Wheaton Does Diversity

By Krebs, Paula M. | Academe, September/October 2000 | Go to article overview

Wheaton Does Diversity


Krebs, Paula M., Academe


AST ACADEMIC YEAR, THE FACULTY AND students at Wheaton College, a liberal arts institution in Massachusetts, took a hard look around and concluded that putting "AA/EOE" in our ads was not good enough. We had to get more serious if we wanted a faculty that even remotely reElected the diversity of the United States into which our students would be graduating. So, as part of a campuswide initiative, we in the English department tried some new recruitment techniques. Our administration encouraged us, even arranging a workshop at which we heard from minority faculty from other institutions. These visitors gave us valuable tips on recruiting, hiring, and retaining faculty of color.

In the years preceding our new strategy, we had been a department of nine or ten white people and one person of color. The slot filled by an African American each year was, however, off the tenure track, it was a renewable short-term line for a creative writer. We decided that if we wanted, among other goals, to attract minority students to our major, we would have to show a real commitment to minority hiring,

So, working with the administration, we converted that creative writing slot to a tenure-track position that receives a course release for advising minority students. When a college has few African American faculty members, they spend a lot of time advising minority students, and we found that oficial recognition of that extra workload went a long way toward attracting qualified candidates of all backgrounds who had had experience advising minority students. Another decision we made about searches was that we would move quickly for all finalists. We extended some invitations for campus visits before candidates even left the Modern Language Association convention, where we conducted initial interviews. This strategy proved especially valuable: our top candidates for two jobs knew how serious we were about them; we became a standard against which they compared the enthusiasm and seriousness of other institutions.

Once our candidates came to campus, just days after the convention, we pulled out all the stops. We wined and dined them as enthusiastically as we would any candidate for a top administrative post-not with lots of money but with lots of attention to what we thought they'd want to know. …

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