Russell Weaver (Louisville), Executive Director of the Southeastern Association of Law Schools:
A year ago, SEALS appointed a committee to explore the possibility of creating a faculty recruitment conference under the SEALS umbrella. Because of the enormity of this action, we wanted to carefully consider all of the advantages and disadvantages before deciding how to proceed. The committee reported back at our recent meeting, and the Board has voted to move ahead with a pilot program. To that end, we will appoint an implementing committee in the very near future.
SEALS’ decision was based on a number of considerations. First, we believe that there is room for innovation in the faculty recruitment process. SEALS has definite ideas about how to do that, and we will be providing further information about our recruitment process in the coming months. Our ultimate goal is to create a much more vibrant and effective faculty recruitment process that serves our member schools much better than the current process.
Second, the present recruitment process is not functioning well for all schools. Many schools are “jumping the gun” in the sense that they are actively recruiting candidates well before the AALS recruitment conference. Indeed, some schools hold Skype interviews, invite candidates to campus, and even make offers, outside the AALS time frame. Indeed, some candidates receive multiple offers before the AALS conference. Some of these offers are “exploding offers” which require the applicant to make a decision in a relatively short period of time. There simply must be a better way to structure the process.
Third, we believe that SEALS can run a conference that significantly reduces the cost for both applicants and participating schools. SEALS intends to charge applicants only a fraction of the AALS fee. This lower fee may encourage more diverse candidates to explore the faculty recruitment process. In addition, SEALS plans to lower the cost for participating schools. The fee structure has not yet been determined, but we anticipate that we will not charge member schools to access our equivalent of the FAR (non-SEALS schools could have access for a fee). Of course, we would charge faculty who attend the SEALS meeting our normal (comparatively low) registration fee. However, since many member schools already send a substantial number of faculty to SEALS, the overall cost to participate in a faculty recruitment conference will drop dramatically for those schools, and the participating faculty will receive the benefit of the entire SEALS meeting in addition to the recruitment meeting. Moreover, some of our proposed innovations may eliminate the need for in-person interviewing.
Fourth, SEALS already runs the Prospective Law Teachers Workshop and we anticipate synergy between that workshop and the recruitment conference. The current workshop will continue “as is.” However, we plan to expand our efforts in ways that will encourage and promote diversity and inclusiveness in the academy. For faculty participating in the Prospective Law Teachers Workshop, we will create a relatively modest cost structure that allows them to participate in both the workshop and the faculty recruitment conference without undue expense. There is no need to gouge those who aspire to the profession.
Fifth, consistent with our overall policy on inclusiveness, SEALS will seek ways to promote diverse and inclusive candidates. SEALS is strongly committed to inclusiveness, and we seek to promote inclusiveness in everything we do, including our programming. Here is SEALS’s official policy on the construction of panels which reflects our broad definition of inclusion:
As a scholarly organization that values diversity in all of its manifestations, panel organizers shall consider diversity (gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, viewpoint, seniority, school affiliation) in organizing panels. If the topic of a panel encompasses issues on which there exist strongly opposing public or academic perspectives, then it is expected that the panel's make-up will reflect the appropriate diversity of perspective.
Consistent with our overall policy on inclusiveness, we will strongly encourage participating schools to be respectful of the various forms of diversity as they participate in our faculty recruitment process.
SEALS is excited about this new endeavor, and we welcome your comments, suggestions and advice. Thanks so much to everyone for their continued support of SEALS!
Update: Brian Leiter (Chicago):
I have only one comment on this terrible idea: don't do it! It will make the lives of job seekers much worse, and increase their out-of-pocket costs, since they may then feel the need to attend two separate hiring conferences (which belies all the blather in the proposal about "inclusiveness"--the cost (both financial and in terms of time away from work) of travelling to two separate conferences will be prohibitive, so only the candidates with the most resources and institutional support will be able to do it). More importantly, I encourage all schools to boycott any alternative hiring convention for these same reasons.
Law.com, Law School Group Looks to Disrupt the Faculty Hiring Market