A Diversity Candidate in Every Pool

Marquette's provost tries new approach to encourage the hiring of more minority faculty members.
October 14, 2005

If the finalists for a faculty job are all white, it's a sure thing that the new professor will be white.

That obvious statement is behind a directive issued by Madeline Wake, provost at Marquette University, to deans and department heads. No proposed hires for full-time faculty jobs will be approved, she said, unless there is at least one "diverse" candidate in the pool. (Diverse, for the purposes of the directive, is not only non-white Americans, but also people from other parts of the world.)

Currently, just over 10 percent of Marquette faculty members are non-white. The non-white share of the student body is a little higher, hitting 15 percent for this fall's freshman class.

Wake stressed that pools might be defined in different ways for different disciplines, and that a minority candidate may not always end up in the final two or three. But in a department that receives hundreds of applications and then interviews a dozen to pick a few finalists, she said that she would want to see a minority candidate in the dozen, and that just having had some non-white résumés in the original stack of applicants wouldn't suffice. In the past, she said, many finalist pools for faculty jobs have been all white.

"I'm not looking for less qualified candidates, but I want a good faith effort to get people in the pool," she said.

More diversity on the faculty, she said, is essential from an educational standpoint. "The world is diverse," she said. "And we as a university are not preparing leaders for the world as it is if we remain as white a campus as we are."

If a department truly is unable to find any non-white candidates, Wake said, the university would consider granting exceptions and approving a hire. But she said that departments can expect scrutiny if they seek an exception. "We're going to ask, Have you just gone to your same old sources or have you really contacted the networks where you can get African-American or Latino doctoral graduates?"

Asked about reaction to the directive, Wake said, "Some of it has been 'How are we going to do this?" and some of it has been 'It's about time.' "

James Marten, chair of the history department, said that he backs the idea, but has some concerns about the need for flexibility.

For example, Marten said that his department is currently conducting a search for a historian of Germany. That particularly field, he said, attracts "very, very few" minority scholars. "I'm very supportive of the policy, but we need to be realistic," he said.

In another search, he said, the department was able to tweak the job description in a way that may attract more minority candidates. The job is for teaching U.S. foreign policy, which is another field in which there are relatively few minority candidates. Marten said that the department added immigration and ethnicity as areas on which the faculty member might teach (and he noted that "doubling up" on areas of teaching expertise is common).

Currently Marten's department has 21 full-time faculty members and 16 tenure lines. Only one tenure-track faculty member, a professor who teaches African and African-American history, is not white.

Asked how diverse his department should be, Marten said, "It should be as diverse as we can make it."


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