By: Kristin Deal, Assistant Vice Chancellor, DEI Partnerships & Operations and Kate Willink, Vice Provost of Faculty Affairs
As we move into hiring deliberations or prepare for next year’s hiring processes, here are a few committee processes and practices you don’t want to miss.
- Pay careful attention to the work before the work (and schedule for these crucial steps), beginning with collective decision-making conversations about how you will make decisions ( in terms of both process and practice).
- PROCESS: Everyone should be clear on how decisions are made (e.g., consensus, majority vote, closed ballot, etc). Review your written bylaws or hiring guidelines. Make sure they are up-to-date and reflect current practices. The goal is to reduce ambiguity or process inconsistency as a way to avoid unchecked biases and downstream conflict or trust/climate concerns.
- PRACTICE: If this is not already in your bylaws, decide how you will deliberate together for the duration of search committee meetings. For example, will you use deliberative decision making, randomized speaking order, equalized speaking time, and assigned (and sometimes rotated) roles?
- Avoid the common pitfall of ignoring informal, interactional power dynamics and instead design for consistent, transparent, and equitable access to discussions.
- Research shows that in deliberations, those who talk first often set the agenda for discussion and those who talked loudest and longest have a disproportionate impact on deliberations. Power differences based on faculty rank, series, and/or historically excluded status regularly result in unequal participation and self censoring.
- If you leave these decision-making moments to chance, there is a greater potential for bias, interactional dominance, and inauthentic processes to remain common practice in hiring.
- When you are deciding what materials applicants should include, think ahead of time about how each committee member will evaluate these materials during the application review process. When requesting DEI statements as part of the application process (which is itself a good practice), use a more specific prompt.
- For example, instead of a blanket DEI prompt (e.g., Describe your approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion; what is your philosophy regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion?), consider how DEI is embedded into the work of your department and craft a prompt attendant to that expectation (e.g., Inclusive teaching is a critical part of the educational environment in our department. Please describe your use of inclusive teaching practices and what you have learned about their use over time.)
- Lack of design can create evaluation and deliberation challenges and conflicts downstream. By narrowing the prompts and discussing the criteria for evaluation upfront, deliberations can be more consistent and feel more authentic to committee members and other colleagues.
- Just as there are real costs to not addressing DEI explicitly in hirings, there are costs to unclear prompts and evaluative criteria.
- During committee deliberations and departmental/program discussions, aim for explicit and transparent communication, and try to avoid known areas where normative biases can often enter unchecked (e.g., topics of collegiality, fit, and tenure-ability/promotability).
- While you might want to discuss an applicant as a future colleague, make sure to add your “because” and assure you are basing your statement on evidence rather than feeling, inference, or intuition. For example, “I don’t think applicant A is a good fit for our department because they were unable to clearly demonstrate their use of inclusive practices in their lab.”
- Subjective language is bound to happen. Thus, it is important to provide clear evidence for your professional judgments by drawing on applicant materials, interview responses, and teaching and research demonstrations. Ensure that the evidence is tied to the position needs/requirements in the job posting.