UD looks to diversify faculty with new hiring strategies

Riley Beckwith, Staff Writer

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Photo by Elizabeth Kerin.

Last September, the University of Dallas’ Presidential Commission on Workplace Fairness, Equity and Respect released the results of an extensive study examining discrimination in the UD workplace.

The commission’s findings suggested room for improvement in the way of faculty diversity, which has brought increased focus on UD’s faculty hiring process.

The process, which eventually seeks to involve individuals at all levels of the university, is concentrated in a single committee per department.

The committees, which vary in size, consist mostly of members from inside the individual department.

Each committee also includes one member from outside the department.

The members are regular faculty, meaning they are either tenured or tenure-track professors.

The formation of the committee is one place where the Presidential Commission’s findings have produced practical changes.

The committees, though still not technically bound by any legal or administrative ruling, have been strongly encouraged to consider gender dynamics when selecting a committee, according to Associate Provost Dr. John Norris.

“Our recommendation is to seek to have at least one woman on the committee,” Norris said.

This is not always possible, depending on the department.

As the commission already found, regular faculty are more likely to be male.

In order to break such a cycle, the university must make a conscious effort, Norris said.

“We’re really trying to make sure that we include as many women as possible, as just a principle of equity and fairness,” Norris said.

Additionally, the Human Resources Department disseminates job postings in places where they will reach minority and female candidates.

“For example … we may post the opening with the American Association of University Women to attract qualified female applicants,” Director of Human Resources Dr. Heather Kissack said.

With these new measures in place, UD is hoping to attract more diverse applicants.

These candidates, however, will still be expected to meet UD’s standards.

As applications begin coming in, the rest of the department becomes involved in the search process.

Final applicants are invited to campus, where they will often give a public scholarly presentation and teach classes, generally ones in the Core curriculum.

Such public demonstrations allow for the faculty hiring process to extend across the university community, giving students and other faculty members a chance to provide feedback.

From there, the committee makes a choice and sends it to the administration for approval.

Norris says that conflicts between the department and the administration regarding faculty selections are rare.

In the event that a committee is split, however, UD President Thomas Keefe’s choice may come with more controversy or carry more weight.

The real problem, Norris suggests, is that UD attracts really fine candidates, creating an embarrassment of riches.

Additionally, among these candidates, there may be disagreement about the vision and needs of a department.

In particular, graduate and undergraduate students have differing needs, and committee members may not agree on which of those ought to take precedence when evaluating candidates.

Generally, however, UD has a cohesive and ambitious vision of what a good professor should be.

Firstly, Norris stresses that they must have a capacity for teaching.

“[UD is a] strongly student-oriented, teaching university,” Norris said.

Research is also critical in allowing professors to grow in their own subject matter and prove their academic abilities.

“A teacher who does not know her or his subject matter well … is somewhat problematic,” Norris said.

Additionally, as evident by UD’s hiring process, faculty members must be willing to serve the university’s larger needs, by serving on committees, for example.

These standards are high, yet candidates continue to meet them, giving UD its reputation for intelligent, approachable and enthusiastic faculty.

With new diversity initiatives in place, UD looks to have a distinctly equitable one as well.

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