They Have the Jobs

Nov 14, 2019 by

by Mark Bauerlein, First Things:

How will you improve diversity at our school?” That’s a question often asked in faculty job interviews today. A more elegant version appears in a University of California, Davis document quoted in an advice column in the Chronicle of Higher Education: “The University is committed to building a culturally diverse and inclusive environment. How would you further this goal?” The field doesn’t matter. You may be an aspiring historian of science, a cognitive psychologist, or an expert in Medieval French—the question will come up. The hiring committee reviewed your scholarship and letters of recommendation. Maybe they have an appraisal of your teaching, too. Now, in the face-to-face or Skype meeting, they want to know what you will do to bring more underrepresented identities to the department and the college.

Most young candidates won’t have given the issue much thought. They’ve been immersed in their ­theses. They’ve had to pay rent and buy groceries, teach workaday classes in Freshman Comp or French 100, or TA in Art History or American History sophomore surveys. Faculty advisers wanted to see finished chapters of the dissertation, not expressions of diversity affirmation.

But in 2019, everyone who aims for an academic post had better have an answer to the diversity question. Have you taught many minority students in the past and pushed them forward to success? Have you any experience with trans students? Have you worked with LGBT groups? Did your research pay special attention to the challenges faced by minority groups past and present? Any service to immigrant populations?

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