Best Practices: Hiring

The University of Notre Dame and the College of Arts and Letters are strongly committed to affirmative action for women and minorities and to the hiring and retention of Catholic faculty and faculty who can contribute in diverse ways to the university’s mission. President John Jenkins and Provost Tom Burish have pledged in recent statements that these several priorities will not be allowed to compete with one another:

“We would like to emphasize…that the University’s efforts to identify, recruit, hire, and retain women, minority, and Catholic faculty are complementary. Indeed, we are confident that—through collaboration and, where possible, the adoption of shared strategies—the efforts will be mutually reinforcing, particularly with regard to recruitment and hiring. These efforts rank among our highest priorities. Collectively, they will do much to enhance the vibrancy of the intellectual community at Notre Dame.” (Response by President Jenkins and Provost Burish to the UCWFS Report on the Recruitment and Retention of Women Faculty, March 2, 2009)

Furthermore, the President and the Provost have affirmed that questions of identity, while a consideration at point of hire, are irrelevant to decisions on reappointment, tenure, and promotion:

“Let me join Tom Burish in stating unequivocally that although we proactively seek to hire minorities, women, and Catholics, nevertheless race, gender, and religion do not and will not play a role in our decisions about reappointment, tenure, or promotion. These decisions are made on the basis of the stated criteria and only on those criteria. In my experience, those involved approach this process with admirable conscientiousness and make the best and most unbiased decisions they can on the basis of those criteria.” (President Jenkins’ Address to the Faculty, September 16, 2008)


In order to ensure the successful hiring of women faculty, the College of Arts and Letters has adopted the following best practices and procedures:

(1) All departments should have affirmative action policies, including department-specific strategies and goals.

(2) One person on the hiring committee should be assigned to attend to affirmative action and mission hiring.

(3) Members of the search committee should be educated about affirmative action. The Office of Institutional Equity has compiled a useful handbook of information about diversity/gender issues in faculty recruitment; an OIE employee may be invited to speak to search committees, or copies of the handbook may be requested from the office.

(4) There should be representation from under-represented groups (including women) in the applicant pool; this can be accomplished by employing a “talent scout” model of recruiting in which faculty members actively seek out colleagues year-round. Some useful strategies include:

(a) using minority and women locator services, directories, databases, and contacts with senior faculty at peer institutions to identify potential candidates (for example, The Minority and Women Doctoral Directory, available in the Office of Institutional Equity);

(b) networking with graduate students and junior colleagues at conferences to create awareness of and build interest in Notre Dame;

(c) building long-term links to professional caucuses, national organizations, interest groups and networks in which female scholars participate;

(d) working with existing initiatives within Notre Dame that support visiting scholar programs, guest lecture series, and conferences to bring outstanding women to campus; and

(e) bringing female visiting scholars and dissertation scholars-in-residence to campus for longer periods of time.

(5) If the final ranked list of three candidates proposed for the campus visit does not include a woman, a member of an under-represented group, or a Catholic, a detailed statement explaining why not must be included in the pre-approval packet sent to the Dean’s Office. A department that is unable to answer coherently a question such as, “Who was your best female candidate, and why did she not become your first choice?” will in most cases not be permitted to make a final offer to any candidate.

(6) Mission-oriented materials should be made available to candidates in advance, in order to allow both men and women candidates to have more nuanced conversations about mission during the initial and/or campus interview (this may also help to allay some concerns and provide answers to some basic questions).

(7) All women candidates should meet with women faculty and, in particular, women administrators during the campus visit to avoid giving the false impression that all upper administrators in the university are men.

(8) Hiring committee members and departmental CAPs should weigh the positive rationale for affirmative action (the possibility of modeling and potential contributions to diversity) as part of the complex equation that results in a final ranking of candidates.

(9) The offer packet must contain the Affirmative Action Statement for Women and Minorities.


Deans and department chairs in the College of Arts and Letters have found the following methods helpful for increasing the number of women scholars available to departments:

  • Target-of-opportunity pre-hires to replace faculty who may be retiring in a few years: the candidate must meet at least one of three criteria: extraordinary quality, diversity (including women), and/or potential contribution to Notre Dame’s Catholic character.
  • Competitive searches: different departments are given the opportunity to search simultaneously for a single position, with the strongest woman candidate among them receiving an offer.
  • Interdepartmental searches: interdisciplinary searches conducted cooperatively by two or more departments to identify an outstanding woman candidate who may be housed in any of the participating departments.
  • Position upgrades: the Dean’s Office grants an upgrade in the rank of a vacant position if a department searching for a junior candidate identifies an outstanding senior woman candidate.
  • Searches with parameters: searches targeting research areas such as feminist thought or women’s history in which there is a strong likelihood of hiring a female candidate.