PROVO — The freeze is dead — long live the thaw.

BYU confirmed Friday the lifting of a hiring freeze that had been in place for nearly two years.

"It was announced today at some meetings the president had with university leadership that the hiring freeze has been lifted," BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said. "Although the hiring freeze has been lifted, it will be a gradual hiring process. … This is true for every department and every area on campus. Some positions will be able to open up quite quickly; others, the departments will need to take their time."

Jenkins added that the rescinding of the hiring freeze is applicable at all other higher-education institutions belonging to the LDS-affiliated Church Educational System.

In a letter sent Friday to BYU faculty, academic vice president John S. Tanner emphasized the need to hire the right people at a time when more vacancies exist than normal.

"We have instructed deans and chairs that we should not rush to fill every position," Tanner wrote. "We expect that it will take several years to find faculty prepared to meet our high expectations for continuing faculty status …

"At the same time, may I suggest that the thaw will be just as challenging in its way as was the freeze, and even more decisive for our future. The choices we make during the next few years will have a major impact on the quality of the university for many years to come."

Citing "the recent economic downturn," BYU announced a hiring freeze on Dec. 19, 2008, applicable to all positions except student employees and a select few auxiliary workers. During the hiring freeze, for example, BYU often hired short-term visiting faculty when continuing-faculty positions opened up.