Many college leaders profess that they are committed to diversifying their faculties. But results are decidedly mixed. A new book, An Inclusive Academy: Achieving Diversity and Excellence (MIT Press), suggests that colleges need to be doing much more than they are now if they are to succeed. The authors are Abigail J. Stewart, the Sandra Schwartz Tangri Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies at the University of Michigan, and Virginia Valian, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Linguistics and Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
Via email, they responded to questions about their book.
Q: These days so many colleges say they are deeply committed to diversifying the faculty. Your book suggests otherwise. Why do you think colleges aren't matching their statements with actual actions?
A: We think that, by and large, colleges are sincere in their commitment to diversifying the faculty. Several factors stand in the way of their following through on that commitment. We highlight only a few here.
First, people genuinely aren't sure what to do; they especially aren't sure where to start. They tend to start with actions like developing mentoring programs. Mentoring is useful, and we describe what we think are effective programs in our book, but mentoring doesn’t get to the heart of institutional procedures that make diversifying the faculty difficult. Second, there is a belief in the essential goodness of the institutions and their procedures, which can lead to anxiety that changing them will risk their good qualities. Third, individuals don't realize how their own actions and features of everyday institutional life can create an environment that is more or less inclusive. Fourth, it takes a continual effort on multiple fronts to change institutions. There's no single action one can take once and for all that fixes the problem. So often people get discouraged before they see that the actions they are taking are having good effects!
Read the full article at Inside Higher Ed.