Academic Hiring

I’m a big fan of Alex Usher and the other folks at HESA. Their work is exceptional and the blog always interesting. Normally I find myself nodding in agreement with their insights and pointed barbs.

Not so much this time.

The recent post, The Canadian Style of University Management, misses the mark. By comparing the hiring processes of UK and Canadian universities, the blog suggests this is an area of academic meddling, management excess, and bureaucratic waste.

Perhaps not.

Efficiency in hiring is laudable but it is not the defining characteristic of this process. Hiring staff is the single most important task for any organization. Getting the right person is hard work. And because of this many groups and individuals should have a voice in the process and the decision. Yes, it takes time. And it should, the implications of making a poor hire are debilitating.

I’m sure the transplanted UK Dean referenced in the blog would love to wield individual power and authority, hiring whomever they liked as quickly as possible. Those days are long gone and good riddance to them (this, speaking as someone who has held various Decanal-like appointments).

I can’t deny that management processes in Canadian universities are sometimes arcane and bureaucratic. And yes, faculty do rail against committees while at the same time they insist on their existence (and their participation in them). However, the time, effort, and inclusivity we invest in the critical decisions of hiring are examples of best practice not wasteful practice.


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