Diversity sought in faculty positions

Mariana Silva

Administration looks for faculty diversity

Kent State is still looking for candidates to occupy about 40 faculty positions for Fall 2010, and some university officials hope to see more diversity among the new hires.

Kent State is still looking for candidates to occupy about 40 faculty positions for Fall 2010, and some university officials hope to see more diversity among the new hires.

“We are hoping that the applicant pools are diverse and that we have top quality applicants applying,” said Alfreda Brown, vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion. “We have to go beyond the norm to ensure that our pools are diverse.”

Retention Manager Judith Brooks, who was recently chosen as faculty recruiter to assist departments in the recruitment of minorities, said it is the university’s hope to hire more diverse faculty.

Brooks said she is looking for black, Hispanic and American Indian applicants. She looks for candidates at diverse organizations, professional societies and conferences and at institutions that graduate minorities.

“We can’t force the divisions and departments to meet a quota, we can ask them to help us to become more inclusive,” Brooks said. “That’s our wish.”

Brown said President Lester Lefton and Provost Robert Frank expect colleges and departments to consider diversity when hiring. She said it’s the university’s goal to take away any excuses and barriers when hiring minorities.

“We haven’t done any extreme measures to diversify our pools,” Brown said. She added Kent State hasn’t taken a direct approach in the search for faculty and needs to boost recruitment.

“You do want to use ads, but I don’t rely on them and I wouldn’t suggest relying on ads alone,” Brown said. “I think until most recently that’s all Kent State did.”

Each department has a search committee responsible for selecting candidates. After being selected by the committee, candidates are usually interviewed by phone and then called for an interview in person. Then the deans decide whether the candidate will be hired.

Brown said her office has purchased two databases of minority doctorates across disciplines to search for candidates and has been conducting diversity seminars to assist faculty in the hiring process. She said she wants to implement a diversity scorecard starting this fall to help departments keep track of how they are doing.

Brown said defining the criteria for the positions — deciding what are the required and the preferred skills — before the hiring process starts, is key to a diverse pool of applicants and a process free of bias. While a doctor’s degree in a subject is what is important for a job, teaching experience may be more important for other positions.

“So people may think, well, ‘We are not getting the best,’ but you don’t know the best until you actually interview and see what that person brings,” Brown said. “You have to balance the whole thing. You have to weight everything, that’s why affirmative action is so important, because all things are not equal.”

Brooks said it is the responsibility and the goal of faculty and staff at Kent State to provide equal employment opportunities and help the university become more inclusive. She said affirmative action staff looks at department pools during hiring processes and checks whether a department is under-represented.

Brooks said a diverse faculty also helps retention because students feel they are learning from someone who understands them and have more reasons to interact with professors, share ideas and stay at Kent State.

“We want students to hear from all backgrounds and we also want to represent the community that we serve,” Brooks said. “The students want to see faculty diversification, meaning they want to see someone who looks like them.”

Richard Kolbe, associate dean of the College of Business Administration, said the college looks for candidates at professional conferences, but most resumes received come from ads posted on professional journals or are unsolicited.

“We try to make sure that we are looking at a group as diverse as possible, ultimately it does comes to we are trying to find the very best person,” he said. “Ideally, we would like to have all groups of people in our classrooms.”

Kolbe calls attention to the difficulty of finding applicants of different groups, especially blacks and American Indians, in specific areas.

He said Kent State’s human resources notifies colleges and departments when they are “light” in some groups and suggests which ones should be targeted when a new position is opened.

“You do have to keep in mind that diversity is a multi-perspective thing,” Kolbe said.

”When I look to diversity in the classroom, I want students to be exposed to all kinds of different thinking. Part is based on race diversity but also is based on cultural diversity.”

E. Timothy Moore, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, who has been at Kent State for 41 years, first as a student and now as faculty, said we live in a global community and students need to see more faculty who look like them rather than the typical faces.

“Information can be delivered from the brain of these faculty regardless of their ethnic or cultural background,” Moore said. “We need to get past these barriers and limitations of perceptions that make us think that we can’t gain knowledge from a particular person because of their appearance.”

Contact diversity reporter Mariana Silva at [email protected].