Pass/Fail: Mac students handpick prospective professors in hiring process

Student involvement has always played a central role within the Macalester community. This has recently been on display during the turnaround of professors in various departments, such as English, History and Economics. Daylanne English, Chair of the English Department, explains the process as “always centrally involving students.” In short, search committees are found in every department and Professor English asserts that “all departments must include two student members who are full participants.” This means that students are of equal standing with their professor counterparts.

One way the faculty candidates reach out to the Macalester student body is through job talks, in which they present their research to whomever attends the meetings. Professor English added, “We encourage all English majors to attend these talks and then give feedback to the student search committee members who, in turn, bring that feedback to the attention of the committee as a whole.” These talks, however, are open to all Macalester students, and the emphasis on majors varies based on the department. The job talks serve as a platform from which a search committee can gather a better understanding of the overall thoughts and ideas surrounding a faculty candidate.

The search committee utilizes other methods of reaching out to the Macalester students in regards to the hiring process. Jan Beebe, the English Department Coordinator, brought attention to the various ways departments seek student input: “We also have a student group (static members) participating in teaching demonstrations for each candidate, student small group (rotating members) breakfast/lunch for each candidate and a drop-in time (open invitation) for each candidate in the student lounge.” All departments provide multiple opportunities for the faculty candidates to interact with the Macalester students, hoping to reach all the students who wish to have an input, which is essential to the process.

Josh Weiner ’16 and Karintha Lowe ’16 are the student members of the search committee for the English Department. Weiner stressed the importance of having the students participate in the hiring process, “Macalester says they’re serious about having faculty that really want to teach — getting students involved and having them probe the professors shows commitment to having faculty here who want to teach students who want to learn.” During the whole process, Weiner felt his voice was both heard and valued within the committee, as he was asked for his opinions in every meeting. The relationship between the faculty candidates and students should be mutual during this process, Weiner pointed out.

The interactions are an important aspect that allows Macalester to stand out from other institutions. Student involvement in the process not only allows students to have a voice, but also gives the job candidates a better understanding of Macalester through their time with the students. Lowe shared the same sentiment, explaining how the decision for hiring tenure-track professors is meant to be a unanimous decision amongst the committee, and as a full voting member, Lowe had the same sentiment regarding the matter. In order to have a more informed vote, Lowe explained, “I go to the drop-in meetings and see how [the candidates] are interacting with the students, and then afterwards I’ll go talk to students or they’ll come talk to me.” This acts as a key part in connecting the student representatives to the student body. In turn this transfers the students’ voices to the search committee, which allows them to formulate a well-rounded decision.

If you are interested in attending a job talk sometime soon, the History Department will host talks in the Harmon Room at 4:45 p.m. on February 22, February 29 and March 3. These talks will be presented by the candidates for the Modern European History position. All students and feedback are welcome. A free lunch will be provided.

February 12, 2016

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