Opinion: A more diverse college faculty matters for everyone — here’s how to overcome claims that finding good hires is impossible

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I have interviewed more than 100 university rectors, deans, and department directors across the country at some of our best-known public and private research universities about their hiring processes and how they build a diverse faculty. As I listened to these leaders, I often heard the same explanation: “I tried to find the faculty of color, but I can’t find any, nowhere.”

The most frustrating thing was the frank admission that the faculty recruitment process is exclusive, focusing on the pedigree above all (where did you get your PhD – and only a few institutions matter – and who was your advisor? doctorate) and reproduces equality. : 75% of teachers are white. Many of those I interviewed knew there was a problem with the hiring system, but they said, “I can’t do much about it. It won’t change.”

These hiring problems in universities are not unique. The same explanation was used in 2020 by Wells Fargo CEO Charles Scharf when he stated: “While it may seem like an excuse, the unfortunate reality is that there is a very limited group of black talent to recruit.”

However, there are strategies that university leaders can use to hire diverse faculty, and it is important that they achieve this goal for the good of their students, the diversity of perspectives that help lead to much-needed innovative ideas, and the achievement of “American dream” to give everyone a fair chance.

One of the most effective approaches to hiring a diverse faculty is to deal with the typical excuses that derail color candidates. These include search committees that assume that color candidates are not in the portfolio, that color candidates will not accept a job based on location, and that the institution cannot meet the salary requirements of color candidates because they believe that these people are being persecuted in a bidding war.

An administrator told me, “The faculty will say [even though] We’re in a big city, ‘brown people won’t come here. Our data shows that. ‘ Most importantly, he noted that his institution is beginning to realize that underrepresented group members can be seen in an institution when they receive an invitation to apply for a position. Showing sincere interest in candidates makes all the difference.

Daryl Smith, author of Promise of diversity for higher education, says academic leaders have told him that one of the reasons they can’t attract more diverse faculty is that they can’t afford to pay the high salaries they charge. The leaders told me the same thing. Many often say, “They won’t come here, we can’t afford it, and they won’t stay.”

In response, Smith decided to build a study on people who had received prestigious national scholarships. He identified 300 people of color and interviewed them, and finally found that these people did not get 10 job offers as a result of their scholarships, as many administrators had thought. They were getting less and less, and if they were in math and science, they had even fewer opportunities.

In addition, with regard to the “supply wars,” a 2017 national study, which covered six disciplines and focused on selective public universities, found that white men continue to have the highest salaries among teachers. Black and Latino teachers have the lowest salaries, earning between $ 10,000 and $ 15,000 less than their white peers, depending on academic discipline.

Princeton University Press

The lack of diverse representation in the portfolio of faculty positions is another common explanation for continuing to hire white faculty. However, some of the college leaders I spoke to are working hard to reverse this notion. When faced with wearing a colored colleague or no colleague, the faculty found colored colleagues looking outside their circles of academic friends, who were almost completely white. They were even able to find more people of color to hire the following year and have since diversified their departments.

The most effective leaders expect faculty recruitment committees to consult pipeline data, work to identify a diverse group of candidates, and not allow faculty to replicate year after year.

Systemic racism hurts us all and makes us weaker both intellectually and nationally. When we know there’s a problem and we don’t act, we let racism win and make it even harder to overcome. The leaders I spoke to did not consider themselves racists, but by not acting in the face of systemic racism, they maintain a racist system that excludes people of color and limits opportunities.

Marybeth Gasman is Samuel DeWitt Proctor’s Chair in Education and Distinguished Professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, and author of “Doing the Right Thing: How Colleges and Universities Can Undo Systemic Racism in Faculty Hiring.”

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