Faculty Projections

Faculty Projections

We hire computer programmers, experts in finance, literary deconstructionists, coaches, and what have you – all without regard to their faith.

 from The Dying of the Light

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Preliminarily, it should be noted that, while these calculations are made on the basis of data available as of Noveember 1, 2007, the results on the basis of the additional data available now, in the summer of 2009, would be the same because there has been no change in the starting point –the proportion of faculty members designating themselves as Catholic remains at 53% — and no reason to change the underlying assumptions that we describe below.

In making the assumptions upon which our projections are based, we have relied upon University-wide data where available and data from the College of Arts & Letters (“A&L”) where they are superior. The University-wide data come principally, though not exclusively, from the so-called Fact Book, an annual detailed compilation of a wide variety of facts over the last two decades, while the A&L data come both from the Fact Book and from the annual reports of the Dean of the College. Since we have more detailed data for A&L, we have in effect used A&L as a surrogate for the entire University insofar as numbers of faculty and hires are concerned, while employing University-wide data for most other purposes.

There are other reasons for focusing on A&L. “It has slightly more than half the teaching and research slots at the University and teaches the largest group of undergraduates. It houses the two core departments of any Catholic university – theology and philosophy – as well as other academic disciplines with which the religious heritage of the University would most resonate.” (Conklin, Notre Dame Magazine, Winter 2006-07, p. 42.)

But even more importantly, the recent experience of A&L under a hiring practice substantially matching the new hiring goal provides an excellent test for the reliability of forecasts of the probable results of this new policy. During the seven years ending in 2003-04, between 50% and 55% of those hired in A&L were Catholic (see Conlkin article), and nevertheless Catholic representation fell on average almost one percent (.98%) a year. (If the two “best” years are excluded, the rate rises to 1.5 %.) Thus, any forecast of the results of the new hiring policy should produce a reduction of Catholic representation of about 1% a year in the early years, as our projections do.

The fundamental conclusion of our projections is that the new hiring goal, even if realized, would permanently end Catholic predominance on the faculty (see graph below). More particularly, our findings are these:
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– A 51% hiring rate every year would drop Catholics into a minority in 2009.
– Catholic representation would gradually decline to below 40%.
– Catholics would never again become a majority during the entire 67-year period of our projection.
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A rate of 63% would be necessary to maintain the slimmest of majorities, though at a 60% rate the drop below 50% would be relatively shallow and short.
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It would make little difference if the hiring rate were somewhat above 51%. At a 52% rate, for example, Catholics would remain a minority until 2068.
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And in the more realistic scenario of a failure to hire even 51%, the situation would of course deteriorate very rapidly. At 49%, for example, Catholic representation would sink into minority status in 2009 and continue its decline until 2032 when Catholics would make up just 37% of the faculty (not much better than the general population in America).
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In reaching these conclusions, our assumptions, which are shown on the graphs when enlarged, and their sources are these:

  1. Number of Teaching and Research Faculty in Arts and Letters 2007: 487 (Source: ND Fact Book)
  2. Representation of Catholic faculty in 2005-06: 53% (Source: ND Fact Book)
  3. Faculty Growth rate: 1.6% (Source: ND Fact Book)
  4. Annual attrition rate 7% (A&L approximate, Fact Book & reported new hires)
  5. Ratio between retirees and those leaving for other reasons: 4 to 3. (An estimate, perhaps conservative, since we understand that the great majority of candidates for tenure receive it.)
  6. Representation of Catholic faculty in those leaving for reasons other than retirement: 51% (We assume that most in this group leave before receiving tenure. Since they have a have a comparatively short history with the University (3-6 years), we peg the 51% assumption to the hiring assumption.)
  7. Representation of Catholic faculty among those retiring: 80% (Source: Fact Book)
  8. Annual reduction of the proportion of Catholics among retirees: 1% (Source: Fact Book)
  9. Proportion of Catholics hired annually: 51%. (Assumed under new hiring policy)
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It is important to note that the reasonableness of these assumptions as an interacting group is shown by the fact that changes make little difference as long as they produce early year results reasonably close to the A&L actual experience. Indeed, moderate changes make little difference in any event.

For example, if one changes the percent of Catholic faculty retiring from 80% to 75% and makes no other changes, the results, while still crippling, are of course marginally better than under our base set of assumptions. Specifically, (a) Catholic representation would drop below 50% in 2011 instead of 2009; (b) the low point would be above rather than below 40%; and (c) a majority would be restored in forty years. But since this change in a single assumption produces substantially smaller early year reductions than the A&L actual experience, there should be compensating changes in other assumptions. One could restore the real world pattern if, for example, the ratio of retirees to those leaving for other reasons were changed from 40-30 to 57-43, which is perhaps closer to what it should be anyway. Then the results would be substantially the same as those under our base case.

A final precautionary note may be in order. There is an ambiguity in Father Sullivan’s statement in The Rover that suggests the possibility that the University might try to improve the situation, not by hiring more Catholics, but by adding to the Teaching and Research faculty for purposes of calculation another group of instructors, so-called “Special Professional Faculty,” who have never before been counted. It is unsurprising in the circumstances that this group contains a substantially higher proportion of Catholics than does the Teaching and Research faculty, which sets the academic agenda for the school. Such a manipulation of statistics would, of course, be transparent; but so, too, would it be futile. The percentage of Catholics two years ago would then be raised somewhat from 53% to 54.5%, but the results would not be materially altered. Catholics would descend into a minority in three instead of two years, the low point would be 40.4% instead 39.4%, and Catholics would not become a majority until 2074 — that is, almost certainly never.

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