There are a great many opinions and experiences being shared regarding hiring and tenure issues due to the economic downturn. Colleges and universities that keep their searches open are benefiting from a stronger than usual applicant pool, and first choices may more readily be accepting offers. Professor Molly Olsen at Macalester College in St. Paul argues that filling tenure track positions and maintaining the tenure line is important to students, educational quality, and the institution (Kerwin, 2009). But many schools are actively cutting spending in ways that particularly impact potential hires, adjuncts, and those on tenure track.
There is great variation in how schools are handling budget cuts. Those seeking tenure track are among a wider and more talented field aiming for fewer opportunities. Perhaps more than anything, institutional and departmental climate may dictate impacts on present faculty. Is a department seeking to diversify its faculty and expertise, or replicate itself? Is the present economic downturn a reason to award tenure and preserve faculty lines, or deny tenure to save money and fill teaching gaps with adjuncts? Does support for awarding tenure come from within the department, perhaps in spite of deans and provosts, or only from deans and provosts?
Generally, we know whether or not our departments and colleges provide a supportive climate for non-tenured faculty. In times of budget cuts, if they do, our working extra hard is more likely to pay off. If they do not, our working extra hard may just keep us in an environment that is unhealthy.
See: Daniel Kerwin, Current Professor Searches Draw Top Candidates, The Mac Weekly, February 20, 2009, available at http://media.www.themacweekly.com/media/storage/paper1230/news/2009/02/20/News/Current.Professor.Searches.Draw.Top.Candidates-3639236.shtml