Academic jobs going unfilled

Much has been written about the plight of new Ph.D.s in search of tenure-track positions that are becoming increasingly scarce.

But according to InsideHigherEd, however, some schools can’t fill their job openings.

“Even as new academics across the country struggle to find permanent positions, often teaching at multiple campuses as adjuncts to pay their bills, tenure-track positions at some institutions are going unfilled. Faculty salaries at public universities in particular are failing to keep pace with those at private institutions and in other industries, making it hard for some campuses — especially regional universities in small-town America — to retain and attract talent.

“Experts say the trend could further erode the tenure-track system and educational quality.

“The University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point isn’t alone in facing faculty turnover due to low salaries, but it may be among the most severe cases. Some 81 faculty members, out of an average of 340, have left during the past three years, about half from retirement and half from resignations – many more than in the years prior. And departures this year alone outnumber departures spanning the past three years. The College of Natural Resources alone has experienced a 25 percent turnover this year, although it is one of the university’s flagship programs.

“That’s despite Stevens Point’s low faculty-to-student ratio and solid academic reputation (it’s consistently ranked as one of  U.S. News and World Reports’ top ten regional universities in the Midwest), in addition to the town’s picturesque setting on the Wisconsin River that contributed to Forbes naming it one of its top 15 cities to raise a family in 2010.

“It’s the trend that we find alarming, and we certainly know anecdotally that while some folks resign for other reasons, salaries are the main driver,” said Greg Summers, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, whose hands are tied when it comes to retaining faculty with raises. Equity adjustments — the only tool Stevens Point has to bring existing professors’ salaries closer to market rates — are made on a schedule.

“Replacing faculty has proven as difficult as keeping them. While it used to be hard to recruit faculty in certain disciplines that offer high salaries in industry, such as business and nursing, “now it seems hard to recruit people for all disciplines,” Summers said. Interested applicants frequently turn down face-to-face interviews once they hear the quoted salary, and 43 percent of faculty employment offers were rejected by the first-choice candidate during the 2011 academic year. When Stevens Point asked candidates why they turned it down, 32 percent said other universities had matched or exceeded its offer. (Open professorships are listed here.)”
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