23.4.13

THE LIMITS TO DOWNSIZING.

The University of Illinois have a new president, and that means a new round of strategic planning, or mission and vision statement brainstorming, or something.
The two leaders said the UI will be the pre-eminent public research university with a land-grant mission and global impact. In order to hold such a title, [provost Ilesanmi] Adesida outlined three goals for the campus: improve scholarship, discovery and innovation; provide students with a transformative learning experience; and have an impact on society.
I'm encouraged to see that this project is not entirely about information technology and distance learning.
Rebuilding the faculty in several strategic areas is a key component of the vision unveiled on Monday. In recent years the number of tenured-system faculty has decreased from about 2,100 in the 2007-2008 school year to a current tally of around 1,856.

Faculty ranks have eroded due to several factors, including a spike in retirements, hiring freezes amid an uncertain state funding outlook and employees leaving for opportunities elsewhere. The campus has organized several hiring programs to counteract that trend, but numbers are still down, particularly because of a high number of faculty who retired last year.

Rebuilding faculty "is how we bring new energy" to the campus, said Adesida, whose office oversees faculty hiring.

"Hiring 500 faculty over the next five to seven years will be a challenge, but an exciting and a welcome challenge," said Barbara Wilson, executive vice provost for faculty and academic affairs.

The new faculty hires will be in six theme areas — "cluster hires" — but the campus will also be looking to prop up faculty numbers in departments as well.

"Cluster hiring offers the ability to quickly build critical mass in targeted areas," Adesida said.

These cluster hires will likely be scholars whose work extends beyond one discipline, department or even college, according to Wilson.
Words are plentiful, deeds are precious, cynics are ubiquitous in the comment section, and cluster hiring may be an attempt to dilute faculty power by assigning new hires to centers under the direction of a deanlet or deanling, rather than to departments who elect a colleague to serve as a chairman.

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