The Ethics of Recruitment and Faculty Appointments

In 1990, the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences (CCAS) established a Commission on Recruitment Ethics to consider the continuing experiences of colleges and universities in recruiting faculty members to their campuses. The commission prepared a draft statement for discussion at the CCAS’s national meeting in 1991. Subsequently, the commission asked the American Association of University Professors to review the draft statement and to consider working with it in promulgating a joint statement. In February 1992, a joint committee representing the commission and the Association met in Washington.The commission’s original draft statement was revised in the light of comments by the members of the joint committee.

This statement was adopted by the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences in November 1992. The statement was approved for publication by the Association’s Committee on Professional Ethics in December 1992 and adopted by the Association’s Council in June 1993.


The standards set forth below are intended to apply to the recruitment and appointment of faculty members in colleges and universities. They are directed to administrators and fac­ulty members in the belief that they will promote the identification and selection of qual­ified candidates through a process that promotes candor and effective communication among those who are engaged in recruitment. The standards are offered not as rules to serve every sit­uation, but with the expectation that they will provide a foundation for appropriate practices. The spirit of openness and shared responsibility that these standards are intended to convey is also applicable to considerations of affirmative action in the recruitment of faculty.1


The Announcement of a Faculty Position

  1. Prior to announcing a faculty vacancy, there should be agreement among all responsible par­ties on each major element of the position (e.g., rank, salary, and eligibility for tenure), how the position relates to the department’s (or the equivalent unit’s) likely needs for the future, the expectations concerning the professional work of the faculty member(s) being recruited, and the resources that will be provided to help the faculty member(s) meet those expectations.
  2. An institution that announces a search should be genuinely engaged in an open process of recruitment for that position. Descriptions of vacant positions should be published and distributed as widely as possible to reach all potential candidates. The procedure estab­lished for reviewing applicants and for selecting final candidates should be consistent with the institution’s announced criteria and commitment to a fair and open search.
  3. All announcements for faculty positions should be clear concerning rank, the length of the appointment, whether the position is with tenure or carries eligibility for tenure, whether the availability of the position is contingent upon funding or other conditions, teaching and research expectations, and requisite experience and credentials. Criteria and proce­dures for reappointment, promotion, and tenure at the institution, as well as other relevant information, should be made available to all interested candidates upon request.
  4. Interested candidates should have at least thirty days from the first appearance of the announcement to submit their applications.


Confidentiality, Interviews, and the Final Decision

  1. Institutions should respect the confidentiality of candidates for faculty positions. The institution may contact references, including persons who are not identified by the can­didate, but it should exercise discretion when doing so. An institution should not make public the names of candidates without having given the candidates the opportunity to withdraw from the search.
  2. Those who participate in the interview should avoid any discriminatory treatment of candidates. All communications with the candidates concerning the position should be consistent with the information stated in the announcement for the position.
  3. Candidates for faculty positions should disclose in a timely fashion conditions that might materially bear upon the institution’s decision to offer the appointment (for example, requirements for research funds, unusual moving costs, a delayed starting date, or the intention to retain an affiliation at the institution with which the candidate is currently associated).
  4. If candidates request information about the progress of the search and the status of their candidacy, they should be given the information.
  5. The institution’s decision about which candidate will be offered the position should be consistent with the criteria for the position and its duties as stated in the announcement of the vacancy. If the selection of the final candidates will be based on significant changes in the criteria for the position or its duties as stated in the original announcement, the institution should start a new search.


The Offer and Acceptance

  1. The institution may wish to provide informal notification to the successful candidate of its intention to offer an appointment, but the formal offer itself should be an unequivocal letter of appointment signed by the responsible institutional officer. “Oral offers” and “oral acceptances” should not be considered binding, but communications between the successful candidate and those representing the institution should be frank and accurate, for significant decisions are likely to be based on these exchanges. The written offer of appointment should be given to the candidate within ten days of the institution’s having conveyed an intention to make the offer; a candidate should be informed promptly if the offer is not to be forthcoming within ten days.
  2. The terms of an offer to an individual should be consistent with the announcement of the position. Each of the following should be stated clearly in the letter offering an appoint­ment: (a) the initial rank; (b) the length of the appointment; (c) conditions of renewal; (d) the salary and benefits; (e) the duties of the position; (f) as applicable, whether the appointment is with tenure, the amount of credit toward tenure for prior service, and the maximum length of the probationary period; (g) as applicable, the institution’s “start­up” commitments for the appointment (for example, equipment and laboratory space); (h) the date when the appointment begins and the date when the candidate is expected to report; (i) the date by which the candidate’s response to the offer is expected, which should not be less than two weeks from receipt of the offer; and (j) details of institution­al policies and regulations that bear upon the appointment. Specific information on other relevant matters also should be conveyed in writing to the prospective appointee.
  3. An offer of appointment to a faculty member serving at another institution should be made no later than May 1, consistent with the faculty member’s obligation to resign, in order to accept other employment, no later than May 15.2 It is recognized that, in special cases, it might be appropriate to make an offer after May 1, but in such cases there should be an agreement by all concerned parties.
  4. The acceptance of a position is a written, affirmative, and unconditional response sent by the candidate to the institution no later than the date stated in the offer of appointment. If the candidate wishes to accept the offer contingent upon conditions, those conditions should be specified and communicated promptly in writing to the institution which is offering the position.
  5. If the candidate wishes to retain an affiliation with his or her current institution, that cir­cumstance should be brought promptly to the attention of the current institution and the recruiting institution.
  6. Individuals who accept an appointment should arrive at the institution in sufficient time to prepare for their duties and to participate in orientation programs.



1. For specific considerations of affirmative action in the recruitment of faculty, see the AAUP’s “Affirma­tive­Action Plans: Recommended Procedures for Increasing the Number of Minority Persons and Women on College and University Faculties,” AAUP, Policy Documents and Reports, 10th ed. (Washington, D.C., 2006), 237–43.

2. See the “Statement on Recruitment and Resignation of Faculty Members,” issued jointly by the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges (now the Association of American Colleges and Universities), Policy Documents and Reports, 177–78.