KARTHIKEYAN: U.Va. students should have input in the faculty hiring process

Currently, there is no standard process for students to provide input into the hiring process, which impacts the diversity of courses offered at the University

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The University gives high importance to self-governance; however, there is one area in which students do not have a formal role — the faculty hiring process. 

Christina Anton | Cavalier Daily

The University gives high importance to self-governance — the principle that students have the power to govern themselves. Students are able to serve on the Honor Council, the University Judiciary Committee and Student Council, which all have the power to make an impact at the University. However, there is one area in which students do not have a formal role, and that is in the faculty hiring process. Since many departments are opening up searches for faculty this fall, this issue is becoming increasingly relevant. We, as students, must have a voice in the search process because faculty hiring directly impacts our lives.

The structure of the faculty hiring process from search to hiring can be complicated, but I, along with other Student Council leaders, met with the Vice Provosts for Academic and Faculty Affairs in the Provost’s office who explained the process. It begins with the identification of a need for a faculty member in a program or department. Then a request is sent from the school to the leadership for approval. Once the request is approved, a search committee is formed which seeks candidates for the open faculty position. Applicants that fit the criteria in the job opening will apply for the position, and the committee will meet to narrow down the applicants and select the new faculty member. 

Students have the greatest ability to make a difference in the faculty hiring process before the job opening is posted. Specifically, students should be able to impact what qualifications the applicants must have and what subject matter the potential new faculty should be able to teach. One example of how student input could benefit the faculty hiring process was last year when there was a search for a new University president. Students received numerous opportunities to provide input on what they wanted to see in the University president. We were given the chance to fill out many surveys, attend meetings and provide our opinions to the administration before the search committee began meeting. By giving students a chance to share our thoughts, the University empowered us to think more about what we want from a University leader. 

This is the type of input that students need to have in the faculty hiring process. When a search for a new faculty member opens, students should be notified and given an opportunity to provide suggestions about course offerings. This could be accomplished through formal meetings, surveys or focus groups. Once this protocol is in place, there should be set standards at the University-level instead of at the department level about a student’s position in the search process. These standards should include whether students have any voting rights. There should also be a transparent process on how students are selected to be on the search committee, so students feel that they are being properly represented. 

Recently, many students have been advocating for the creation of more Latinx and Asian American Studies courses in order to ensure that the history of these minoritized groups are accurately recorded, represented and taught. There are currently not enough professors at the University who teach courses in these disciplines, which, in turn, decreases the course offerings in these areas. Students who are interested are not able to effectively voice their interest and need for these classes because there is no formalized process for submitting student input for the faculty hiring process. If students had greater input in the faculty selection process, they would be able to formally advise on the courses and professors they would like to see at this University. As a result, this would likely increase the breadth of Hispanic/Latinx and Asian American course offerings. 

Involving students in the faculty hiring process through the search and selection operations will diversify perspectives in faculty hiring, empower students to speak up, improve the transparency at the University and enhance the integrity of faculty hiring. This is why the University must take steps to institutionalize student input in the faculty hiring process. 

Megha Karthikeyan is a third-year in the McIntire School of Commerce and the College and is chair of Student Council’s Academic Affairs Committee. 

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