March 30, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 94  

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NEWS

Faculty Recruitment Part II: what about Western?
What Western is doing to stay competitive

By Laura Katsirdakis
Gazette Staff

With a large percentage of professors in North America nearing retirement age, and enrollment increasing in Ontario, competition among universities to hire the best is heating up. According to some critics, Western has not done a good job at recruiting high-quality faculty, but others say the university’s performance has markedly improved.

“[Faculty retention] has been a problem in most Ontario universities — there is a greater demand than there is the number of faculty,” explains Henry Mandelbaum, executive director of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations.

One way to alleviate the problem is to eliminate mandatory retirement, Mandelbaum says. “Five to 10 per cent would stay beyond retirement age.”

“It is a very competitive market,” confirms Alan Weedon, Western’s vice-provost policy, planning and faculty. “The doctoral programs have not been graduating enough PhDs to fill all the faculty positions.”

According to Weedon, Western hired 66 professors to probationary or tenure positions this year. “Roughly 30 per cent this year were from over-seas.

“To increase our competitiveness, [administration] established an office of recruitment and retention,” Weedon explains.

Jennifer Hale, co-ordinator of the office, says it was created in November 2003. She explains her position includes helping spouses of faculty members find jobs in London, providing information about health care and child care, and assisting with immigration issues for non-Canadian faculty. “I am responsible for quality of life issues, [and a] resource for information.”

Weedon notes that Western has created a new child care centre and family health clinic for faculty in order to make this an attractive place to work.

“We interview faculty when they [resign] and try to understand why. The biggest reason [faculty leave] is family reasons; for example, if a spouse gets a job in another city,” he says. “[Faculty] are sometimes hired away to become deans or research chairs at other facilities.

“We look at the sort of recruitment methods other universities use and try to match or do better than them,” Weedon explains.

“Some departments are very good departments, and the faculty in them are in high demand. For example, English and economics have strong reputations,” he says, adding this is not a problem, but a complement to that department. A good reputation helps these departments hire new faculty as well, he adds.

According to Weedon, geography is another factor in recruitment and retention. “London is a relatively small city — large cities have more opportunity for spousal employment and perceived greater opportunity for cultural participation.”

He says it is also more difficult to attract private sector financial endowments in London than in a larger city.

“[Another factor is] the size of Western relative to the size of the city — we are a relatively large university in a small city. We have to look outside this area to recruit both faculty and students.”

“Faculty growth has not been equal over the university — arts has not grown as rapidly, for example,” says University of Western Ontario Faculty Association President Albert Katz, noting some departments have gained mostly part-time faculty. “Some, like arts and social science, have a lot of part-time faculty, but in engineering that would be unheard of.”

“There has been an explosion of part-time staff, largely due to financial constraints,” says David Robinson, associate executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, adding part-time faculty are much cheaper for universities to maintain.

According to psychology professor Gary Rollman, recruitment and retention of faculty is partly about things that take money, and partly about an appreciation of faculty. “[Faculty] need to feel that their excellence is recognized and rewarded.”

 

 

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