The Academic Affairs Guidelines for Recruiting and Hiring Instructional Faculty manual provides a glaring look into the bureaucratic and deeply troubling hiring procedures for faculty at James Madison University. Highly bureaucratic systems and policies are nothing new in American higher education, but this manual of edicts from the Office of the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs is highly prescriptive and cumbersome. Effectively, the provost has insisted on the review and approval for every hire on the JMU campus and her office has expanded to take on this new additional responsibility.
Since coming to JMU in 2017, Provost Heather Coltman has massively expanded the staffing in her office, including hiring Dr. Narketta Sparkman-Key, the Associate Provost for Inclusive Strategies and Equity Initiatives (APISEI) in 2022. According to the manual, Sparkman-Key and Coltman are basically the gatekeepers — not just for hiring any new faculty member at JMU, but even determining if a search committee may continue with a search based on the diversity within the applicant pool.
For example, even before a search committee can form, the steps shown below must be taken. Understandably, there must be some top down controls to ensure departments are not hiring without proper approvals, but we note the first of many approvals by the Provost highlighted below.
1. The dean, the academic unit head (AUH), and faculty discuss and determine the need for a new faculty hire.
2. The AUH submits a justification for a new hire to the dean.
3. The dean reviews the justification and submits the position request form to the provost’s office by the established deadline.
4. Academic Resources prioritizes faculty hiring requests.
5. The provost confirms approvals and notifies the dean.
6. The dean notifies the AUH to proceed with the search.
7. The AUH completes and submits a “Request to Recruit” to Academic Resources.
There are protocols on who can be on the search committee, which is then approved by Sparkman-Key or another Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) leader. (As an aside, according to this report, JMU boasts 65 administrators and spends more than $5.3M on DEI salaries)