The hiring process requires both confidentiality and disclosure. One of the biggest challenges of maintaining confidentiality within the search is the off-the-cuff informal comments search committee members may make to colleagues. John Dowling, Sr. University Legal Counsel, UW-Madison recommends that to keep the process as focused and self-contained as possible, specifics of the search should not be discussed with anyone outside the search committee until finalists are announced. This is to respect and protect the privacy of candidates and to protect the committee or hiring group. Those making the selection must be free to discuss the candidates without fearing that their comments will be shared outside the deliberations. The names of candidates who have requested confidentiality should not be brought up even in casual conversations. This information should be held confidential in perpetuity, not just until the search is over.

Mariamne Whatley, Associate Dean, and Chair of the Equity And Diversity Committee, School of Education, says a UW-Madison search was derailed because of an offhand comment at a national conference which quickly spread through the grapevine. The Virginia Tech Faculty Search Manual includes several examples of confidentiality breaches including this one:

At a prestigious New England college, a committee member discreetly raised for discussion a widely-shared doubt about an internal candidate; another member leaked that "negative statement" back to the candidate, with the result that the member's candor reaped in return the bitter, enduring enmity of a circle of faculty colleagues (some of whom were neighbors).

Since June 1992, the University has been required by law, (Sec.19.36 (7) Wisconsin Statutes) to provide information upon request on all searches involving unclassified (faculty, academic staff, and administrative) positions. See “Access to Names of Nominees and Applicants” in School of Education’s Tips for Search Committees. Key points from that document are summarized in the chart below.

Disclosure of Candidate Information
What Must be Disclosed?  Names, titles or occupations, and addresses of all final candidates and any other nominees and applicants who do not object in writing, to disclosing their identity.
How?  One alphabetized list of names (also titles/occupations and addresses) of all final candidates and any others who did not object to revealing their identity. List should not be separated into finalists, candidates, etc.
Who May Recieve The Information?  Any person or organization can request and receive this information according to the law.
What does This Mean for the Search Committe?  
  1. A statement informing applicants that their names may be made public if they are finalists, or if they do not request confidentiality, will appear on the PVL and must be added to all announcements of the vacancy
  2. Applicants, when informed that their application has been received should be advised of this law and provided the opportunity to indicate, in writing, if they do not wish to have their identity revealed. Candidates should also be told about disclosure of finalists’ names.
  3. Once the list of finalists and applicants who did not object to revealing their names has been furnished to a requester, other applications cannot be accepted without establishing and publicly announcing a new (secondary) deadline. Application language such as “or later when a suitable candidate is found” is no longer acceptable.


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