June 26, 2022

Breaking the oldest rules in the book: making promotion and tenure fairer

These are the oldest rules in the academic textbook: promotion and tenure. And in many ways, they maintain the academic structure. But while conversations abound about the need for higher education to be more equitable and committed to issues of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (Jedi), now we need to have the most difficult conversation. of all: what it means for the structures that maintain inequality.

Higher education leaders around the world are talking about making diversity statements a mandatory part of job hunting. We’ve weighed in on that conversation, calling for rubrics and training on how to read and evaluate diversity statements. But is it enough to ask for a diversity statement only when a candidate applies for a position? How can we make sure this isn’t just another check mark, further siloing diversity work to just the hiring process? We propose a major structural change in higher education: reforming promotion and tenure at the Jedi Center.

Talking about tenure and promotion reform may seem like the surest way to piss off faculty, but it should be an inclusive process that’s a call rather than a call. So what does it look like?

1) Continue to uphold the principles of the Hiring Diversity Statement in the daily work of faculty

We should create a continuum from the time a candidate applies for a job by infusing the principles of their diversity statement into the ongoing work they do every day. Universities must devote time to developing creative solutions to change the academic structure and must teach faculty and students ways to initiate structural change in order to uphold Jedi values.

As we suggested in our tips on how to write an effective diversity statement, professors need to know how academic structure reinforces and recapitulates inequities and inequalities and how we can individually and collectively mitigate and eliminate structural racism. . We need teachers who stand apart from their students, who create more opportunities, who use their resources to help those who have fewer resources and don’t know the hidden rules or how to navigate the university environment.

Faculty should prioritize equity over equality. They need to identify new talent pools and determine what resources are needed for equity. They should speak for those who are not “at the table”. They should question the criteria used for hiring, admission and selection, especially when they notice a selection pattern that does not lead to diversity.

To support this major shift, faculty should be offered workshops, training, one-on-one mentorship, and other perks, such as free online courses through initiatives like Arizona State University’s Starbucks Global Academy. For example, a workshop on inclusive pedagogy, how to bring epistemological perspectives to your programs, or enlightened mentorship could facilitate reflection in these areas for professors who are less comfortable with Jedi work. An institution can motivate staff and faculty to engage in these trainings by offering bonuses during annual performance reviews and holding individuals accountable, as we detail below.

It is important to emphasize at this stage that this structural change is do not an affront to academic freedom and that it is do not a request for a change in course, research or teaching areas. Rather, it is about offering a new way of thinking about the work already in progress.

2. Ensure diversity work is ongoing and accountable

There are many ways to ensure diversity work is ongoing and accountable – here are a few:

  • Invite promotion and tenure applicants to submit a diversity statement that provides an opportunity to reflect on the Jedi work they have engaged in throughout their career as a teacher. It’s a chance to make visible – and get credit for – the vast amounts of invisible work that faculty do to support diversity within institutions, with students, and in their own work. Professors could focus on how they have practiced Jedi values ​​in their teaching, research, mentorship, and service.
  • Ask candidates to address diversity in each section of their material, reflecting on what they have done in Jedi space as it relates to their teaching, research and their services. In this model, rather than writing a separate diversity statement, applicants would be asked to incorporate their thoughts into their personal statement.
  • Include diversity questions as part of student course evaluations. This adds another layer of assessment, increasing accountability and creating opportunities for faculty and student growth. Student feedback provides important insights into what is working in the classroom. In addition to helping improve teaching, student feedback reveals insights into the campus environment and can inform directions for student-focused diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs that are extracurricular or can be incorporated into the curriculum.
  • This structural change should be accompanied by mandatory training for all search committees on how to read and evaluate this change in promotion and tenure documents. Faculties and committees must decide on the way forward, how to communicate it to applicants and whether or not to include these documents for external reviewers.

One last thing: do not exclude Bipoc academics from this process

Although it has been said that black, indigenous and other people of color (Bipoc) should not bear the burden of fixing the system that oppresses them, attempts to fix the system without their input are unrealistic, impractical and exclusive. Bipoc individuals cannot be excluded from this work because they know it better than their white colleagues. They must be guides to make sure the reform works. Additionally, the boom in opportunities related to diversity, equity, and inclusion should be a boom for many Bipoc scholars who study race and racism. Hiring white scholars into new positions with resources only furthers the exclusion of Bipoc from positions of power in higher education. Some professors are one step ahead of Jedi, and these professors, who are largely Bipoc, should be rewarded with opportunities to lead in this field, in which many have always been engaged in their unseen and unseen work. paid.

Pardis Mahdavi is dean of social science at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and directs the School of Social Transformation, and Scott Brooks is associate professor at the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, both at Arizona State University.