Thursday, July 29, 2004

Sounds familiar 

K.C. Johnson reports on a new hiring practice at Brooklyn College.

An unintended side effect of working at Brooklyn College, an institution run by a provost who believes that, as "teaching is a political act," our job should be to train "global citizens" (figures the provost has described as "sensitized to issues of race, class, and gender"): I've been exposed, over the last few years, to a variety of bizarre schemes, regarding both personnel and curricular matters.

The latest, on which I wrote an op-ed last week, concerned the college's institution of what some on campus have termed "diversity commissars"--a requirement that all search committees include minority faculty, and when departmental minorities are unwilling or unavailable to serve, minorities from outside the department be brought in, regardless of academic expertise. At a school where a quarter of the hires over the last eight years have been minorities, the reason for this new procedure was never articulated.

Looked at practically, the policy is downright absurd. A committee evaluating applicants for a professorship in particle physics, for instance, could conceivably be ordered to include an Inuit who specializes in Eskimo environmentalism instead of a non-minority faculty member with a physics Ph.D. from MIT. Moreover, given the increasing reluctance of today�s Americans to identify themselves exclusively with any ethnic group, would even the most qualified minority faculty member necessarily be ready to sit as a �diversity commissar�? And would there be a generational cutoff for official status as an African-American or Latino?

We've been doing it that way for years at SCSU.  The department when I entered into it had eight faculty, all of whom were men.  Therefore, when searches occured we had to bring in one female from outside the department.  (She did a fine job, btw, but did not contribute with respect to ranking research or some such.)  When we hired a woman on the next hire, who is still with us, that poor person had to serve on nearly all our searches, even outside our field.