Higher education institutions today realize the benefits of diversity, and recognize the contributions and achievements of a diverse faculty; not just one that is diverse in terms of race and gender, but one that is diverse in talents, experience, and teaching approaches. A diverse (in terms of race and gender) student body bodes well for attracting a diverse faculty, and vice versa.
"I think having a diverse faculty is increasingly important today. We are in a global economy, an ever-shrinking world. It's more important now to have faculty with a variety of experiences to engage students. Collaborating with colleagues who bring different viewpoints is also essential to education," says Ann Springer, associate counsel, American Association of University Professors (www.aaup.org) in Washington, D.C. "You need [to hire] people who are in touch with different segments of our population and have innovative and provocative resumes."
Ira Schwartz, provost at Temple University (Pa.), agrees. "Diversity is critical because having a variety of faculty members brings diverse points of view [to the institution]," explains Schwartz. "We have a diverse student body, and I think it encourages students to see faculty who have similar backgrounds and cultural beliefs, and these faculty members can serve as role models for these students."
Springer has researched and written extensively on legal issues surrounding diversifying faculty. Her legal outline, titled "How to Diversify Faculty: The Current Legal Landscape," can be read at www.aaup.org/Legal/info%20outlines/legaa.htm.
The laws regarding diversifying faculty are unclear, according to Springer's outline. The Constitution, quite simply, does require that employers not discriminate on the basis of sex or race, but employment policies and affirmative action plans that consider race often result in what is known as "reverse discrimination."
When considering the meaning of diversity, most schools do not view it as only relating to race. A faculty with a variety of teaching skills, research accomplishments and experience, and special training and skills, along with gender equity, may also be considered diverse.
"Faculty members achieve different things over the course of their career," says Robert Clark, professor of business management and economics at North Carolina State University. "The same thing is true for diverse faculty--one that is diverse across gender and race. They may relate to students differently, have different ways of research, and can be role models for students." In reality, this diversity only mirrors what is going on in the world today, Clark notes. "Our country is becoming more diverse. Our labor force is becoming more diverse, so our faculty is also changing over time."
The media attention that has been paid to diversity also plays a role in universities' struggles to hire the best and the brightest across all spectrums of race, gender, and age. Many students are encouraged by the realization that attending a college or university with a diverse faculty means that they will be exposed to more cultural differences, research strategies, and teaching methods, which will enhance their educational experience.
Universities are recruiting more aggressively, in order to have a wider pool of diverse applicants for faculty positions. Schools are employing more creative marketing strategies. Faculty members are encouraged to network with minority colleagues at other schools across the nation.
"Last year we were very successful and hired a number of minority faculty members, including prominent instructors in humanities," says Schwartz. "We reached out to minority faculty to help us find others to recruit and involved them in the recruiting process to encourage minority candidates to apply."
Recruiting faculty today requires more than newspaper advertisements or postings on the university's website. Seeking a diverse faculty often involves utilizing a variety of advertising resources, including word of mouth, advertisements in minority-specific publications and race-oriented media, and advertising in different parts of the country. "Universities are paying a lot of attention to the way they advertise available positions, with very careful wording, and that ad is sent out to a variety of publications. They are putting the information out about positions to more places and advertising more widely in a variety of publications and electronic publications," notes Springer.
Benefits and compensation packages are also being increased so universities can attract a wider range of applicants and can compete with other schools. "We are reaching out to our existing minority faculty members who have connections around the country. Many of them are aware of doctoral minority students coming in to our school. We are also offering competitive packages, because every university in the country is after minority candidates. We have to be able to offer candidates a competitive package," explains Schwartz.
Schwartz acknowledges that although Temple's record in recruiting minority faculty members is better than at many schools, it is still not as successful as he and the university president would like it to be. The Temple administrators say they they will actively and aggressively continue to improve their efforts to recruit a diverse faculty.
"Unless colleges and universities have faculty with a variety of skills, experiences and pedagogical approaches, they are going to find it harder and harder to maintain the American educational system's reputation as one of the best, if not the best, in the world," concludes Springer.
Laura Gater (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance writer based in Indiana. She often writes on human resource issues for a variety of business and medical trade magazines.