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Message from the Provost, April 14, 2020

Message from the Provost, April 14, 2020

Dear Faculty,

I am writing regarding our non-tenure-track hiring this year. As you read in the April 3 letter from the President and the VP for Finance and Administration, we are currently in a hiring freeze due to the financial impacts of COVID-19. This occurred at a time when we are normally hiring non-tenure-track faculty to fill curricular needs for the next academic year. In order to meet pressing curricular needs, we will move forward with some of our planned hires this spring. I want to explain to you our process.

In an emergency meeting for department chairs on April 3, I invited chairs to discuss their curricular needs with their departments and told them I would solicit their proposals for exceptions to the hiring freeze. On April 6, chairs received a form through which they could apply for exceptions. In both their departmental discussions and the form, chairs were asked to prioritize their requests, to specify the curricular necessity for positions and courses, and to determine whether needs might be met by reassigning tenured and tenure-track faculty or temporarily raising enrollment caps. In an extreme resource-challenged environment caused by a global pandemic, departments had to reconsider their initial requests. They rose to this challenge. In revised requests, departments reduced by 20% the courses they hoped to staff with non-tenure-track faculty.

To guide the applications for exceptions to the hiring freeze, Associate Provost Bill Peterson, Associate Dean of Faculty Patty DiBartolo, and I established a clear set of principles: decisions would be driven by curricular need; past enrollment patterns would be taken into account; when possible, ongoing arrangements with non-tenure-track faculty would be maintained; and departments’ decisions about whom to hire would be honored when hires were able to proceed. With the support of President McCartney, we were able to continue with 60% of originally approved non-tenure-track staffing. For most courses not approved, specific faculty had not yet been identified. Chairs will be receiving notification of decisions shortly.

We value the work of all faculty who contribute to teaching and learning at Smith. No decision to alter staffing plans is easy, and all of us recognize the difficulty of the present circumstances.

With best wishes,

Michael Thurston
Provost and Dean of the Faculty
Helen Means Professor of English Language and Literature