Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

Interrupting the Usual: Successful Strategies for Hiring Diverse Faculty

Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

Interrupting the Usual: Successful Strategies for Hiring Diverse Faculty

Article excerpt

Introduction

Across the country, hundreds of campuses are engaged in efforts to diversify their faculties ethnically/racially, in response to both internal and external pressures. While fueled by numerous arguments related to the increasing diversity of their student body and the need to prepare all students for a diverse society, the reality is that perhaps the least successful of all the many diversity initiatives on campuses are those in the area of faculty diversity. Despite years of affirmative action policies, faculty of color continue to be underrepresented in higher education (Astin, Antonio, Cress, & Astin, 1997; Black-shire-Belay, 1998; Harvey, 2001; Pavel, Swisher, & Ward, 1994; Trower & Chait, 2002; Turner & Myers, 2000; Wilson, 1995a,b).

In response to this reality, the current literature offers numerous explanations for the low representation of faculty of color in the academy, coupled with suggestions for improving this condition. While increasing attention is being paid to the condition of Asian-American faculty, the bulk of the research today has focused on historically underrepresented African-American, Latino/a, and American Indian faculty. However, few studies to date stem from empirical work that considers the conditions under which appointments are made that contribute to a diverse faculty. Given the significance of hiring processes and practices in achieving a diverse faculty, this study examines the departmental search committee process and those conditions that lead to hiring diverse faculty in terms of race/ethnicity and gender.

Specifically, this study examines whether specific interventions account for the hiring of diverse faculty above and beyond hiring done in academic areas specifically focused on race and ethnicity. Using data from approximately 700 searches, we investigate the hypothesis that at institutions with predominantly White populations, hiring of faculty from underrepresented groups (African-Americans, Latina/os, and American Indians) occurs when at least one of the following three designated conditions are met: (1) The job description used to recruit faculty members explicitly engages diversity at the department or subfield level: (2) An institutional "special hire" strategy, such as waiver of a search, target of opportunity hire, or spousal hire, is used; (3) The search is conducted by an ethnically/racially diverse search committee.

Brief Review of the Literature

A large part of the literature on faculty diversity suggests that the lack of faculty of color stems from the relatively few, particularly underrepresented, students of color earning doctorates (Adams, 1988; Bowen & Schuster, 1986; Bowen & Sosa, 1989; Clotfelter, Ehrenberg, Getz, & Sigfried, 1991; CPEC, 1990; Myers & Turner, 1995; National Center for Educational Statistics, 1992; Norrell & Gill, 1991; Ottinger, Sikula, & Washington, 1993; Schuster, 1992; Solorzano, 1993; Thurgood & Clarke, 1995). For example, Linda J. Sax, director of a research program that oversees the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) national faculty survey, explains the decline in proportional minority faculty representation in the 1998-1999 survey by saying, "There hasn't been much of an increase in minority doctoral recipients over the same period--they're still only 12 percent of the Ph.D.'s" (Magner, 1999, p. A18). Viewing the issue of doctorates awarded in relationship to gains in faculty hires from the same relational premise, Aguirre (2000), examining data from 1980 to 1993, suggests that the relationship between doctoral attainment pools and faculty hiring numbers are in some cases (though not always) positively related. The use of the pool argument to explain the lack of diverse faculty is often asserted by administrators and faculty. For example, commenting on the institution's lack of progress in hiring African Americans, former president of Harvard University, Neil Rudenstine, stated that "we have to keep going back to the still really unfortunate problem of the fact that only two percent of Ph. …

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