Many colleges and universities say that they value diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DEI), but don’t always live out those aspirations in their institutional policies and practices. One common place where the rhetoric about DEI and institutional practices deviate is the set of criteria used when evaluating faculty (of all ranks and types) for reappointment and promotion.
As the adage goes, we assess what we care about. If an institution has goals relating to diversity, equity, and inclusivity, then activities that further those goals should be considered, among others, when determining if a faculty member will be recognized, retained or promoted. Moreover, this issue disparately impacts many women faculty and faculty of color, because of the invisible labor that many of us put in to mentor students, revise our courses to incorporate content related to equity and justice, create more welcoming learning environments, serve on committees, etc. If we can get these activities to “count” toward reappointment and promotion, that might help more of us to be retained and recognized at our institutions.
In the United States, the practice of asking candidates for open faculty positions to submit some kind of statement relating to their interests in and efforts on expanding access, inclusivity, diversity, justice, etc., is becoming more widespread. Whether or not you agree with that practice, if your institution asks for such a statement, then presumably certain DEI-related activities are valued by the school. Again, the question is whether those activities count in one’s annual evaluations and/or reappointment and promotion decisions.
At the moment, some of my Mudd colleagues and I are serving on a committee to help our campus revise its faculty notebook language around reappointment and promotion. To prepare for this work, we are looking for examples of colleges and universities who have incorporated DEI-related criteria in their reappointment and promotion procedures.
On this Juneteenth, I’m trying to start a campaign to raise awareness of this issue. At the moment, my idea is to maintain a list of campuses that have incorporated DEI.
If you know of a higher-ed institution that has successfully incorporated DEI-related criteria into its reappointment and promotion policies, please get in touch with me. I would love to speak with the people who helped champion those changes in an effort to spread what was learned around our institutions. I will try to keep some notes from these conversations below.
Link to Spreadsheet: https://bit.ly/DEIRPT
Acknowledgements: Nancy Lape (Harvey Mudd College), Jeff Groves (Harvey Mudd College), Helen Kim (Whitman College), Claire Gibbons (Pierce College), Dharni Vasudevan and Doris Santoro (Bowdoin College), and many others. (Note: If you notice any errors and omissions, please let me know.)
In my conversations with campus leaders at other institutions so far, these are some common themes that have emerged about the process by which those campuses incorporated these DEI-related criteria in their reappointment and promotion policies.
- The policies and procedures around reappointment and tenure are sacred at many institutions because they get at the heart of what is valued at an institution. These policies and documents are often very difficult to change; usually full vote of the faculty is required to revise these documents. Efforts to change reappointment and promotion criteria to include DEI-related activities seem to be more successful when campus leadership initiate robust and sustained conversations around these topics so that faculty can weigh in and feel greater ownership about proposed changes before voting on them.
- There are other possible changes to reappointment and promotion policies and procedures besides changing the criteria; for example, hiring practices, policies around leaves, annual assessment mechanisms, etc. Institutions who want to make changes quickly might start at some looking at those issues first before changing reappointment and promotion criteria.
- Special consideration is needed for pre-tenure faculty and VITAL faculty for whom changes to reappointment and promotion criteria are important and anxiety-producing. Care should be given to how these faculty are able to participate in these conversations.
- If inclusive forms of teaching are to expected, then it is also important to amplify and publicize all of the different professional development opportunities (either that already exist, or that will be put into place) so that faculty can develop the pedagogical skills that will be expected. It may also be helpful to reinforce the idea that inclusive teaching is not static goal but more of a shift in mindset and evolving journey that one goes on.