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Opportunity and Spousal/Partner Hires

Note:  As of May 10, 2022, financial support from the Provost’s Office for this program is not available. However, College wishing to pursue Opportunity Hires using their own funds should still complete the request form since it functions as the search exemption request. Those wishing permission to purse a spousal hire using their own funds should complete this request form.

Note: This memo was reviewed and affirmed by the Council of Deans and the Office of the Provost on November 6, 2008. It was revised and affirmed by the Council of Deans, the Office of the Provost, and the Faculty Senate Executive Committee on August 31, 2009.

The purpose of this memo is to further define the situations and criteria for the pursuit of Opportunity Hires at UT Knoxville. This hiring process, first launched in October 2006, is intended to provide a framework and funding mechanism for the recruitment of “faculty who meet identified needs within the university.” This would include individuals who “offer diversity in areas where under-representation exists or who bring a unique or different perspective because of their professional or personal backgrounds, interests, or expertise.”

Opportunity Hiring is a special hiring process that is typically characterized by one or more of the following:

  • There is no immediately available hiring line or open position in the hiring unit, although there is anticipation of one in the coming years,
  • “Bridge funding” is requested from the campus to support the costs of the hire in the early years (the bridge period) until the hiring unit can fully fund the position, and
  • The individual being hired is exceptional in all regards; the assumption being that this candidate would be lost to future searches if not immediately pursued.
  • OED typically waives the normal open search requirements.

At the outset, it is important to note that Opportunity Hires are not intended to circumvent a normal search process. In all cases where a candidate might be hired through a normal, open and competitive search process, then, that should be the preference. Both the candidate and the faculty hiring unit will ultimately have more confidence in the decision when that is the case. In the extreme, too many hires under the Opportunity Hire umbrella might be viewed with skepticism and may even unfairly harm the reputation of the faculty members hired. In short, this hiring practice should be the exception and not the rule. Finally, even though Opportunity Hires do not follow the normal search process, OED is typically included in the hiring process.

There are certain conditions under which it is appropriate and advantageous to pursue an opportunity recruiting/hiring strategy as specified below.

1. Targeted Hires

  1. When the unit is searching for a very restricted set of skills and experiences and the pool of qualified candidates is small and identifiable. A good example would be the narrowly qualified searches for the Governor’s Chair candidates.
  2. When a unique window of opportunity to hire a desirable faculty member presents itself outside of the normal search timeframe, i.e., when there is a mismatch between the “opportunity” to hire an individual and the availability of an open faculty position.
  3. A special type of Opportunity Hire is where the accompanying spouse/partner of a UT faculty recruit is also looking for a faculty position (for more information, see “Spousal and Domestic Partner Hires” below).

2. Excellence in a Search Pool

  1. When, in the conduct of a normal search process, the committee identifies multiple excellent candidates in the applicant pool beyond the top candidate, and the hiring unit wishes to pursue additional candidates from the pool as Opportunity Hires.

3. One-Year Appointments

  1. When there are opportunities to bring in desirable faculty members for one-year appointments, including but not limited to visiting scholars, post-docs, etc.

The following criteria should be considered in making an Opportunity Hire.

1. Excellent Applicant Qualifications

  1. The individual should be outstanding in his/her field; these are candidates who would rise to the top of an applicant pool in a normal, open search process.
  2. The faculty in the hiring unit should be in agreement about the desirability and qualifications of the spouse/partner, including a positive evaluation of his/her likelihood of success in the future tenure and promotion decisions, where applicable.

2. Financial Support

  1. The department must have the financial strength to share in the funding of the hire during the bridge period and then to provide total faculty compensation after the bridge period (no more than four years).
    1. In the instance of a tenure track opportunity hire, an open faculty position is anticipated at some point during the bridge period. Or
    2. The faculty member may be otherwise self-supporting by the end of the bridge period, e.g., through research grants and contracts.
  2. Typical funding models include but are not limited to the following examples:
    1. A two-way split between the campus and the hiring unit over a four-year period in which the campus pays 100 percent of the salary in year one, 75 percent in year two, 50 percent in year three, 25 percent in year four, and the department fully funds the salary beyond year four.
    2. For spousal/partner hires, a three-way split between the unit hiring the recruited faculty member, the unit hiring the spouse/partner, and the campus over a specific term, e.g., three years, until the partner can become self-funding, e.g., through research grants and contracts.
    3. Other creative and appropriate funding solutions that can be agreed upon by the hiring units and the Provost’s Office.

College deans wishing to pursue an Opportunity Hire should submit a proposal to the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs using this form.  While there is no longer financial support available, this form should still be completed as it functions as the search exemption request.

For the purposes of this policy, a domestic partnership is a legal or personal relationship between individuals who live together and share a common domestic life but are not joined in a traditional marriage.

The Spousal and Domestic Partner Hiring Program provides a framework and funding for the recruitment of outstanding faculty candidates whose spouses or domestic partners are also recruited to faculty positions on the Knoxville campus. Typically, a faculty member being recruited in one department or unit triggers an unanticipated hire in another department/unit for his/her spouse or partner (although on occasion both are hired into the same department/unit). Because of the nature of these hires, it is rare that the unit hiring the spouse/partner has a ready need and open position that matches the exact qualifications of the spouse/partner. More often, this program will support recruitment of faculty spouse/partner with expertise attractive to one or more departmental units that do not have an available FTE for recruitment. Spousal and domestic partner hires are thus a special type of Opportunity Hire considered through a targeted recruitment process and in most cases necessitating a search waiver.

The Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs is available to facilitate discussions with the appropriate units and administrators on campus relevant to the spousal/partner hire. Once all parties agree to the conditions of the spousal hire, a proposal should be submitted using this form.

As an Opportunity Hire, funding for spousal and domestic partner hires is available as seed money to phase in appointments which are eventually supported through department/college base budgets (e.g., open faculty lines) or through self-funded grant and contract activity. Funding may be requested for one to four years. If the individual so supported leaves the university, any future funding reverts to the pool maintained by the Provost’s Office. (See “Criteria for an Opportunity Hire” and “Process for Hiring” above for more details.)