In my earlier item on our Dean search, “Admit It, After Reading This You Want to be Our Dean,” I quoted the description of the University of Miami School of Law's very ambitious hiring plans,
In 2007, in response to a presidential and provostial challenge, the Law School faculty undertook a comprehensive strategic planning effort. The School's Strategic Plan report focuses on ways to address major issues affecting faculty productivity on the one hand, and, on the other, student recruitment, the culture of student service and the need for improved career placement. The report concludes that virtually everything in the Law School would be improved with the addition of a significant number of new faculty and the construction of a larger and much more appropriate facility.
The President and the Provost have responded decisively. The President personally selected a prime piece of University land on the main campus that can be readily developed and designated it for the construction of a new law school facility. The planning has begun but will be greatly influenced by a new Dean. The new facilities will require significant fund raising, an effort the President and the entire University will support.
The University agrees that the Law School must increase the size of its faculty. After careful evaluation, the School and the University have concluded that reducing the size of the Law School class will not substantially improve the quality of the class and would fundamentally reduce resources. The President and the Provost have agreed to add significantly to the size of the faculty. The Law School is recruiting distinguished faculty to fill five current vacancies. Jan Paulsson, the world-renowned arbitration practitioner with a major scholarly reputation in his field, has just agreed to join this emerging cohort.
In addition, the University leadership has agreed that the Law School has adequate resources not only to fill currently open lines but also to hire six additional faculty members. Because improving the Law School's posture is perceived as essential to the University, the Provost has agreed, as well, to match the Law School's effort with six more faculty lines to be paid for out of central resources.
The current faculty contains 45 tenure or tenure track faculty members. In the near future, and in the tenure of the next Dean, the Law School will hire 17 new faculty, roughly 40% of the existing faculty. In addition, the School anticipates retirements over the next few years. In any reasonable tenure, the next Dean will have the rare opportunity – in a major, national law school, in an emerging and powerful, private research university – to build an iconic new facility and recruit great new faculty members to transform the School into an AAU quality institution.
In a comment, Penn's Matthew Lister asks,
How confident are you that, in the present situation, you'll be able to do all the hiring described?
I think that's a good question — indeed, it goes right to the heart of the matter.
Nevertheless, cynic that I am, I'm actually pretty confident we'll get to do this astonishing round of hiring, or at least a very large fraction of it (assuming there's not an actual Depression).
My confidence has three sources.
First, I was on the strategic planning committee that hatched this scheme. We put together a very strong business case for why we have to do this, and why it makes far more sense than downsizing, or keeping things as they are.
Second, after a short period of sticker shock and hesitation, central administration has bought into this idea. Indeed, we could not have issued this ad without their sign-off. This public commitment means something — in fact it means a great deal. I think we can take them at their word. In any case, the scenario is, we find some heavy-weight (or young dynamo!) candidate, that person then has a negotiation with the President. Typically commitments get made at that point; one of them would obviously be that we stay the course. I am certain that if President Shalala looks a Dean in the eye and makes a promise, that promise can be relied on.
Third, it's genuinely in the University's interest. Where once the law school was much higher ranked than the U., now due to the ranking system used by US News — which penalizes large schools severely — we appear to be lower ranked than the U (although in fact our faculty scholarly rankings hold up just fine, thank you). In order for the University to make good on its strategic plan, and in general for the President/Board to feel they are doing a good job, they need to see the law school as 'restored to its former luster' — or better yet, surpassing it.
The hiring will not all happen in one year — that would be foolish economically and culturally (very hard to absorb so many new people at once). But I think it will happen with reasonable speed. In addition to active, but selective, participation in the entry-level market, we have some more big lateral offers out (in addition to our recent major hire), and I think it's quite possible we'll make some more this year.
The biggest constraint in the short term, oddly enough, looks like it could be office space.
And, yes, counter-cyclical hiring is great!
(Did I mention I am on our Visitors & Laterals committee? Expressions of interest are always welcome.)