meeting hours per week, and two other courses.)
One of the suggestions is that we hire someone in comp/rhet in hopes this person would solve some of the difficulty of first year writing courses. Basically, they're thinking this person would come in and have a steady, long term diet of first year writing courses, all year, all the time. And upper level comp/rhet type courses are already well covered; it's one of only two areas that could add a number of students to each section at the upper level. So we really don't need someone more to teach upper level courses.
That seems to me like a recipe for a really unhappy colleague. I just haven't met anyone who's done a PhD in comp/rhet who really wants a full time first year comp load. Maybe they're out there... And it seems like that load would also really be hard on a research agenda (unless they were totally doing SOTL work on first year writing class stuffs). (The response to my concern about this was that the person could also teach some lit, and yes, but then it doesn't solve the first year writing coverage, and it adds people in a likely area where we already have plenty of coverage, pop culture.)
We also discussed areas A and B, including the possibility that we try to find someone who does both A and B. The A folks rejected that, since anyone who does both probably likes B better and isn't wholeheartedly A. (And we have some folks who could do some A along with their B, but the A folks always, always refuse to let them.)
The A folks made an impassioned argument for a specialized position within A because they want someone who looks different, but not someone who looks TOO different (as in, too B).
The B folks made an equally impassioned argument for a specialized position within B in case our current person there goes off to be a deanling, which they really want to do and which seems likely.
I suggested a different specialization within B that could also reasonably offer serious help to area C. That didn't go far. But I conceded that the other area was probably more important to us.
And so, with much discussion, we came to a consensus which makes me very glad to be part of a department where folks can make an impassioned argument for something and yet be convinced that at this point, something else should probably have priority.
And so we'll put forward our recommendation.
And in all likelihood, since we searched this past year, the few searches there are will go to other departments and programs.
We have some 15 people there for an hour and a half. That's half a week of work, and probably for nothing, really. (And more work in the prep the chair and chair of the meeting did.)