Friday, October 14, 2005

A Diversity Candidate in Every Pool

A Dean down at Marquette made the news for making public and explicit a policy that was surely in place earlier.

It is clear, for example, that there is overt pressure from above here at Oshkosh to make sure minority and women candidates are represented in final lists for faculty positions. No "official" policy exists, but search committees are made aware of their responsibilities towards diversity.

It is a real quandary when it comes to academics. I used to believe that academia was a place where merit was the ultimate arbiter of success. How naive was I!! Intellectual excellence is only one of many qualities deemed necessary when it comes to the academy. Much more important is having the right contacts.

These diversity questions go the heart of the incestuous networks of scholars that exist throughout our profession. How do you break in, if you do not have contacts with the right circles? However, these circles are really quite diverse, as opposed to the simple old-boys networks of corporate America. This is not to say that academia is anything but the preserve of the white middle-class, but there is a lot of self-consciousness and soul-searching about that problem.

Can simply forcing committees to look at diverse candidates help them break these barriers? Does this demand simply reinforce the strength of academic networks? I don't know the answer and I don't know where I stand on administratively-decreed diversity requirements.

Inside Higher Ed :: A Diversity Candidate in Every Pool

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