Five faculty positions to be filled for fall 2014

Story by Jenna Stanbrough

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After all department chairs on campus met and ranked the possible faculty position openings according to priority, five faculty positions are set to be filled for the 2014-2015 academic school year.

They include assistant professor of religious studies, assistant professor of business and economics, assistant professor of biology, assistant professor of mass media specializing in public relations and a position in the music department.

The decision is still being made as to which position the music department will be looking to fill, but Brian Posler, executive vice president of academic affairs, said “they’re going to try to go for the choral music position,” which would be the position Matthew Potterton left behind last year.

The openings are a result of either recent retirements or openings that have not been replaced from previous years. Two faculty members, Professor of Biology Calvin Cink and Assistant Professor of Music Raymond James, have officially announced their retirement.

There were 14 position requests overall, but the resources the university had available only allowed for five to be filled. Other requests that weren’t fulfilled included a band position in the music department, a Spanish position, and positions in accounting, computer science and theater.

“And so what that means is that we have more requests for positions than we have funds to fund the positions at the moment,” Posler said. “It’s also not helped by the fact that our enrollment has declined … and so fewer students means a little bit fewer resources.”

To determine which positions would be filled for the upcoming academic year, the chairs of each academic department ranked the priority in terms of need for positions to be filled. Posler then tried to find resources for as many positions as he could.

The number one priority among the committee of department chairs was the position for assistant professor of biology. The department is specifically looking for an ecologist to work with students in the field.

Darcy Russell, chair of the department of biology and chemistry, said the position is urgent because biology is the second largest discipline on campus in terms of number of students enrolled.

“Dr. Cink’s retiring and Dr. (Associate Professor of Biology Erin) Morris is going to Harlaxton, so that left us with just two professors to teach all of these students,” Russell said. “I just went in and I said, ‘you know, I’ve got this many students, I’m going to need to teach this many courses, and I’m going to have two faculty to do it with’ … It was more about meeting student needs, and that’s what we needed to do to meet student needs.”

Another important position to be filled was the assistant professor of religious studies. George Wiley’s retirement in 2012 left the position vacant.

The position signifies a shift in the department from “religion whereas there’s emphasis on theology to religious studies,” Susan Emel, chair of the Department of History, Culture and Society, said.

Emel said when the position was chosen as one to be filled for the upcoming year, she felt like it saved the program.

“We all breathed a sigh of relief, because it was going to have to go away. We couldn’t put it in the catalog anymore and have people see it in the catalog as (a reason to come) to Baker and want to do this when we can’t offer it with any faculty,” Emel said.

Other searches that are making progress include the presidential, minister and health center searches, as well as replacements for the dean of the School of Education and the dean of the School of Nursing.

“That’s a lot of university-level retirements all happening at once,” Posler said. “So that’s going to definitely press us and be a challenge for us.”