FAQs Strategic Faculty Hires

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—by John A. Koropchak, Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Dean

Regarding the Strategic Faculty Hires Initiative (for more details, see https://www.vcresearch.siuc.edu/strategic_hires.html and also the November Grad Council minutes, at https://gradcouncil.siu.edu/minutes/index.html), I have received a number of additional questions, to which I've prepared some replies below:

1. What made you think of this initiative?

Almost every source of input from the campus (Southern at 150, departments, deans, Faculty Association, etc.) recognized the need for additional faculty. The vision statement for the OVCR area projected the need to increase by 200 the number of research-active faculty on the campus in order to achieve the goals of Southern at 150. Increased revenue from tuition increases was not available for campus priorities through the '90s since tuition increases were kept to a minimum. With the approval of the FY04 tuition increase, some of the additional revenue has been earmarked for campus priorities, in which faculty positions rank very high.

2. How was faculty input included in the strategic faculty hires initiative?

The typical process by which faculty hiring strategies are developed annually is through input from the faculty to the chairs, who make requests to deans. This process occurs on a year-round basis in most colleges as personnel change or new program ideas occur. In effect, then, deans keep a running list of these needs and ideas. Approval to hire is typically granted in the spring or summer, for searches begun the following fall.

Based on the strategic hires initiative outlined earlier, deans fashioned their proposals based on their running lists and on the criteria outlined for the initiative. So in effect, the deans' proposals were based on department input. The extended time frame also provided opportunity for deans to consult with chairs and faculty, as appropriate. Therefore, the overall plan was based on input accumulated from departments over a long time period.

3. Why didn't the initiative include any positions for the humanities within COLA?

At the top of the list of more than 50 positions proposed for COLA by Dean Scott were those for the Departments of Anthropology, Art and Design, and Psychology. These were the ones that were funded, and represent 25% of the total positions available.

4. An across-the-board distribution of the funds would have affected all departments. Why wasn't this done?

If we consider 28 positions and roughly 70 departments, an across-the-board (ACB) distribution would have resulted in less than half a position per department, and negligible impact on any unit.

5. If an ACB allocation of $2M would not have significant impact, why didn't you propose more of the new tuition $ for the initiative?

Assuming that we have flat enrollment, the FY04 tuition increase of 16% is projected to generate an additional $8.8M. However, the first 3% of any tuition increase annually is reserved for IBHE priorities. That corresponds to $1.65M (calculated as 3/16ths or 18.75% of $8.8M, which equals $1.65M), leaving $7.15M available. Further, the tuition increase plan that Chancellor Wendler championed, projected that the FY04 tuition increase dollars be used for salary increases and Southern at 150 initiatives. At the same time, the looming budget challenges from the state became increasingly evident as the summer progressed. The Provost and I thought that some of the new tuition increase funds might be reserved for other initiatives or budget challenges, and as a result we considered $2M to be a realistic request that would still have a significant impact.

6. CASA was not among those colleges allocated strategic faculty hire positions this year. Why not?

There are multiple ways to generate new resources for faculty positions. The strategic faculty hires initiative is one. Another is the RAMP process. The campus gave high priority to a CASA RAMP request that was included in the FY03 campus RAMP document, and was successfully funded at $100,000. CASA is scheduled to receive the second allocation of $100k in FY04, and should be in the midst of searches to fill the resultant positions.

7. These faculty positions have been described by some as "super professors" who would not teach. How do you respond to that?

Of the 28 hires, 16 were described as being at the junior level (i.e., assistant professors) and 12 were described as being at the senior level (i.e., associate or full professors), and nothing more. Like all faculty on this campus, they will be assigned teaching responsibilities in the same manner as their departmental colleagues. We hope that the hires at the senior level will be of the caliber of our current faculty who win the SIUC outstanding scholar and/or outstanding teacher awards.

Sometimes our best faculty are hired away by other universities. The senior faculty positions within the strategic faculty hires initiative may be considered one effort for SIUC to respond in kind. If our searches are done aggressively, particularly at this time when universities nationwide are suffering severe budget cuts and program eliminations, we may be particularly likely to be successful at attracting such outstanding faculty.

8. A significant number of positions were allocated to the Department of Chemistry. How was this rationalized?

These positions were the number one priority of Dean Parker, based at least in part on the fact that the program's accreditation was threatened (on probation) by an unusually large number of faculty losses in the last few years due to retirements, moves to administration, attrition, and death.

I would be happy to respond to any other questions that faculty and students may have regarding this issue, or in fact, any other issues regarding research and graduate education that might be of interest. Feel free to contact me at koropcha@siu.edu

John A. Koropchak 
Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Dean