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Sep 11, 2017

Should we cancel an otherwise successful search, if the finalist pool lacks diversity?

This is not a hypothetical question; at least one of our faculty members answered “yes” to it; others probably think the same. The question is different from what and how much should have been done at the recruitment stage; it is important, but should be addressed separately. Whatever the cause, let us think about the moment when we have a finalist pool and it is what it is. On one hand, the move to start over seems to be extreme. Searches are very time consuming, there is a risk of losing the line completely if you postpone, and the next year things may turn out the same. In some programs, faculty are desperate for help now. On the other hand, we should probably walk the talk, if we indeed believe in our declared values and strategic plans. If we are not willing to take risks and pay the price for our values, what are we?

That is the dilemma I was thinking about most of the last week, and I am not sure I know how to solve it in general. Circumstances differ significantly. In some areas that are in general very hard to find qualified people, the answer may be no. In others, the answer mays be yes. I simply do not know if there is a clear-cut solution. What I know is that the question is legitimate, and it must be asked at the right time, not after the fact. Perhaps some of the search committees did do that, and I am simply not aware of it. Yet this is something we should discuss beyond the intimate world of a single search committee. Now, this is a matter of procedure and policy, and we need to figure out how to make it work.

The hardest part of our jobs is not answering difficult questions; it is noticing the times when they have to be asked. Errors of omission are by far more consequential than the errors of explicit decisions. The easy problems present themselves, the hard ones go unnoticed.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:08 PM

    From Harold Murai
    Re question regarding searches...My opinion is, Yes, we should cancel such searches, if we are truly committed to diversity. I do not see how a search is successful if it does not include diversity. Of course, this all depends on what we mean by "diversity." My opinion is that it should include the cultural and linguistic diversity of the local communities with which we work. Since prop. 209, we, as a university system, seem to have given up on this goal.