Appointment of University faculty is an elaborate process involving several stakeholders, including faculty within their specific departments, the Dean of the Faculty, and other members of the administration. The Daily Princetonian spoke with the chairs of multiple departments about the faculty hiring process.
All proposals for appointment, advancement, or promotion of a faculty member are sent to the Office of the Dean of the Faculty (ODOF), which then sends them to the Faculty Advisory Committee on Appointments and Advancements, a body that advises the president, who makes the decision.
Dean of the Faculty Gene Jarrett told the ‘Prince’ in May that growth in change in campus size is not a primary factor affecting hiring decisions, with maintaining a diversity of research interests being a primary consideration. “Of course, in any one year, there are fluctuations in the overall campus population size. In my view, what we’ve been trying to focus on particularly at the academic unit level, is what are the strategic intellectual priorities of the department with respect to research?” he said.
The ‘Prince’ found in the spring that Princeton hired 54 new professors in the past two years, with the highest number of professors being hired within the the computer science and history departments. More than half of new hires come from private U.S. universities as opposed to international and public universities.
How do departmental chairs approach applications?
Alan Patten, chair of the politics department, wrote in an email that, “It’s a very time-consuming process, especially when we have multiple searches.”
In an email to the ‘Prince,’ Syzmon Rusinkiewicz, chair of the computer science department, wrote that “Before every academic year, our department agrees with the Dean of the Faculty and the Dean of Engineering on how many faculty offers we will make that year. The number is based on a range of factors including long-term growth plans, any recent faculty departures, and our expected yield on faculty offers.”
“Over the next few years, many of the engineering departments, including us, will have an additional constraint: the availability of space,” he added.
Michael Strauss, chair of the astrophysical sciences department, wrote to the ‘Prince’ that chairs can make the case to the University that more professors are needed if the student body is growing or if new areas of expertise emerge in the field. The University approves the number of faculty hires in June, and the department formally advertises their openings in September.
Patten wrote that the politics department “sometimes encourage[s] potential candidates [that they] know about to apply.”
Rusinkiewicz wrote, “In many cases, at least some of our faculty have previously seen the work of a candidate, but in the interest of fairness, we approach every application with an open mind.”
How many applications do departments receive?
The last time the astrophysical sciences department put out a call for candidates, they received 150 applications, according to Strauss. Six candidates were invited to interview and meet with faculty and graduate students.
“The number of applicants depends on how broadly or narrowly we define the area in which we are searching. In a very broadly defined search, we might get 400-plus applicants,” Patten wrote. He explained that the politics department “meet[s] with the shortlisted candidates before a final decision is made. In a typical year we can recommend between one to three.”
The computer science department “divides the work among our faculty, but we still spend weeks reviewing the hundreds of applications we receive,” according to Rusinkiewicz. He added that 10 to 20 candidates are offered interviews, which typically last between a day and a day and a half. The process includes a research talk given by the candidate and multiple meetings with faculty and graduate students.
“There are usually many excellent candidates, and we have tough choices to make about how we want to expand our faculty. In the end, the decisions are made by faculty discussion and vote,” Rusinkiewicz wrote.
Faculty spots have in general become more competitive in recent years, with a ‘Prince’ analysis showing a growing disparity between Ph.D.s granted at colleges and faculty openings.
What backgrounds do hires often come from?
Strauss said that associate and full professors almost always come from other universities.
This sentiment was echoed by Rusinkiewicz, who wrote, “In general, candidates who are wrapping up a Ph.D., who are current postdocs, or who have received Ph.D.s in the recent past apply for Assistant Professor. Senior hires are much more rare in our department, and typically involve people who have been faculty elsewhere, or have been in research labs in industry for a long time.”
The astrophysical sciences department does not consider candidates’ undergraduate GPAs, instead considering research and papers produced by the candidates to inform the hiring decisions, Strauss explained.
However, Strauss added that the “most important thing is whether this person is going to thrive scientifically at Princeton and what they’re teaching is of interest to people here.”
Rusinkiewicz wrote, “The components of the application are the CV [and] publication record, the candidates’ research / teaching / personal statements, and letters of recommendation. All of these are important to us — we consider both research excellence and the degree to which the candidates would both complement and broaden our faculty.”
While faculty hires are usually uncontentious, Patten noted that “there was an embarrassing case about a decade ago in which a candidate recommended for appointment was discovered at a late stage in the process to have falsified his research data. Fortunately, it was not too late for the University to revoke the offer.”
In 2015, Michael LaCour was accused of fabricating data in multiple political science studies. He also was accused of faking his education and awards he had received on his CV. Princeton revoked his job offer in June of that year.
What happens after the department approves a faculty candidate?
After the faculty candidates receive approval from the academic departments, proposals then go to the ODOF, which then presents them to the Faculty Advisory Committee on Appointments and Advancements, commonly known as C/3. The committee’s deliberations are strictly confidential. The dean of the faculty then summarizes the C3 recommendations to the Board of Trustees in a report, which the Board approves.
At the annual February faculty meeting, a list of prospective faculty members are presented.
Notable recent hires by the University include Zeynep Tufecki, a sociologist and New York Times columnist, and Iain McCulloch, a polymer chemist. Tufecki has a Bosworth score of 5.91, meaning that she has been searched an average of almost six times as much as Eisgruber over the course of the past 13 years, and is ranked 234th overall among all current faculty members.
Abby Leibowitz is a staff News writer for the ‘Prince.’
Please send any corrections[at]thedailyprincetonian.com.
Correction: This piece has been updated to reflect that the ODOF, and not the Dean of the Faculty, reviews proposals for faculty appointments and to clarify the order in which the various University committees review these proposals. A previous version of this article also stated that 52, not 54, professors have been hired over the past two years. The 'Prince' regrets these errors.