Blogs > Cliopatria > Hiring Criteria

Jan 5, 2005 11:20 pm

Hiring Criteria

Could someone explain the following to me in reference to this job posting:

1. Can you selectively hire on the basis of religion?
2. As a candidate, how does one write an essay on the relationship between Christianity and History? I keep imagining it as an essay assignment in an intro class.

And, please don't think that my question is facitious. I really want to know how one can"not discriminate against applicants on the basis of race, color, gender, handicap, or national or ethnic origin in the selection of employees" but require that"faculty must be able to articulate a personal faith commitment to Jesus Christ and be supportive of a Reformed worldview."

How does that work?

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Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

A little tidbit on this subject:

I was a graduate student in philosophy at Notre Dame, which is governed by the papal encyclical Ex Corde Ecclesiae. The encyclical has a provision (advisory, not binding) that states that Catholic universities should have a "majority Catholic faculty."

An ambiguity arises as between two interpretations of this rule: Does it mean (a) "51% of the whole faculty should be Catholic" (including natural science) or does it mean (b) "51% of the faculty teaching subjects relevant to the humanities should be Catholic." A loud roar emanated from natural science saying: Lay off of us or die! So I think the Adm. went with (b).

Interpretation (b) of course raised the question of which subjects were relevant (in the relevant sense of "relevance") to the humanities. Since the rationale for the rule was theological, one obvious interpretation was to construe "relevance" as meaning "relevant or pertaining to theology."

This implies a sliding scale of compliance with the rule, e.g., with Theology being most bound by it, then Philosophy, then maybe History, Poli Sci, English,...etc.

The social scientist number crunchers at this point claimed exemption from the rule on the grounds that they were SCIENTISTS with nothing to do with the humanities, much less theology.

All this led to great headaches. If the Theology Department is small but the English Department large (as it was), but you somehow needed to create a 51% Catholic majority in relevant disciplines--well, even if Theology is 100% Catholic, you're going to have make inroads into English, etc.

Then the English people would scream: "Well, Philosophy is more relevant to theology than we are! Put the burden on them!" And Philosophy shouted back: "Hey--no offense, but unlike English, we work in a rigorous discipline that runs by MERIT." To which one retort was: Oh, so you're saying Catholics are stupid? What about Thomas Aquinas?

Now if you really want to split hairs here--and what an incentive to do so!--maybe the rule means that when you hire a Christian, you are in partial compliance, even if the Christian isn't Catholic. Being a Christian ought to (sort of) suffice. So for purposes of compliance, maybe a Protestant is better than a Jew, Muslim or atheist. I guess that should imply that a monotheist is better than an atheist, too. Is a practicing Muslim better than an atheist? Is an orthodox Jew better than reform? I don't know. All I know is one guy didn't get a job because he was living with someone out of wedlock. He would have gotten it if he was married to her. I think.

I remember one hire in Philosophy where the "good Christian should suffice" issue arose--the candidate was Protestant. The people who didn't want to hire the candidate argued that she wasn't a good Christian (she was a pro-choice feminist). The people who wanted to hire her said "But she's so smart! Let's apply the rule to the NEXT candidate, but this one is a real find!"

Sorry to be anti-climactic, but I don't know how they ended up resolving all this (or if they have). All I know is that it created a lot of resentment and gnashing of teeth for those involved in hiring, and a lot of amusement for those of us who weren't. But it sure brought back Scholasticism! "How many Catholics can dance into tenure?" Ha ha. OK, I guess you had to be there.

Jonathan Dresner - 1/7/2005

I'm reading this and I can't see, offhand, what the difference is between requiring a statement of faith and adherence to outside behavioral restrictions on the one hand and firing faculty who do not teach within the sectarian boundaries. I'm not trying to make a big deal, but I can't quite figure out the distinction.

Jim Williams - 1/7/2005

Good responses from Ralph and Hugo! As an evangelical Christian like Ralph (but teaching in a branch of SUNY), I think sectarian institutions should have every right to require a modicum of agreement with their basic beliefs among faculty. Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc. institutions should be able to require statements of faith from their faculty. I don't even have problems with institutions requiring modest behavior codes of faculty, such as not to drink alcohol. Faculty who do not wish to accept these basic rules can choose to teach elsewhere. Such private institutions should have the right to organize themselves in accordance with their sectarian beliefs. This correlates to our right of free association.

Sometimes these requirements go too far, as in Catholic University's crackdown on liberal Catholic theologians or Southern Baptists targeting faculty in Southern Baptist institutions who approach the Bible critically. In my neighborhood (upstate NY), the trustees of an evangelical college ousted a popular, capable theologian who was less conservative than they thought appropriate. That was wrong.

My daughter, at a good evangelical college (that isn't an oxymoron, believe it or not), had a religion teacher teach Bible passages as allegorical and not literal truth. Good; while supporting faith, such institutions should also stretch their students' minds.

Hugo Schwyzer - 1/7/2005

We have to be mindful of the mission of schools like Geneva (or dozens of other similar Christian colleges.) They are in the business of preparing and equipping young Christians to move into the wider intellectual world without losing their faith. It's vital for that purpose that faculty members role-model the harmonious coexistence of scholarship and Christian worldview.

mark safranski - 1/5/2005

"Geneva College is an evangelical Christian college in the Reformed theological tradition. Faculty must be able to articulate a personal faith commitment to Jesus Christ and be supportive of a Reformed worldview"

Sounds like they are looking for committed Calvinists.

I wouldn't send my child to a place like that, personally speaking but I'm not sure how you can legally tell private, religiously affiliated institutions that they cannot proselytize their faith. I don't think we should try either since that use of state power would be a cure far worse than the disease.

Aside from that, places like Geneva or BYU or Wheaton College cater to what amounts to a small niche market.

Robert KC Johnson - 1/5/2005

Such ads almost always earn these universities a censure from the AAUP as well, but they obviously don't care about that.

Manan Ahmed - 1/5/2005

Ah! That makes sense.

Robert KC Johnson - 1/5/2005

Fascinating. I know that BYU regularly has similar requirements--i.e., the candidates have to be willing to abide by the Mormon faith--but I don't know that I've ever seen one this extreme, especially with the written statement on the Christianity/history relationship.

Legally, as a religious instituion, they're allowed to impose such requirements, although doing so, obviously, shows that their primary goal is not that their students receive an education from the most talented possible faculty.

Ralph E. Luker - 1/5/2005

Manan, I'm no lawyer, but I believe that the college probably has clearance from its attorneys to run the add as it is worded. Clearly, there are some faith-based institutions which do hire faculty members who are essentially in agreement with the religious position of the institution itself. Theological seminaries and bible colleges certainly do that. Some liberal arts colleges and, if I'm not mistaken some universities do it also. Yeshiva would be an example of a Jewish institution that does it; Brandeis would be an example of a Jewish institution that does not do it. Of course, such places declare what they want to be in such announcements. I'm an evangelical Protestant and even I'm not sure that I'd pass muster at Geneva. So I save myself some time and don't apply there. Their federal funding might be put in jeopardy by such an ad, but I'm not even certain that that is true.