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Sec VIII – Faculty Diversity

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VIII. Faculty Diversity

We believe that faculty and student diversity is vital for every aspect of our research, teaching, and outreach missions. Diverse faculty and students help us recruit the widest range of new faculty and talented graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, all of whom are central to the research enterprise….

Tom Daniel, Chair of Biology

Hiring and Retaining a Diverse Faculty

The development of a diverse faculty is essential to the achievement of the central University missions of excellence in teaching and research. Only through faculty diversity will we draw upon the full range of perspectives that both challenge and inform knowledge production and dissemination. Research on best practices in faculty diversity and toolkits for hiring, retention and promotion are prolific (Ervin, 2004; Trower and Chait, 2002; Turner, 2002; University of Washington ADVANCE Program, 2003; University of Wisconsin, n.d.). Smith and Moses suggest, however, that success begins with addressing the many myths about availability, competitiveness and costs.* Most academic diversity appraisal reports expressed commitment to a diverse faculty. Many departments have developed effective programs for faculty recruitment and retention, fully integrating diversity as a standard of academic excellence that supports scholarship and teaching.

Many academic department reports also expressed concern over repeated and failed attempts to retain underrepresented women faculty members and especially faculty of color. They cited several reasons for failure to retain faculty members, including lack of community and networks of support, unwelcoming climate, pressures on underrepresented faculty members to take on all diversity-related teaching and student advising responsibilities, lack of respect among faculty peers for diversity-related research, and lack of mentoring for career advancement. It is clear from the reports that more institutional planning and support is needed to achieve faculty diversity.

Administrative Support and Oversight

The Equal Opportunity Office (EOO) ensures that faculty hiring at the University of Washington complies with Federal and State affirmative action policies. EOO prepares an annual affirmative action plan regarding employment, with a focus on race, ethnicity, sex, persons with disabilities, Vietnam era veterans, disabled veterans and persons 40 and over.** EOO collects faculty applicant data as part of a larger effort to improve the faculty hiring process, reviews hiring advertisements for legal compliance and reminds departments to use the Faculty Recruitment Toolkit for guidance. The EOO report stresses that responsibility for faculty diversity rests first with the faculty itself and then with the deans to assure that their faculty are making appropriate efforts in this area.

The Office of the Provost provides economic support to units to bring in additional candidates in local searches if it will add to the diversity of the candidate pool. The Office is open to providing additional resources to units when there are opportunities to hire additional faculty who add to the diversity of the University.

The Faculty Senate Special Committee on Minority Faculty Affairs and the Faculty Senate Special Committee on Women have been in existence since 1970 and serve to bring issues regarding race, ethnicity and gender to the attention of the Faculty Senate. Other committees, such as the Gay, Bisexual, Lesbian and Transgender Issues and the Disability Committees of the University Diversity Council, and the President’s Advisory Committee on Women include faculty issues under their purview. In 2003, an ad-hoc Faculty of Color Group formed to address continuing issues of recruitment and retention of faculty of color.

Examples of Good Practice

  • Identifying barriers and challenges. Several faculty diversity committees and advocacy groups exist, such as the President’s Advisory Committee on Women, the Faculty Senate Special Committee on Minority Faculty Affairs, and the GBLT and Disability Committees of the Diversity Council. An ad-hoc Faculty of Color Group addresses continuing issues of recruitment and retention of faculty of color and communicates concerns and strategies to the administration for review and action.
  • Creating a departmental mission to improve, promote and support diversity within the unit. Several departments clarify how they have sought to institutionalize diversity within departmental culture, initiatives, objectives, curriculum, and faculty hiring and retention. The Law, Societies and Justice Program, for example, has transformed its curriculum to focus on social justice and created one of the most diverse program faculties on campus by inviting faculty into the program whose expertise focuses on diversity.
  • Developing effective recruitment and retention processes. Success in achieving faculty diversity begins with addressing the many myths about availability, competitiveness, and costs. The Office of the Provost, the Office of the Vice President and Vice Provost for Diversity, and the Graduate Opportunities and Minority Achievement Program and ADVANCE programs are sponsoring a series of workshops for senior administrators and department chairs to create effective search processes. Toolkits developed by the College of Engineering Center for Institutional Change provide guidance to departments in hiring and retention.
  • Focusing on curricular needs. By committing to teaching a much larger number of courses focusing on concerned with gender, race, ethnicity, nationalism, class, and colonialism, the Department of History enlarged the diversity of its candidate pool and made a greater number of appointments of underrepresented minorities. The College and University have assisted in this effort by creating new positions (e.g. in African American history and the history of the Philippines) where none had existed before.
  • Creating intellectual community for diverse faculty. The Department of Political Science has implemented a cohort hiring plan to recruit new faculty members with diversity research interests in order to create a departmental cluster that provides intellectual support for faculty members. Some departments, which still lack diversity in their faculty, host visiting scholars and promote interdisciplinary programs and activities that draw diverse faculty members and students from other departments.
  • Recognizing departmental challenges and maintaining efforts to change. The Department of English reports that while significant work has been undertaken by individual departmental faculty in the areas of race, racism, gender, sexuality, national identity and related issues, the department as a whole can do more to implement strategies to increase diversity courses, undergraduate majors, graduate students, and staff and faculty members.
  • Creating economic support that mitigates some of barriers to advancement. ADVANCE Transitional Support Program (TSP), recognizes that while the University may have excellent leave policies, certain situations may require different solutions or supplemental support. TSP, now institutionalized as a pilot University program, provides additional support for tenure-track faculty who are in the midst of major life transitions, such as the birth or adoption of a child, personal medical needs, family illness, caring for an elderly parent, and to assist in balancing personal life and career goals.

Challenges and Recommendations

  • Developing a clear and consistent message that faculty diversity is an institutional priority. In the wake of the passage of I-200, clear communications about the institution’s commitment to achieving faculty diversity are needed. Administrators need to set high expectations for diversifying the faculty at the school/college level, monitor progress and reward success in recruitment and retention.
  • Creating consensus across departments that faculty diversity is achievable. Some departments believe that candidates from underrepresented groups who could meet their standards of quality are too rare to result in hiring successes. Regularly conducting workshops on effective searches, proactive hiring processes, competitive offers, and faculty support after hiring, modeled on the College of Engineering’s Center for Institutional Change, would result in success even in a tight market.
  • Addressing the financial competition with peer institutions for candidates. Many reports detail failed offers to candidates who might diversify faculty as well as detailing the loss of tenure-track and tenured faculty members who have been recruited by other institutions with salary increases or increased research funding opportunities. Additional economic resources are needed to assist with recruitment and retention of diverse faculty members.
  • Creating community relationships. More than political or economic importance, linking students and faculty with a broader community has important social effects. Efforts like these could have a positive impact on recruitment and retention. Faculty members have new environments for research, opportunities for new forms of pedagogy such as service learning, and new avenues for professional development from connections with agencies and businesses.
  • Investigating and improving departmental and university climate. A study is needed that investigates the relationship between department and University climate and attrition rates of faculty of color.

* Presentation by Daryl Smith and Yolanda Moses at UW Senior Administrators Workshop (May 17, 2004).
** Demographic information about the University of Washington’s faculty is available to the public online at

Next: Section IX. Diversity in Curriculum