The Board of Visitors has officially hired new faculty members at the College of William and Mary, including a new interim dean of Arts and Sciences and several professors. These are the first new hirings at the College in some years. While it’s an exciting time to see what new professors can bring to the College, it is also a time to examine the hiring process to ensure that the selections are both appropriate and correct.
The first question that comes to mind is whether or not these new faculty members are the ones we need.
Although it is hard to distinguish which departments deserve new faculty members without bringing individual biases into play, some departments need specialized professionals more than others. For example, the modern languages only have a few professors for each language. A professor of Arabic cannot teach German — or at least none at the College can — but a professor of government is qualified to teach several government courses. Like language professors, science professors are highly specialized individuals who often cannot teach outside their area of focus. In this time of economic uncertainty the issue of redundancy must be taken into account.
Another more basic question is how these new faculty members are selected in the first place. The new conductor of the William and Mary Wind Symphony was selected after students had chance to talk to each candidate and give feedback. When the College decided it needed a new vice-provost for international affairs, the process was both lengthy and public. While we understand this would be impossible for all hiring decisions, major positions in the future must undergo the public — and input-driven — process lauded in the past. Students have a right to voice their approval of or disagreement with potential faculty members. After all we are the ones who will be directly affected by these new hires.
The College is a prestigious school, and the students are chosen very selectively. Its faculty members should be, too.