February 28th, 2011

Faculty Hiring: Guidelines for Promoting Diversity

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There are many reasons for wishing to increase the diversity of your faculty. They include improving recruitment and retention, raising student engagement, increasing innovation, building stronger communities and helping to prepare tomorrow’s leaders and citizens.

In the recent video seminar, Recruiting a Racially Diverse, Culturally Competent Faculty, Vernon Wall and Kathy Obear, both founding faculty members of the Social Justice Training Institute, offered numerous strategies to help achieve this important goal at your institution. According to Wall and Obear, the search process is very important, but it’s just one part of a comprehensive approach that involves many different components of the overall campus climate. Their recommendations included:

  • Partnering with the local community
  • Building a pipeline of potential candidates
  • Investing in each new hire
  • Providing professional development and mentorship
  • Focusing on collegiality
  • Increasing the transparency of the tenure process, and
  • Collecting metrics on current and past search processes

Wall and Obear admitted that there are some significant challenges to overcome in improving recruitment, which range from the percentage of people of color in certain academic disciplines to your school’s geographic location. They are strong advocates of formal mentoring with an organized structure of supportive relationships. They pointed out, however, that potential new hires will not just be concerned about whether they will have the support they need to succeed in their professional positions. They will also need to know that their families will find welcoming relationships and services in the surrounding community in order to thrive.

Your first chance to connect with potential faculty can be your website, which must accurately represent your current institutional commitment to these important issues. According to Obear, prospective candidates must see a picture that demonstrates how you are “intentionally creating a community environment that is supportive of people of color and their families.”

The presenters also recommended auditing and assessing your search and selection data over the last five to ten years in order to identify best practices and uncover areas of weakness in your hiring processes. This information needs to be shared across departments and divisions in order to coordinate efforts. They noted that it is particularly helpful to determine which past hires have been most successful, in terms of retention and promotion, and then to try to build on the lessons of those positive outcomes.