Seeking Feedback on “Good Practices Guide” – Part 3

This is the third in a series of posts soliciting comments on a draft “Good Practices Guide” for advancing diversity in philosophy.

The first in the series, published on Monday, concerned practices regarding sexual harassment, caregivers, and staff-student relationships. The second covered the sections of the guide on conferences and teaching.

Today’s post includes the sections on hiring and tenure evaluation.

Good Practice Policy: Hiring

1. Departments should ensure that members of hiring panels know about the workings of unconscious bias. (A good source of general information for hiring panels is here.) 

2. Diversify hiring and tenure committees to include more people from underrepresented groups. For example: 

a. Appoint a diversity officer who will be responsible for ensuring each applicant is reviewed equitably. This person should have expertise on these issues if possible, and should make use of available training.

b. Ensure that hiring panels (at both shortlisting and interview stages) include at least one, and preferably more than one, member of an under-represented group, unless there are exceptional practical reasons why this is impossible. But they should be aware that the presence of underrepresented groups on the panel on its own will not correct for bias.

c. Commit to inclusion with influence. However, also be cautious about creating disproportionate burdens on members of underrepresented groups, especially if those burdens do not come with public recognition. When asking diversity officers and members of underrepresented groups to take on these roles, consider relieving them of correspondingly difficult committee-related obligations or otherwise compensate them for their efforts.

d. As far as possible, departments should strive to allow sufficient time for non- rushed consideration of job applications.

e. Departments should consider ways of anonymizing parts of their hiring process (e.g. by considering writing samples anonymously and only then reviewing anonymized CVs and cover letters), and implement any ways of doing so that are practically feasible.

3. Reconsider what constitutes a “well-rounded” department. For example,

a. Consider what topics, approaches, and interests have been neglected but deserve representation.

b. If your department is unfamiliar with a desired research area, reach out to experts in other philosophy departments, or in other disciplines, for feedback on assessing candidates. (The APA’s UP-Directory can be a valuable resource in this regard.)

4. Hire faculty using approaches and evaluation methods that encourage and appropriately value applicants who would contribute to your department’s diversity.

a. Advertise positions in areas likely to attract a wide diversity of applicants.

b. Include language in the job description signaling interest in applicants who contribute to the department’s diversity.

c. Encourage applications from diverse candidates, including reaching out to people in diversity-relevant venues such as the UP-Directory and other diversity focused blogs and associations.

d. Use clear criteria of evaluation that minimize the likelihood of bias and favoritism (see point 7 below).

5. Consider creating post-docs aimed at recruiting philosophers from underrepresented groups or philosophers who work in underrepresented areas of philosophy, for the purpose of supporting their academic development and eventually competing for hire.

a. Provide the requisite mentorship.

b. Make your commitment to a potential hire explicit.

6. Re-evaluate your department’s perception of prestige.

a. Refine the notion of prestige by getting a clearer understanding of what counts as the top journals or conferences in the subfield relating to the applicant’s specialty.

b. Instead of focusing on prestige, focus on the quality of the applicant’s work, how interesting or relevant it is to their sub-specialty, and how relevant it is to the job description requirements. 

i. Consider removing markers of prestige when making hiring and tenuring decisions. 

7. Agree in advance about what the department is looking for when hiring new faculty.

a. Evaluate whether your conception of “core philosophy” and/or the mission of your philosophy program needs updating and discuss what you are looking for in a “good candidate”. 

i. These definitions should include expectations about, for example, the number and quality of publications to prevent holding different applicants to different standards.

b. Before considering applications, identify how items in the job description will be weighted for each applicant.

c. Develop clear guidelines for the evaluation criteria and adhere to them.

d. Ensure that any non-anonymous parts of the review process do not omit, or unfairly disadvantage, applicants from underrepresented groups.

e. Attend to your regional context as well as the overall global context (e.g. the importance of including adequate geographical and indigenous representation in your department).

f. Re-evaluate applications with high diversity ratings to determine whether bias played a role in excluding the applicants from getting an interview or in the interview process.

8. Consider giving diversity-related contributions more weight when evaluating applicants.

a. Remember that being a member of an underrepresented group in philosophy can require additional labor, burdens, stressors, and expectations, which is often not recognized.

b. Remember that philosophers from underrepresented groups are often expected to take on a disproportionate amount of service work in addition to their research.

c. Evaluate whether permitting or requiring diversity statements would be useful.

9. Commit to sustained efforts to increase diversity in your department over time.

a. Use each new hire and new tenure case as a potential opportunity to increase diversity in your department.

b. Revise your practices until you adopt practices that work for your university and department context.

c. Highlight your commitment to diversity and fairly evaluate your progress in meeting department diversity goals in implementing your good practices plan during strategic planning sessions and both internal and external department reviews.

10. Develop formal policies for managing the needs of diverse groups.

a. Work to make sure appropriate disability related accommodations are in place.

b. Support mentoring and provide support networks for people you hire from underrepresented groups.

c. Consider having a yearly diversity workshop or training available for faculty – universities have resources for this and direct to other resources- share the following resources with your faculty:

11. Learn about the issues that underrepresented colleagues typically face so that you can advocate more effectively with difficult colleagues for faculty retention and promotion.

a. Diversity and excellence are not divergent aims. Diversity is a component of excellence.

b. Practices employed by hiring and tenuring committees likely play a substantial role in the problem of underrepresentation in philosophy.

c. Keep in mind that managing underrepresentation in philosophy will help with philosophy’s relevance at a time when the value of the humanities is contested. 

12. During the search process make efforts so that the process is as equitable as possible.

a. Conducting interviews online can disadvantage candidates that do not have access to good technical facilities. Try to support such candidates, e.g., by providing funding to use commercial facilities for the interview.

b. During the campus visit, ensure that arrangements have been made to the extent possible for candidates with disabilities and other needs (e.g., that locations are accessible, printed material is in large print, child care and nursing accommodations are available, etc.).

13. Departments should ensure that those involved in the promotions and appraisals processes know about the workings of implicit bias. 

a. Promotions committees/Heads of Department should, where consistent with institutional policy, ask for CVs from all eligible department members, rather than inviting specific members of staff to apply or only considering those who put themselves forward.

14. Officially adopt and implement these diversity-promoting practices to move from good intentions to good practice. 

a. Make sure the search committee is aware of and follows the university and federal regulations concerning Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity and Non- Discrimination. 

b. Widely publicize your department’s targets and commitment to promoting diversity.

c. Inform all committee members and bind future committee members to uphold these standards.

d. Publicly and explicitly adopt diversity-promoting practices, helping to create a culture of concern that enhances the department’s reputation for welcoming diversity, attracting more diverse applicants.

e. Collect data on diversity relevant hiring practices, e.g. applicant and hiring rates for members of underrepresented groups, tenure and retention rates, hiring committee composition, etc., and track progress in increasing diversity in your department.

f. Evaluate progress at regular intervals and revise practices accordingly.

i. Work with researchers to isolate and implement evidence-based practices that increase diversity in academic philosophy departments.

Good Practice Policy: standards and procedures for tenure evaluation

Institutions should ensure that their stated criteria for tenure match the criteria that, in actual practice, the institutions apply. 

1. Tenure-track faculty members should be clearly informed by designated members of faculty of all criteria for tenure and promotion, including any special requirements applicable within a department or a college.

a. The designated member of the faculty should clearly explain to every tenure-track faculty member the standards for reappointment and tenure and the cycle for evaluations of his or her progress in meeting these requirements. 

b. New faculty members should meet the designated member of the faculty regularly — at least once a year — to discuss progress and places where improvement is needed.

c. Periodic evaluations should be candid and expressed in plain English. They should include specific examples illustrating the quality of performance, constructive criticism of any potential areas for improvement, and practical guidance for future efforts.

d. The department’s focus should be to evaluate the candidate’s research, teaching, and service. The faculty’s evaluations should address these questions clearly listing specific examples. 

2. Institutions should develop in advance procedures for handling positive developments or negative allegations that may come to light during the evaluation process. 

a. Sometimes the terms “static” and “dynamic” are used to distinguish between those tenure systems that accept new information during the review process and those that do not. Institutions should adopt policies that make clear in advance which approach it will use and to adhere to its policies. 

3. Institutions should adopt a consistent approach to handling private letters and conversations, outside the normal review process, concerning the merits of a tenure candidate. 

4. Faculty and administrators must treat an unsuccessful tenure candidate with professionalism, decency and compassion, and colleagues should take care not to isolate the person socially. Active efforts to assist the candidate in relocating to another position redound to the mutual benefit of the individual and the institution. 

5. The faculty, administration, and governing board should strive for consistency in the operation of the institution’s tenure evaluation process. Inconsistency in tenure decisions, legally termed “disparate treatment,” is the essence of an institution’s tenure process being discriminatory. With this in mind, 

a. Tenure decisions must be consistent over time among candidates with different personal characteristics—such as race, gender, disability, and national origin. 

b. Institutional policies should list the types of discrimination that the institution prohibits. 

c. Reviewers at each level, from the department to the ultimate decision maker, should ask, “How does this candidate compare to others we have evaluated for tenure in the recent past?”

[This section has been adapted from the Good Tenure Evaluation in Advice for Tenured Faculty, Department Chairs, and Academic Administrators: A Joint Project of The American Council on Education, The American Association of University Professors, and United Educators Insurance Risk Retention Group available here.] 

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15 days ago

“Diversity Statements” cannot be untangled from ideological oaths. Any placement officer who tells their graduate students to write their statements honestly would be guilty of malpractice. These statements should be discontinued. At a minimum, they should be replaced with “Service Statements.”Report

Animal Symbolicum
15 days ago

Let’s abstract from the question — which has no obviously correct answer — of what exactly the “diversity” is that we should be aiming for. (A variety of tokens of socially contestable identity categories? Of protected groups? Of viewpoints? Of socioeconomic classes?)

A commitment to diversity (by whatever definition) for philosophy departments is radically underserved, almost to the point of effeteness, by a commitment to diversity in hiring practices and all the managerial, bureaucratic fussiness involved.

We need to consider directing our attention toward what might be causing the problems we’re trying to treat with “diversity practices.”

If we’re committed to diversity in departments, we should, for one thing, be committed to getting a diversity of youth in the philosophy pipeline, as it were. This will require real, and not merely symbolic, political action. And it will need to begin at the local levels: outreach, school programs or summer programs available not just to the affluent, dedicated job positions for philosophy teachers at public schools in all parts of town, convincing skeptical functionaries that it’s worth the money, and so on.

The work will be grubby and unsung — not the kind of thing to be packaged as lines on CVs or self-congratulatory declarations on university websites, and certainly not the kind of thing that would justify the metastasis of those administrative structures and para-educational programs whose function seems to amount to making it look like the universities are doing something.

But the work might actually establish something better, and for longer.Report

Moti Gorin
15 days ago

These are written as if the problem is that we have an abundance of minority-in-philosophy candidates and departments are simply not hiring or promoting them. This is not the problem at all, and so these measures aren’t suited to solving it.Report

Animal Symbolicum
Reply to  Moti Gorin
15 days ago

Yes! Much more succinct than my wordy little dissertation above.Report

Björn Freter
Björn Freter
Reply to  Moti Gorin
11 days ago

I would argue that there are indeed philosophers from marginalized groups working in philosophy struggling to work within academia. It is certainly not that there is an overabundance. But: 1. If we take care of those colleagues, it will support them (and thus philosophy itself), even though other problems might still be unresolved. 2. If it can be shown that marginalized people are being demarginalized within philosophy it might have an effect on those who decide to remain active and begin or continue their philosophical career.

The measurements in the Good Patrice document do not aim to solve all the problems, they perhaps do not aim to solve this problem. But they aim at a (voluntary) codification of demarginalizing matters. And, overall, that seems – to me – worth all the efforts!Report

Moti Gorin
Reply to  Björn Freter
11 days ago

I agree that no one set of narrow guidelines can solve all the problems. But these guidelines pertain to hiring and tenure/promotion decisions in particular, and so I think it’s safe to say they seek to solve some problem with respect to hiring and tenure/promotion. Perhaps I’m missing something. What problem, exactly, can these hiring/tenure/promotion guidelines solve? They are meant to increase diversity in hiring and tenure/promotion, but this can only be done if there are candidates to hire and tenure/promote.

As other commenters have noted, there are solutions to the pipeline problem, which is what we are facing here. But these solutions fall far outside the reach of the kind of HR-style approaches these guidelines exemplify.Report

15 days ago

I think the advice should say “consider *eliminating* diversity statement requirements,” since writing such a statement is very burdensome, has no clear benefit (everyone will just write up an evidence-free, self-aggrandizing statement), and can dissuade people from applying.Report

15 days ago

A lot of this reads to me as advocating a hiring bias against “non-diverse” applicants (i.e. white males). The clearest case of this is 5.

Is that the intention?

Putting aside for now the question of whether such an aim is morally or legally permissible, it would seem hard to square with 4d. The authors might want to edit 4d to be about minimizing likelihood of bias against members of underrepresented groups or something to that effect.Report

Björn Freter
Björn Freter
Reply to  A-Ofc
11 days ago

I would argue that continuing the hiring processes as they are now would advocate for a pro-white/non-diverse hiring bias. The empirical data (e.g. or seem to point in that direction.
If measures are taken to promote diversity, those should _not_ be understood as biases against non-diverse applicants, but understood as measurements to reduce the effects of the pre-existing (positive) bias _for_ non-diverse applicants. If we work to be more inclusive to those who are marginalized we are not taking away anyone’s right to be there, but we are working to reduce the undeserved privilege of (for instance) white, male, heterosexual applicants. Promoting diversity, working towards diversity, means in that sense, promoting attempts to undo the pre-existing privileges of those who are not (for whatever reason) marginalized. Demarginalization means unwanting and undoing undeserved privileges. This is, admittedly, artificial, it should not be necessary, it should not be necessary to promote certain people. Sure, but as long as certain people are marginalized, we have to work with specific and intentional measures to demarginalized them. And then, at some time, hopefully, we could abandon all this when there is a broad consensus that we are indeed all part of the human endeavor of philosophy. We are not there yet. We will not get there doing anything. We might not get there doing this – or we might indeed get there. For me, that seems reason enough to give it a try.Report

Alastair Norcross
15 days ago

9 a states: “a. Use each new hire and new tenure case as a potential opportunity to increase diversity in your department.”
I can see how a new hire can be a “potential opportunity to increase diversity” in a department. I am puzzled as to how a new tenure case can be one too. Won’t a new tenure case involve someone who is already in the department, and has been for several years at least? So tenuring that person, no matter who they are, wouldn’t increase diversity in the department. Of course, if I remove my expectation of at least minimal moral decency, I can see a way that a tenure case, given the expectation of keeping the line, could indirectly provide a way to increase diversity. If you deny someone tenure, with the expectation of replacing them with someone else who will contribute more to the department’s diversity, you might end up with a more diverse department. But surely no-one is suggesting something as blatantly immoral (and illegal) as that? I can’t imagine a discussion among the tenured members of the department in which someone says something like “Professor X has met all the expectations we communicated to them regarding earning tenure. They have an outstanding research record, and are clearly at least meritorious in teaching and service. The outside reviewers praise their work and judge them to be clearly deserving of tenure and promotion. But, you know, if we deny them tenure, we could replace them with someone who can increase the diversity of the department. So, forget all their achievements, hard work, and dedication. I say we vote no.” At least, I can’t imagine such a discussion in any department I would want to be associated with. So, I’m sure this is not what the authors of this policy have in mind. But then, how do we view a new tenure case as an opportunity to increase diversity?Report

Moti Gorin
Reply to  Alastair Norcross
14 days ago

I assumed they meant tenure decisions can influence diversity within the various ranks, so that a department can achieve whatever the demographic ideal is supposed to be at associate and full professor levels, and also more generally by preserving someone’s job within the academy. Insofar as a tenure denial can increase substantially the odds that someone leave the profession, etc.Report

Alastair Norcross
Reply to  Moti Gorin
14 days ago

OK, that makes some sense. But the only way the tenure decision itself could be viewed as such an opportunity would involve applying different standards for different tenure candidates, wouldn’t it? It would only make a difference in cases where someone is tenured who wouldn’t otherwise have been tenured (assuming that my worry in my first post is not what’s being suggested). But then there could be cases where two tenure candidates who have equally met (or failed to meet) the standards for tenure are treated differently. If the one who is denied tenure gets to know about the other case, they would have a legitimate cause for complaint (and legal action).Report

Moti Gorin
Reply to  Alastair Norcross
14 days ago

Yes, I think that’s right, that as you say, “the only way the tenure decision itself could be viewed as such an opportunity would involve applying different standards for different tenure candidates.” This perhaps is where 8. fits in, i.e., “Consider giving diversity-related contributions more weight when evaluating applicants.” Given that the aim of these recommendations is increasing diversity, the most plausible way of construing “diversity-related contributions” is just in terms of the relevant identity of the applicant, which 8 a. and 8 b. more or less say explicitly (c. also says it, if we’re being honest, since “diversity statements” are essentially designed to provide an avenue for a candidate to list considerations that are not allowed elsewhere due to discrimination law). So they are recommending different standards but they provide some rationale, essentially minority stress, rather than explicitly calling for straightforward affirmative action, which I think would be preferable when compared to the HR-style double speak.Report

Nicole Hassoun
Nicole Hassoun
Reply to  Moti Gorin
14 days ago

Thanks all! I think the aim is to make sure *everyone* gets a fair evaluation and hence we don’t lose diversity in tenure processes. We will revisit!Report

P D Van Pelt
14 days ago

I commented on this at the Splintered Mind page.Report

Justin Kalef
14 days ago

The first item in these recommendations is that those on hiring panels should know about unconscious bias. It links to a site that it claims is a good source of information on the topic, but in fact that site is a mish-mash of several things, many of them quite unrelated. Within the mish-mash of links is something on the importance of the IAT (Implicit Association Test), which in fact has been largely debunked at this point. There is no indication of the problems with the IAT on the site, so it does not seem to be a good source of information at all. In fact, much of what is still commonly passed around as good information on unconscious bias and related topics has been found to be scientifically lacking, if not worse. If a link like this is to be included, care must be taken to ensure that readers will be exposed to the actual state of scientific research on these areas, or at least to a diversity of arguments and positions on the relevant issues.

The second item begins by recommending that hiring panels bring on a diversity officer who has the relevant training. The trouble, again, is that much of what passes for training in these areas rests on claims about implicit bias, microaggressions, stereotype threat, etc. that are either not current with the scientific research or were unfalsifiable to begin with (but are nonetheless presented as scientific findings). If such diversity officers are indeed to be included on hiring panels, perhaps the APA should first find a way to create a body of non-partisan research that can show the state of play on these issues more objectively (the APA should keep itself at arm’s length from such a body, given its own partisanship), and the diversity officers could then familiarize themselves with the more objective summary of research that results. Also, the diversity officer will presumably be aware of the wide variety of diversity imbalances in philosophy (including viewpoint diversity, which is currently in a very bad state), and not just the sorts of diversity issues that might come up in diversity seminars taught at the college or university in question.Report

Reply to  Justin Kalef
11 days ago

Critical Perspectives on “implicit bias” research:

Reply to  Rob
9 days ago

“Why Antibias Interventions (Need Not) Fail”

Molly Gardner
14 days ago

If you hire a so-called “trans-exclusionary” female philosopher, does that count as promoting diversity because she is female, or does it count as hindering diversity because she will purportedly make the department unsafe for other diverse individuals?Report

Reply to  Molly Gardner
13 days ago

Realistically, though perhaps there are exceptions, it would make any trans professors and trans grad students in the department (if there are any) want to escape to another department.Report

Molly Gardner
Reply to  Maggie
13 days ago

Would there then be a net loss in diversity? And if so, would it be a best practice to avoid hiring certain women, if the department wants to promote diversity?Report

Moti Gorin
Reply to  Molly Gardner
13 days ago

What if the professor is trans but denies that trans women are women and trans men are men? Not all trans people accept the gender identity model of sex or gender.Report

Reply to  Molly Gardner
13 days ago

I don’t have a formula for calculating net aggregate diversity.Report

Brian Cutter
13 days ago

Re: “Tenure decisions must be consistent over time among candidates with different personal characteristics—such as race, gender, disability, and national origin.”

It might be helpful to clarify whether “consistent” here means that similar standards are applied to different groups (e.g., same research, teaching, service expectations), or that similar outcomes are achieved (i.e., roughly same ratio of successful/unsuccessful tenure cases for different groups). One can imagine cases where the two kinds of consistency aren’t jointly satisfiable. The word “decision” seems to suggest outcome-consistency, but in that case, it’s debatable whether inconsistency in this sense is “the essence of an institution’s tenure process being discriminatory.”Report

Underrepresented topics
12 days ago

I’m a member of an underrepresented group, working on an underrepresented topic. The successful practice of (3.a) and (7.a) would have a profound impact on the trajectory of my career, along with the careers of other philosophers working on underrepresented topics. Happy to chat further in private correspondence.Report

Nicole Hassoun
Nicole Hassoun
Reply to  Underrepresented topics
1 day ago

Thanks again everyone for the discussion – there are a lot of important and interesting issues here to consider and I hope we’ll be able to add something helpful!Report