Spring semester is that time of year when we rush to identify candidates for academic positions. During the search and selection processes for faculty jobs, it is imperative that institutional, departmental, and program accreditation guidelines and specifications are aligned and fully understood by all participants, especially search and selection committee members. For example:
(1) From an institutional perspective, appointments to faculty positions or academic leadership positions might hinge on the strategic plan for the department or degree program.
(2) An academic department’s focus might be workforce placement immediately after graduation versus preparing
students for advanced degrees; therefore, a candidate with real-world experience might be preferred.
(3) If the department offers degree programs at various levels, i.e. bachelor‘s, master’s, and doctoral, its accrediting body might require that the leader’s highest earned degree is in the discipline of the department that is being lead. Meeting this requirement, from the accreditor’s perspective, establishes the individual as appropriately credential
or qualified to make promotion and tenure decisions about departmental faculty. Whereas, if the program’s
accrediting body places greater emphasis on a leader’s professional or real-world experience, a department chair’s highest degree in the discipline might not be an essential requirement.
(4) From the perspective of the departmental search and selection committee members, an outstanding candidate for the department chair position might be an individual with an impressive professional dossier that is short on academic credentials.
The bottom line is, if the minimum candidate requirements and expectations of all relevant entities are not aligned, the likelihood is higher that the search, selection, and appointment processes will be delayed. The following key actions eliminate misalignment and miscommunication during the search , selection, and appointment of department chairs:
(1) Review, clarify and document committee members’ consensus of understanding of a candidate’s minimum credential requirements as stipulated by all relevant entities -- before the position announcement is written and released;
(2) Evaluate each applicants’ credentials based solely on the stipulated minimum and sometimes supplemental or enhanced criteria;
(3) Do not waiver from the established and agreed upon applicant evaluation criteria; and
(4) Leave subjective evaluations for the interview process.
D. A. Buchanan is a 30-year higher education administrator and a member of the educational leadership graduate faculty of a historically black university in the southeast United States.
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