Thursday, August 27, 2015

Requiring “Diversity Statements” and Usurping Faculty Authority

Stanley C. Brubaker, Professor of Political Science

What follows is a letter written to Colgate’s outgoing and incoming leadership following the Faculty Meeting of April 27, 2015 at which outgoing Dean Doug Hicks defended the new policy of requiring that applicants for faculty positions must include a statement concerning “their approach to teaching and/or scholarship in a diverse and inclusive educational environment.” Weeks later, in response to widespread expressions of concern, the DAC and incoming Dean, agreed to make optional the reference to “scholarship.” Some thought the change made a substantial policy difference; others did not. My letter, however, concerns not the policy as such, but the procedure by which it was enacted. With the issue still unresolved and a new academic year commencing, I thought it appropriate at this time to make this document an “open letter.”

To: Doug Hicks, Dean of the Faculty and Provost; Jeff Herbst, President; Connie Harsh, Interim Dean of the Faculty and Provost-elect, Jill Harsin, Interim President-elect, Alan Cooper, Chair of the FAC

From: Stanley C. Brubaker, Professor of Political Science

Regarding: Boilerplate Diversity Language

Earlier this spring, it was announced that henceforth all ads for faculty should contain the following “boilerplate diversity” language:
Colgate strives to be a community supportive of diverse perspectives, identities, and ways of life. Candidates should describe in their cover letter [or other statement] their approach to teaching and/or scholarship in a diverse and inclusive educational environment.
As you know, this “boilerplate” has been a cause of concern to many, both because of the language itself and the process by which it has been imposed. For reasons developed below, I think the language should be debated before the Faculty this Fall. Hence this letter focuses only on the irregular and unprecedented procedure by which it has been asserted to be the policy of Colgate University.

At the last faculty meeting (April 27, 2015), Bob Turner, Acting President of the Colgate chapter of the AAUP, posed this question for Dean Hicks:
“The Faculty Handbook description of the Faculty Affairs Committee says that it shall propose to the Faculty policies and recommendations on policies on faculty appointments. Yet the FAC minutes of March 9, when the committee discussed the new diversity language in job ads, indicate that you said there that “boilerplate language in ads” was the purview of the DAC. The minutes go on to say “It would be appropriate for FAC to endorse this [diversity] language, but it is within the purview of FAAOC.” I see nothing in the Handbook description of FAAOC that suggests it can authorize new hiring policies, but the Handbook clearly indicates that the FAC should consider new hiring policies and then propose them to the Faculty. But the FAC minutes suggest that you believe it was unnecessary to bring this diversity language to the Faculty before making it mandatory in all job ads for next year. I don’t mind revealing that everyone who attended the AAUP caucus disagreed. Could you please explain your reasoning?”
Dean Hicks’s response focused on two points: a) a distinction between “faculty policies” (the province of FAC) and “recruitment of faculty” (the province of FAAOC; or perhaps FAAOC and DAC combined) and b) precedent (policy of this sort has always been adopted this way).

Neither of these responses is persuasive. First, the matter of precedent. Ever since the issue of affirmative action arose, the Colgate Faculty has been deeply involved with its recruitment strategy. Indeed, it was the Faculty who adopted Colgate’s initial affirmative action/recruitment plan in November 4, 1974. The Faculty continued to revisit the issue with resolutions revising the "specific goals and plans for action for recruiting, hiring, and retention of faculty, administration, and staff” in Meetings of November 6, 1978; November 2, 1981; April 9, 1984; April 3, 1989; and again in November 4, 1996. If there has been any change in Faculty responsibilities concerning recruitment of faculty, such has not been recorded in the Faculty Handbook. Nor does the Faculty Handbook note the adoption of any policy change regarding Affirmative Action recruitment that was not brought before the Faculty.*

What of the distinction between “faculty policies” and “recruitment of faculty”? As already indicated, this distinction has no basis in Colgate history. Nor is the distinction logical: "recruitment" will largely determine who the "faculty" is. Furthermore, even if, arguendo, we assume some historical and logical foundation for the distinction, we should recall just what are the responsibilities of the FAAOC and DAC regarding “recruitment of faculty.” As indicated in the Faculty Handbook and FAAOC’s title itself, that committee has responsibility for "overseeing faculty recruitment and hiring from the standpoint of Colgate's affirmative action program" (emphasis added). To "oversee" is not to create. The only semblance of a pretense that the adoption of this new “boilerplate” language could be "oversight" would be that it is a minor administrative tweaking of language already adopted by the faculty. Obviously such is not the case with this controversial policy. And what of the DAC? According to the Faculty Handbook, and as indicated by its title, the DAC "advises the Dean of the faculty on matters of academic administration such as academic programs and faculty staffing needs." And of course it is disingenuous to claim that although neither the FAAOC nor the DAC individually have responsibilities, through some magic of interpretive construction, together they can have responsibility. Finally, it can only be called a move of desperation to throw the FAC into the stew of pseudo-responsibility (FAAOC+DAC+FAC), since as Bob’s question reminds us, that committee’s responsibilities are to “propose to the Faculty policies and recommendations of policies on faculty appointments…." Because this boilerplate language was adopted contrary to Colgate procedures and Faculty prerogatives, I strongly urge that its operation be suspended—or at least made optional—until the matter can properly be presented before the Faculty this coming Fall.

* In search for precedent at the Faculty Meeting, the Dean traveled to the field of University Programs, urging that here too, committee consultation had served as an adequate substitute for Faculty approval. The inclusion of this language in nearly all faculty ads--that candidates will be expected to contribute to “all-university programs such as the Core curriculum”—actually cuts quite against the Dean’s argument. Our Core program and staffing needs, like our Affirmative Action policy, is something that has been repeatedly brought before the Faculty. In contrast, the “boilerplate diversity” language proceeds from the 21 Points, negotiated between the President/Deans and students who chose to hold a marathon sit-in and has never been presented as such to the Faculty, save for voluntary faculty workshops concerning diversity, under the rubric of “faculty development” (a part of Point 8).

The above post does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the AAUP membership or that of its officers, nor does inclusion of the post on this website constitute an endorsement by the Colgate chapter of the AAUP.

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