Are universities playing musical chairs with minority faculty?

Insidehighered has the report here:

Increased faculty diversity has long been a goal of many colleges and universities. But a number of institutions have recently put their money where their mouths are, so to speak, launching expensive initiatives aimed at making their faculties more representative of their respective student bodies and the U.S. population. And while these initiatives are comprehensive, targeting multiple potential points of entry into — and exit from — the faculty candidate pool, a good portion of the funds are reserved for recruiting underrepresented minorities already working in academe or new Ph.D.s.

These patterns have led some to wonder whether the net effect of these individual initiatives across academe will be zero — just a shifting of diverse candidates from institution to institution — instead of a real demographic change.

Are those concerns legitimate? And how can a net-zero outcome be avoided? Experts say the answers lie in trial and error, inclusivity efforts, earlier interventions with students, and — perhaps less obviously but no less crucially — collaboration.

One of the biggest such initiatives is under way at Brown University, which earlier this year said it was dedicating $100 million to diversity and inclusion, including $50 million for faculty diversity efforts. Richard Locke, provost, likened the potential pass-the-faculty problem to a costly game of “musical chairs.”

“That’s the biggest concern,” he said. “When we released our report and everyone else released their reports around the same time, I kind of froze and said, ‘Oh, God, if we’re all doing this, what’s going to happen?’ Our approach has to not be simply going out and poaching people from other universities, but building up the population — not just for us but for all universities.” …

Is UO spending its diversity money on poaching, or on filling the pipeline? There’s some data on UO faculty by race and gender, in comparison to the available pools of PhD’s, on page 34 here. The Underrepresented Minority Recruitment Plan is probably UO’s most expensive diversity program, and it’s all about existing PhD’s.

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5 Responses to Are universities playing musical chairs with minority faculty?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Let’s stop hiring based on merit and start hiring based on perceived “minority” status. What could go wrong?

  2. Max Powers says:

    Higher Ed needs to work on creating more minority scholars. The rising cost is a serious barrier around the nation to minority achievement. Poverty lines in the nation are often drawn along racial lines. Right now there simply are not enough minority PhD holders out there, at least not enough to fill everyone’s diversity goals. Tackle the root issues with all that cash!

  3. Patrick Phillips says:

    Programs like ANSEP in Alaska ( have found that they have to reach through all the way back to middle school to make a difference at the Ph.D. level. Ph.D. programs are also just tend to fight over the same very small set of qualified applicants.

    That’s way programs like SAIL and SPICE are very valuable, although it would be nice to pull things like this into a fully coherent pipeline program. A bit difficult to make an impact at this level in Eugene, which is why I think we should be partnering as strongly as possible with minority serving programs in other parts of the state/region.

  4. just different says:

    Another way to boost the pipeline is to make a point of hiring faculty (or admitting PhD students) who may not be ethnic minorities or visibly “diverse,” but who are deeply committed to improving all sorts of diversity and inclusion in higher ed.

    Here’s one example of a school doing this:

    I won’t opine on the alleged paucity of “qualified” minority applicants, but’s a lot harder to argue that there are too few qualified applicants who believe diversity considerations as essential to the university mission. Regrettably, UO doesn’t seem to do so well in that regard either.