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Organizational Responses to the Labor Market: A Study of Faculty Searches in Comprehensive Colleges and Universities

Ted I. K. Youn and Zelda F. Gamson
Higher Education
Vol. 28, No. 2 (Sep., 1994), pp. 189-205
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3447752
Page Count: 17
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Organizational Responses to the Labor Market: A Study of Faculty Searches in Comprehensive Colleges and Universities
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Abstract

Shifts in the labor market require adaptive responses on the part of formal organizations. Such organizational responses are shown in changes in recruitment strategies. This study examines how departments in comprehensive colleges and universities formulate their faculty recruitment strategies and set standards for new faculty personnel. Comprehensive institutions are neither research universities nor liberal arts colleges. Even though most offer graduate degrees at the master's level in such areas as teacher training and business programs, they are predominantly devoted to undergraduate education. Lacking strong ties to distinctive beliefs and identities, these institutions have become increasingly vulnerable to environmental changes. Based on extensive fieldwork at four institutions, this paper focuses on twenty faculty searches conducted over a period of substantial changes in academic labor markets. Several common search episodes are identified. The general pattern of recruitment strategies is shaped by the rule of status competition in a prestige hierarchy: less prestigious organizations compete for institutional legitimacy by adopting the norms of more prestigious organizations. Search-related practices in these comprehensive institutions are, therefore, organized around the institutional rituals that conform to the standards of more prestigious research universities and elite liberal arts colleges. Search and recruitment practices often reflect a ritualized form of preoccupation with credentials, specialities, and procedures. Despite their initial emphasis on specific goals, those involved in the search were less concerned about search outcomes than about processes.

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