Though dozens of universities have announced hiring freezes to cut costs amid the financial crisis, GW officials say the University expects to hire just as many professors as last year – and possibly more.
Administrators like Vice President of Academic Affairs Don Lehman and Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz said in recent interviews that the University is very actively pursuing new hires during the recession. Lehman said candidate searches are underway in most academic departments of the University, including the Law School and other graduate programs.
“We are fortunately in a financially strong position,” he said. “We are paying great attention to what’s going on economically and financially, but our goal is to stay with our strategic plan and to continue to hire the very best faculty we can.”
He added, “We’ve been very careful to make sure we have adequate reserves.”
Lehman said that things are financially stable at the moment but the University is keeping a close eye on the economic climate.
“If things get significantly worse externally, that may have an impact on what it is that we’re able to do,” he said.
Professor Tyler Anbinder, chair of the history department, said GW’s push for new faculty is fairly uncommon.
“You announce these searches in the summer,” Anbinder said. “Then in the fall when the stock market dove, a lot of places canceled their searches.”
Anbinder, who said that the history department alone is looking to fill four positions, felt that GW’s continual hiring indicates the financial stability of the University.
“The fact that GWU didn’t
cancel their searches seems like a great sign that GWU’s finances are in better shape than these other places that had to cancel their searches,” he said.
Anbinder noted that some public universities such as George Mason University have had to cancel new faculty searches.
“They canceled some searches because the state of Virginia said, ‘We don’t have as much money as we thought so we can’t finance any new hiring for you,’ ” he said.
Administrators familiar with GW’s finances have maintained that the University’s endowment is performing better than the market and that the school’s dependency on tuition – usually seen as a major flaw – is proving beneficial.
“As long as students keep showing up, we can hire new faculty,” Anbinder said.
In addition, the excitement around a new administration and increased government programming is making D.C. an exciting place to be, Katz said. The University “will be able to hire faculty now that we would never be able to,” he said.
Phyllis Palmer, interim chair of the American studies department, said she is in the process of completing two new hires for the fall semester.
“Universities are always going to be hiring people in the newest fields and the newest work,” Palmer said. “Our job is stay on top of what’s happening.”
Palmer also referred to the new hires as part of the service the University must provide to students.
“We can’t stop putting automobiles on the assembly line because our customers are already here and expecting to get all the things that a university gives students,” she said. “We’re responsible for maintaining that product and service no matter what state the economy is in.”
Palmer said that the constant process of new faculty searches is imperative to keep the University’s programs innovative.
She said, “If we stopped doing it, this would be a dying institution.”
This article appeared in the February 12, 2009 issue of the Hatchet.