Recently in an interview for a full-time faculty position at the college I work as an adjunct; one of the members was a former student of mine. This student barely passed my class the first time and retook my class a second time to raise his grade. This seemed like a case of conflict of interest. The other adjunct in my dept, who also had this student was advanced to the second level of the interview process. I know this student is not a fan of mine and could have viewed this as a chance to "fail" me. I have spoken to our union rep but their answers are vague. Do I have reasons to take my issues to the next level-HR?

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    There are two different issues: Having a student on the panel, and having someone on the panel who has had prior interactions with a candidate that did not go well. There could be a similar issue if the OP had taken a class taught by a panel member, and complained about how the class was taught. – Patricia Shanahan Jul 9 '16 at 10:30
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    Is this person currently a student, or just a former student who is now at a later career stage? The question is unclear on this point. – Federico Poloni Jul 9 '16 at 11:38
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    I see no problem with having students on such a committee in general. There is, however, a problem when the student in question has (or even appears to have) a conflict of interest in a particular situation. If the student has failed a class taught by the candidate, I'd call that a conflict of interest, and I'd expect the student in question to be recused from that interview and the ensuing discussion and vote. – Andreas Blass Jul 9 '16 at 16:50
  • Is the student still a student, or is the student now teaching at this school? – user1482 Jul 10 '16 at 16:39

Some colleges and universities have students in hiring committees, either as observers, non-voting members, or full members. In the university where I studied, power was shared roughly 40% / 30% / 30% between faculty, staff, and students. Hence it was obvious that there would be student representatives as full voting members in almost every committee.

Individual members of the hiring committee tend to have conflicts of interest with individual applicants, especially because the committee is often selected in advance. When such conflicts occur, the conflicted member should find a way to handle the situation, e.g. by observing the interview instead of actively participating in it.

The situation gets interesting with internal applicants and student representatives, because every potential student representative probably has a conflict of interest. If university regulations state that there must be a student representative, then the student repersentative may have to participate in decisionmaking regardless of conflicts of interest. The relevant principle here is that if every potential representative has a conflict of interest, then no one has.

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    I've seen another way to solve the problem where everyone has a conflict of interest. Our college executive committee once encountered a case where a candidate for promotion had appointments in so many departments that all the natural science faculty on the committee had to be recused. So the dean picked a former member of the committee (me --- I had been on the committee a year or two earlier) and put me on the committee to replace the recused folks for this one case. I think such a solution could be used also for student members of a hiring committee. – Andreas Blass Jul 9 '16 at 16:47
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    @AndreasBlass With students and internal candidates, it's entirely possible that every potential replacement also has a conflict of interest. – Jouni Sirén Jul 9 '16 at 22:32

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