Across academe, search committees are being established in anticipation of job announcements. The composition of these committees is often a matter of policy, with specific guidelines about who will serve (the ratio of men/women and senior/junior faculty members, and the representation from other units, from underrepresented populations, and from human resources).
Searches are hard, and the duties are not to be taken lightly. They can become fraught with political challenges as well. For many deans and department chairs, the empaneling of search committees is among the most complicated decisions they must make. As I have noted previously in this space, there is a saying that is pretty accurate: First-rate search committees hire first-rate candidates; second-rate committees hire third-rate candidates.
What is the best way to establish a search committee? How large should a committee be? Should the department chair be an active member of the committee? Is it wise to have a policy in place to guide the formation of the committee? Or does such a policy limit flexibility in dealing with the dynamics of the search process?