Our department did a self-study, and part of this process was to identify goals for the department. One of the goals we identified is diversifying the faculty.
However, in response to this suggestion, one of my colleagues protested as follows:
“If less than 5% of philosophy Ph.D.’s go to minorities, then not every philosophy department can have even one minority on its faculty, since most philosophy department faculties are much smaller than twenty, and one out of twenty is 5%. So more diversity for one institution necessarily means less diversity for another. I believe that is something for us to think about in relation to what we often call the ‘common good.'”
So the lesson is this: we shouldn’t diversify too much lest we detract from the common good. We’ve got to leave some brown people for other departments.
I work in a department where white males constitute almost 90% of the faculty. In response to the suggestion that perhaps the department should address this lack of diversity, a senior colleague replied with this:
“Before I am convinced that diversity is a common good, I will need to be informed what diversity is. Are Cubans diverse? Are East Indians? Are Chinese and Japanese Americans? Are Arabs and/or Muslims? What about Evangelical Protestants, Orthodox Jews, or Catholics? What about open pedophiles?”
Job applicants who have been deemed diverse are thrown into a system that seemingly values their diversity. However, their value is determined by individuals with biases and individuals who are forced to meet certain standards determined by their bosses and HR departments. We (those deemed diverse) are asked to identify, prove, and convince others that unchosen features of our being adds to the value of our candidacy, when those very same unchosen features can be used against us. And in the instance that our unchosen features contribute to our appeal as a scholar and colleague, then we are left wondering if our unchosen features override our accomplishments. If this is the nature of the academic market and despite my accomplishments I am merely a box to be checked by a search committee, then my value is not as a productive colleague but rather as a way of meeting a quota.
I discuss my experiences as a diverse job candidate in the academic job market at http://www.bioethics.net/2015/01/how-are-you-diverse-how-the-academic-job-market-aggravated-my-racial-insecurities/
I am Hispanic and gay. At my institution, untenured faculty are required to submit an annual reappointment form, which summarizes one’s experience for the previous year. I filled out this important form. One question asks for a list of the professional associations to which one belongs. I listed the gay and lesbian society in my profession.
During the review process, one of the individuals with review authority called me into his office and locked the door. I was questioned about the nature of this gay and lesbian association. I replied that it was affiliated with the national association of my profession, and that one of its aims is to foster scholarship on gay and lesbian issues. I was told by this individual that “This isn’t an issue on this campus. There is only a student group, but nothing more.” I replied that tolerance, diversity, and multiculturalism are the words one hears the most on this campus. I could hardly finish my sentence, as I was interrupted with the individual’s assertion that those words “don’t include the gay issue.” It was suggested that I erase the reference to my membership in the association. I refused. Further efforts to make me change my mind failed and the issue was not pursued.
My membership in the gay and lesbian group has been mentioned in my reappointment forms since the earliest days of my teaching career. Never in the past has this situation occurred. That it happened at _______, a multicultural institution, is a sad commentary. Tolerance, diversity, and multiculturalism are ideas rooted in the dignity and worth of each person, and not dependent my political expediency. And yet I know that if instead of a gay group, I had mentioned a minority organization, I would have been pressured to mention it – in italics.