Even before the roll-backs on affirmative action plans, there were many reasons why equity and diversity in the composition of faculty was not being achieved in institutions of higher education. One major obstacle arises when departments feel that equity/diversity concerns would require them to appoint to their line someone whom they wouldn't have chosen in "open" competition. The scheme described here distributes any cost to making equity/diversity enhancing hires across all departments, not just the particular department making the hire.
What follows is not intended to be treated as a proposal to be accepted or rejected as a whole, but as an invitation to fashion an acceptable proposal that addresses the points addressed by this one.
1. An given institution should "create" (see Mechanism below) an institution-wide pool of "equity/diversity enhancement" (EDE) lines.
2. Departments could then apply during a normal search to offer an additional applicant an appointment using a line from this pool.
3. These EDE lines would normally be reserved for applicants from an underrepresented group. However, when the first appointment during a search is to a person from an underrepresented group, then a second appointment could be applied for even if this person is not from an underrepresented group. (This possibility should eliminate any incentive for departments to manipulate the ranking of candidates hoping to increase their chance of securing the additional EDE line.)
4. The EDE line stays with the department only as long as the appointee does. The appointee goes through normal tenure and promotion decisions, free from the ill-feeling that comes from occupying a line that some people in the department thought might have gone to a better candidate, or, at least, to a candidate more suited to the department's perceived needs at that time.
5. Given that the candidate arose from a normal search and is reviewed after their appointment on normal terms (see point 4 above), any possible stigma attached to occupying a special line should be minimized. (Also, given point 3 above, in certain circumstances even white men might occupy EDE lines.)
6. This scheme is not intended to redress all inequities or to supplant other efforts to address equity and diversity, such as, target of opportunity appointments and improved mentoring.
1. No increase in the number of lines funded or endowed is required, nor are lines taken away from departments. Instead a pool of additional equity/diversity enhancement lines is "created" by delaying rehiring after retirements or resignations. This would work as follows:
2. Consider the faculty lines in the institution as a whole. Suppose this numbers 1000.
3. The institution decides on the ratio of EDE lines to existing lines. Suppose this is set at 1:25. That is, at any time there should be 40 equity/diversity enhancement lines either occupied or available from the pool.
4. This pool should be built up over time by departments delaying rehiring for a year longer than usual after retirements or resignations. (If there are already freezes related to budgetary conditions, the delay would be added to the length of the freeze. That is, this scheme is not ruled out by dire budgetary circumstances.)
5. The exact length of the delay needs to be calculated using actual figures. However, suppose the average length of an appointment is 25 years, then delaying each normal appointment by a year should be sufficient to maintain a pool of EDE lines equal to 4% of the number of normal lines.
6. The size of the pool could be reduced as equity is approached simply by not returning a vacated EDE line to the pool and reducing the delay time correspondingly. Conversely, if equity/diversity is not being reached quickly enough the institution can decide to increase the delay time and pool.
Details & options
1. Suggested definition of an underrepresented group. Any ethnic group or the overall category of women are considered underrepresented at the institution or in a particular department if their proportion at the institution or in the department, respectively, is lower than their proportion in the US population at large.
2. Equity/ diversity goals -- local or global? There are different ways of setting goals -- on a departmental basis, division basis, institution-wide basis -- leading to different criteria for whether a department can apply for such an EDE line. The institution's policy could be that a department can apply to appoint an additional candidate a) from a group underrepresented at the institution as a whole, whether or not the group is underrepresented in the department; or b) only from a group underrepresented both in the department and at the institution; or some hybrid scheme, say, c) from a group underrepresented at the institution and not more than 25% overrepresented in the department.
3. Given the existing character of some fields, some departments will tend to have fewer equity/diversity candidates and be less likely to be in a position to apply to appoint a candidate using an EDE line. Such departments can either see this scheme as unfair to them, take it as an incentive to work in their profession to increase the pool of candidates in the future, or accept their situation as a small cost to pay for equity/diversity in the university at large.
4. For departments to be in a position to apply for an EDE line they would need to write their job descriptions sufficiently broadly so as not to exclude good candidates from underrepresented groups.
5. Small departments or departments with a run of vacancies may find it harder to cover courses and other tasks during the delay in rehiring. Contingency money to hire a recent Ph.D. student as a lecturer (or an adjunct or visiting assistant professor) could be made available and applied for in these circumstances. In general, however, the "hole" from the hiring delay might be viewed by faculty as a shared burden, necessitated by the pursuit of equity and diversity at the institution.
6. Competition for equity/diversity enhancement lines. In any year there might be more requests for EDE lines than are available in the pool. A deadline for requests could be set (say, April 1st) and then the Provost or Deans would decide quickly which departments are authorized to make the second appointment. The decision could be made a) by outright lottery, b) by lottery weighted towards those departments with least equity/diversity, or c) by strength of the case made by the department.
7. Suppose the required delay in rehiring comes out not to be a whole number, but say, 10 months. An alternative to every department delaying rehiring by 10 months would be to delay five out of every six re-hires by a year. In this case departments and institutions would have to take turns in proportion to their size (in faculty lines).