How can we help? Supporting new academic hires

Berkeley offers an extensive service for new academics

Support for newly recruited academic staff tends to be fairly limited in UK universities. And even less is offered to other groups of staff. Although you might get an invitation to some kind of induction event and a half-decent lunch if you are lucky. Inside Higher Edreports on the appointment of a concierge at Berkeley to help new faculty acclimatise to their new environment:

The concierge job is Berkeley’s way of offering a seamless service for new faculty hires, something that was previously taken care of by various departments as they went about recruiting faculty. Bagnatori, who reports to the university’s office of faculty equity and welfare, is now the one-stop shop for new faculty members, and usually their requests have little to do with academic life.

Angelica Stacy, associate vice provost for faculty at Berkeley, said the concierge position was created to ensure a good transition for new faculty members. “Our goal was to have a place to talk confidentially, be it a renting situation, elder care or what schools your children should go to,” Stacy said. “We make an investment when we hire new faculty; we want them to stay long-term.”

Stacy added that people tend to remember how they were welcomed and the kind of help they were provided when they began a new job. New hires “will be more successful if everything else is working well,” she said.

It’s a nice idea but is this really the kind of thing universities should be spending money on? After all, if staff are accustomed to the idea their new employer will find them child care or someone to look after their pets, won’t this encourage unrealistic expectations about ongoing support? Won’t this foster prima donna behaviour?

Having said that there is something to be said for this kind of co-ordination of staff support and it is arguably particularly valuable for international staff who do need more help with the practical side of living and working in a new country.