Hendrix is experiencing a hiring freeze across its academic departments, meaning that no tenure track positions are being filled at the moment. This freeze in hiring efforts can be attributed to a drop in student enrollment, the retirement of tenure professors, and the hiring of professors in term positions instead.
“In general, hiring freeze really just describes how we’re approaching specific types of positions right now. When you think of a freeze, a lot of times people use that word to mean that there’s absolutely no hiring occurring at all. But that’s really not the case,” said Dr. Bonebright, Executive Vice President and Provost and Professor of Psychology.
Positions that are considered frozen are ones where there has been the retirement of a faculty member but the college is not actively searching to fill the open position. Most of the frozen positions are due to professors in tenure track positions retiring and leaving Hendrix. A tenure track position is one that is permanent, and offers employment for an indefinite amount of years. There was a freeze on tenure track positions last year as well. The college hired term positions, which is when a professor works for a set amount of years rather than an indefinite amount, where they were needed instead.
“When you’re hiring faculty for tenure track positions, you’re really making a long-term commitment to that person and to that particular specialization. It’s a commitment for 30 to 40 years at least. If you’re going through a period where there are changes in the curriculum or changes in the number of students enrolled, it’s really not appropriate then to make that kind of long-term commitment,” said Dr. Bonebright.
In the past, Hendrix’s student enrollment was at approximately 1000 students. It has since reached a total of approximately 1450 students, but recently dropped back down to historic numbers and is currently at around 1100 students. A drop in student enrollment numbers means a drop in demand for faculty positions, and decreased pressure to fill open faculty positions.
In addition, a drop in student enrollment typically leads to a change in student interests across all subject fields. The filling of open faculty positions is directly related to the demand that students create for courses within each department. The curriculum for each major is also influenced by student interest, and changes accordingly, which in turn affects the need for certain faculty positions to either be filled or created.
“During the time frame when we had a larger number of students enrolling, we hired more professors. There are changes across time in terms of curriculum, whether that’s due to what students are interested in or due to what courses are a part of the major. Hiring what we make in certain areas is based on student interest and student enrollment in particular majors,” said Dr. Bonebright.
Hendrix’s administration is doing what they can to respond appropriately to the student demand for professors and to the decline in student enrollment. The administration is making adjustments to the size of the staff and faculty in response to these changes how they see best fit.