Toward an Eco-Friendly Academic Search Process

What is the environmental impact of the university employment search process? What responsibility do search committees have to make this process more eco-friendly?

While searches for higher education positions vary, the following resources are typically used: transportation, accommodations, food, water, and paper for candidates and committee members. Though searches may seem an unlikely area for sustainability efforts, moving toward a more eco-friendly search process could reduce costs, bring searches more in line with the growing number of higher-education green initiatives, and make a difference in resource consumption, especially as searches occur frequently across many institutions every year.

Reducing the environmental footprint of the search process, however, involves posing complicated questions. Let’s look at paper (a less weighty issue than air travel for candidates and search-committee members). Consider how much paper your search process uses. How much is necessary? Could you move to an exclusively paperless platform, including electronic submission of materials, and distribution and evaluation with committee members? If not, are there some elements that could become digital? What impact would digitization have on access to these academic positions? Who would be more or less likely to apply? How would going paperless impact applicants’ job materials? What impact would reducing paper have on reading practices of search committee members?

Ultimately, eco-friendly sustainability, like the hiring process itself, is not about the perfect solution, but about weighing priorities and making deliberate choices. Almost every decision yields gains and drawbacks. A useful beginning, then, might be to ask the following each time we embark anew on an academic hiring cycle: What are the environmental variables involved with your academic jobs search process? What might you do to make this process more eco-friendly?  How might you rebalance what may be conflicting priorities? What’s at stake in doing or not doing so?

Denise K. Comer has over a decade of experience serving on multidisciplinary search committees.




Disclaimer: Material in this column is not drawn from any specific experiences or people, and following this advice does not guarantee employment with the writer’s institution. 

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