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strawberryB

Diversity Initiatives and Tenure-Track Hiring in English

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After reading a number of the threads here regarding concerns about academic employment, I thought it important to make a post about an issue that I have not seen mentioned. But I have certainly seen it in practice in my professional life. There is a great deal of discussion happening here about the collapse of the job market, and it’s certainly correct that it has taken a nosedive. Thousands of promising scholars and teachers will never find gainful employment in our profession. It’s even getting harder for many to find adjunct work. Some major fields of study have no hiring activity. The situation is grim across the board [https://www.mla.org/Resources/Career/Job-List/Reports-on-the-MLA-Job-Information-List].

One thing that needs to be acknowledged and discussed is the tremendous amount of pressure on humanities departments to further the diversity initiatives of their institutions. At the present time, humanities departments are being granted less and less tenure-track positions because undergraduate enrollment is significantly down. There has been a concerted effort by institutions to use the few available jobs in these programs to increase institutional diversity by making hires that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion [https://www.chronicle.com/article/How-to-Do-a-Better-Job-of/237750].This includes the practice of making opportunity hires and cluster hires as well as targeting scholars in specific fields/subfields where a diversity hire is likely to be made [https://www.columbiaspectator.com/news/2019/02/01/columbia-has-185-million-in-dedicated-funds-why-is-hiring-diverse-faculty-still-so-difficult-9/]. In some versions of opportunity hiring, a national search for a tenure-track position will not be conducted, especially if the diversity candidate is an adjunct or post-doc at the institution [https://diversity.wustl.edu/framework/faculty-advancement-institutional-diversity/support-hiring-faculty/].

This may be important for prospective students to consider because if these practices continue your ability to contribute to the institution’s diversity is a significant factor in your future employability. Keep in mind that this assessment is being made in a job market where there are few if any alternative positions for unsuccessful candidates. Aspects of your identity might play a role in your ability to have an academic career. I am not raising this issue to comment on whether or not these practices are good or bad.  They are most certainly happening at many institutions, and one should consider this in their calculus for whether or not this path is the right one for you.

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OP, have you had recent experience navigating the job market and/or a new institution as a junior academic of color?

Just in the last year we've seen events at Yale, Williams, Harvard, Purdue that point to a lack of sustained institutional commitment to diversifying their faculty, sometimes even basic competencies or awareness of other cultures, and this is nothing new. Plenty of famous academics have quit or moved on from major institutions that many people would do anything to be at. My own undergraduate institution instituted a diversity initiative in the form of a fellowship/cluster hire a decade+ ago, and every single faculty fellow that I interacted with during my time there has since moved on to other institutions or left academia altogether. Home institutions are as white as ever, and the fellowship no longer exists.

For anyone considering this advice, consider: even if institutions are paying lip service to diversifying their faculty, what are these initiatives worth if the institution just treats their new hires as window dressing and does nothing to support them as junior scholars? What happens when you land in an unsupportive department in an isolated region where there are one or fewer therapists in town to support you, specifically? These are all realities that I've observed from colleagues, mentors, friends who've sometimes gone through multiple cycles, interviewed at multiple places, or even gotten the damn job, and run into these realities. Not saying it can't be done, but know the reality going in. And be wary in taking anything an institution says at face value.

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I posted the above because I think it is important that people realize that this profession is using identity as a basis for hiring and advancement. Whether or not that is right or wrong, is a different question. I have repeatedly been involved in discussions where a promising young scholar is denied a career because of who they are perceived to be in the most prejudiced and superficial ways. I find it repugnant when that happens to anyone. And I am very wary of these institutions' stated commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion, which often seem to be cover for the gross exploitation of faculty labor, especially contingent faculty. I do not know how you can genuinely say you are committed to these principles and screw an entire generation of scholars out of gainful employment. I speculate that some junior academics on the tenure track feel the tokenism that subsumes them within an unjust and hypocritical structure; they are left with the impression that their only way forward is to meet the institution's demands that they play the role the diversity regime assigns. It is all very troubling, and it is all very difficult to talk about on campus. These are not good days for the academy and for young scholars trying to find a life in it. 

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I'll ask again, but slightly differently: have you had any experience navigating the job market or academic institutions as a scholar of color?

I think that the use of identity as a basis for hiring and advancement is common knowledge at this point, and has been for decades among people coming from communities that have historically been excluded from academia, doing research in fields that have been dismissed as narrowly identitarian and unimportant from their inception, or didn't receive their degree from an "elite" institution due to a host of systemic barriers. I think all faculty of color have known this for a long time, and by extension, the marginalized students they mentor as well.

Can you please clarify what you mean by "the diversity regime"? Is this following from Ahmed, Ferguson, or someone else? Because I'm honestly not sure what you're trying to get at, and at the moment your posts read like a bad-faith effort to draw attention to diversity and inclusion efforts as some kind of scapegoat for people's ire in response to the gutting of the humanities.

Edited by new2019accept

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On 12/6/2019 at 9:53 PM, strawberryB said:

After reading a number of the threads here regarding concerns about academic employment, I thought it important to make a post about an issue that I have not seen mentioned. But I have certainly seen it in practice in my professional life. There is a great deal of discussion happening here about the collapse of the job market, and it’s certainly correct that it has taken a nosedive. Thousands of promising scholars and teachers will never find gainful employment in our profession. It’s even getting harder for many to find adjunct work. Some major fields of study have no hiring activity. The situation is grim across the board [https://www.mla.org/Resources/Career/Job-List/Reports-on-the-MLA-Job-Information-List].

 

 

 

One thing that needs to be acknowledged and discussed is the tremendous amount of pressure on humanities departments to further the diversity initiatives of their institutions. At the present time, humanities departments are being granted less and less tenure-track positions because undergraduate enrollment is significantly down. There has been a concerted effort by institutions to use the few available jobs in these programs to increase institutional diversity by making hires that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion [https://www.chronicle.com/article/How-to-Do-a-Better-Job-of/237750].This includes the practice of making opportunity hires and cluster hires as well as targeting scholars in specific fields/subfields where a diversity hire is likely to be made [https://www.columbiaspectator.com/news/2019/02/01/columbia-has-185-million-in-dedicated-funds-why-is-hiring-diverse-faculty-still-so-difficult-9/]. In some versions of opportunity hiring, a national search for a tenure-track position will not be conducted, especially if the diversity candidate is an adjunct or post-doc at the institution [https://diversity.wustl.edu/framework/faculty-advancement-institutional-diversity/support-hiring-faculty/].

 

 

 

This may be important for prospective students to consider because if these practices continue your ability to contribute to the institution’s diversity is a significant factor in your future employability. Keep in mind that this assessment is being made in a job market where there are few if any alternative positions for unsuccessful candidates. Aspects of your identity might play a role in your ability to have an academic career. I am not raising this issue to comment on whether or not these practices are good or bad.  They are most certainly happening at many institutions, and one should consider this in their calculus for whether or not this path is the right one for you.

 

 

4 hours ago, strawberryB said:

I posted the above because I think it is important that people realize that this profession is using identity as a basis for hiring and advancement. Whether or not that is right or wrong, is a different question. I have repeatedly been involved in discussions where a promising young scholar is denied a career because of who they are perceived to be in the most prejudiced and superficial ways. I find it repugnant when that happens to anyone. And I am very wary of these institutions' stated commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion, which often seem to be cover for the gross exploitation of faculty labor, especially contingent faculty. I do not know how you can genuinely say you are committed to these principles and screw an entire generation of scholars out of gainful employment. I speculate that some junior academics on the tenure track feel the tokenism that subsumes them within an unjust and hypocritical structure; they are left with the impression that their only way forward is to meet the institution's demands that they play the role the diversity regime assigns. It is all very troubling, and it is all very difficult to talk about on campus. These are not good days for the academy and for young scholars trying to find a life in it. 

Yeah so this is basically: cisgendered heterosexual white men are being “screwed” in academic hiring practices. As if diversity considerations aren’t trying (and often failing anyway) to counter a systematic structure that has homogenized academia for years. As if the point of considering diversity is not to counterbalance the obstacles faced by their beneficiaries. As if equity and justice are lesser goals than equality or impartiality. As if gainful employment is a right one can be screwed out of (yet that this is not the case for the historical bias of academic hiring). As if a lack of diversity doesn’t plague most universities. As if a lack of diversity is not a disservice to the ideals of higher education. As if, even if every single new hire for Fall 2020 were a diversity hire, faculties nationwide wouldn’t stay primarily white and mostly male (and heterosexual, cisgendered). As if, in a hiring pool where everyone is supremely, a diverse candidate is inherently a lesser candidate. As if, in that context, someone’s minoritized identity is less important than having 3 instead of 2 articles. As if faculty identity has no bearing on their interpersonal relationships with students from similar backgrounds. As if identity does not give an insight into the lived experience of English, scholarship, or academia which might be relevant for an educator.

As a cisgendered heterosexual white male (able-bodied, mid-to-upper class, non-religious) who has never been in any graduate cohort (out of, so far, 4) where the majority - the immense majority - did not share those identities (except for gender): boo hoo.

To be clear, if being rejected in favor of a diverse hire worries you: you are not worried about getting a job, you are worried about your privilege. If you want to worry about someone “screwing you out” of employment, maybe worry about all the non-diverse people who are gonna do that by virtue of all the access and opportunities they outnumber you with.

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These wonderfully ad hominem, self-righteous, and presumptuous responses nicely illustrate the concern. For those of you out there silently wondering if this is the mentality in academia at the present time, especially in the humanities, you can see it illustrated here: A prejudiced and obtuse confidence in the ability to judge the value of others based on the identity categories considered worthy. Not only is this flagrantly unlawful in the hiring context, but it is also deeply damaging to critical discourse. Anyone who disagrees or even questions these practices (dare I say ideology?) gets labeled as a "bad faith" actor or worse. So much for dialogue, disagreement, argument, and differences in opinion; you either agree with my perspective or you're an unwoke, privileged malefactor. 

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3 minutes ago, strawberryB said:

These wonderfully ad hominem, self-righteous, and presumptuous responses nicely illustrate the concern. For those of you out there silently wondering if this is the mentality in academia at the present time, especially in the humanities, you can see it illustrated here: A prejudiced and obtuse confidence in the ability to judge the value of others based on the identity categories considered worthy. Not only is this flagrantly unlawful in the hiring context, but it is also deeply damaging to critical discourse. Anyone who disagrees or even questions these practices (dare I say ideology?) gets labeled as a "bad faith" actor or worse. So much for dialogue, disagreement, argument, and differences in opinion; you either agree with my perspective or you're an unwoke, privileged malefactor. 

Isn't this exactly what you're doing by assuming that there is a "diversity regime" and diverse people who are hired are taking jobs from people not considered diverse? As though those diverse people may not be similarly or better qualified (while bringing different, important perspectives)??

 

5 hours ago, strawberryB said:

It is all very troubling, and it is all very difficult to talk about on campus

Yes, I'd imagine it's difficult to say "I don't understand why diversity is so important" or "diverse people are taking all the jobs" in real life. 

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I would say it is precisely bad faith to bring up a phenomenon while saying it is not about passing judgement while then implicitly and explicitly passing judgement. Your stance proves that this is indeed the issue, as you have gradually dug your heels in further into the “diversity is evil” position. Moreover, this is a dialogue. Yes, value judgements happen in debates. 

As for the unlawful part, I believe critical race theory (e.g. Derrick Bell Jr.’s “Racial Realism”) has done a good job of exploring that issue. 

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30 minutes ago, strawberryB said:

These wonderfully ad hominem, self-righteous, and presumptuous responses nicely illustrate the concern. For those of you out there silently wondering if this is the mentality in academia at the present time, especially in the humanities, you can see it illustrated here: A prejudiced and obtuse confidence in the ability to judge the value of others based on the identity categories considered worthy. Not only is this flagrantly unlawful in the hiring context, but it is also deeply damaging to critical discourse. Anyone who disagrees or even questions these practices (dare I say ideology?) gets labeled as a "bad faith" actor or worse. So much for dialogue, disagreement, argument, and differences in opinion; you either agree with my perspective or you're an unwoke, privileged malefactor. 

i think that you're trying to have it both ways. You want to appear as open minded, disinterested, and concerned for the future of professional academic scholarship but you also have a POV as to whether current practices are right or wrong. IMO, the tension between the two, as well as the fact that you obviously joined this BB just to start this thread, makes your posts in this thread seem manipulative if not dishonest.

The Ivory Tower in America reflects America in that a few have benefited from privileges at the expense of the many. Getting it right is going to take time and there are going to be mistakes, miscalculations, and unintended consequences. . As I've said a few times, I've been told that I would only have had a chance of getting a job if I'd been born in the 1950s because of my areas of specialization. Hearing that news was not fun especially since  my physical self allows employers to check two diversity boxes.. (The professor, a friend, who shared the news, thought it hilarious.) I don't think that it is appropriate to sandbag aspiring graduate students is the way to address one's discontent with the way things are now and shall remain for a few decades yet.

Edited by Sigaba

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1) I made my post to underline the fact that identity is playing a role in academic hiring at the present time. I included links to sources that demonstrate that fact. This is not obvious to everyone who aspires to enter this profession, and they should know about these practices before they decide to enter it.  I purposefully underlined in my original post that I was not commenting on the merits of these practices because that was not the issue. 

2) When asked to clarify my position, I explained further about my perspective on this practice and some of the concerns that I have. This is not "manipulative" or "bad faith" or "dishonest," although I realize that disagreement over these particular issues often leads to any number of accusations about the immorality of the person raising objections---in other words, ad hominem. Yes, it is possible for someone to comment on one aspect of an issue and have other thoughts about it that are contiguous and involve greater degrees of judgment. 

3) I did not write anywhere that "diversity is evil." "Diversity" at this point is a throwaway term that can mean any number of things. I'm addressing the specific practice in academia of hiring people based on the perception or self-identification of their protected class. And I'm raising concerns about that practice, especially in the context of a decimated job market. It's entirely possible that someone can value a diversity of opinions, beliefs, experiences, backgrounds, identities, and take issue with these practices. 

4) Title VII of the Cilvil Rights Act prohibits employers from basing hiring decisions on a candidate's protected class; this applies to every academic job search. Needless to say, critical race theory is not the law, and one should think very carefully about what it means to haphazardly make judgments about what identities are privileged over others; for anyone with any experience working with a diverse array of people, you quickly find that human beings and their backgrounds are deeply complex and nuanced.  One of the objections I have to these hiring practices is that they are underhanded and often prejudiced because they rely on the perception that someone is diverse without disclosing the criteria used to make those judgments or that they are even happening. I don't think I need to spell out all the reasons why essentializing identity might be a problem. 

 

 

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For anyone who might stumble upon this thread in the future,: this is terrible advice, and emphasizes the importance of good mentorship from people who either share the experience of navigating the academic job market as a marginalized person, and/or possess the ability to understand it without letting white fragility and the rage of privilege denied get in the way (or at the very least don't react to criticism by playing the victim and digging their heels in deeper). And do keep in mind, there will always be someone like this on the committee. If there are multiple, run.

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Someone like me on the committee? Again, you presume that I am not in your words a “marginalized person” because we implicitly disagree about how and why legally protected factors should play a role in academic hiring. And because we disagree not only am I in your estimation not marginalized, but I might also suffer from “white fragility” and “the rage of privilege denied.” So again, we are in the ad hominem mode of attack trying to imagine my person rather than addressing the points of concern I have raised. These are troubling reflexes for a profession that is supposed to be based on critical thought and reasoning, and I fear that the ideology surfacing in this thread is symptomatic of an increasing trend toward throwing out a bunch of jargon terms in the face of disagreement that we are all supposed to accept as unquestionably true. If this uncritical posturing were confined to academic discourse that would be one thing, disturbing and troubling as it is,  but it is in your estimation clearly a reasonable ground to deny people legally protected rights. It is astonishing to me that you cannot even acknowledge the potential problem here with how we determine who is worthy of being targeted for a diversity opportunity over another.   

Here is a thought experiment for you: Imagine a Jew on the academic job market who openly supports Israel. Their father was born in Israel and emigrated to the United States as a child after the war. Sadly, much of the extended family was killed in the Holocaust. The candidate’s father has inherited a great deal of trauma. When he arrived here, the candidate’s father was taunted in school for being a Jew, and he was rejected from attending college because of the quotas. In fact, his family had to move houses a couple of times because the neighbors did not want Jews in the neighborhood. Growing up, the candidate did not feel that things were right in the family. Their father often seemed distant and fearful. He did not want to discuss the family history. In fact, there was not much family to discuss. The candidate had their own encounters with antisemitism growing up. And when they arrived at college in Oberlin, they encountered a great deal of opposition to Israel. In fact, one of the faculty members there posted antisemitic tropes on her social media account. Some of their classmates said it was immoral to support Israel, but this person thinks it is important because of their family history. When they arrived at their English PhD program, they were denied a diversity fellowship after they described some of these experiences in the application. Fast forward to this person on the academic job market in English who identifies as a Jew and who supports Israel. 

I would like to know the following since those posting on this thread seem quite adept at determining who is privileged and worthy of advancement in the profession based on their identity:

Is this candidate privileged? 

Is this candidate white?

Is this candidate marginalized?

Is this candidate a victim? 

Is this candidate a “good fit” given the fact that they support Israel?

How should this candidate be judged against a Queer candidate, a Trans candidate, a Latinx candidate, or a Muslim candidate? 

 

 

Edited by strawberryB

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1 hour ago, strawberryB said:

Someone like me on the committee? Again, you presume that I am not in your words a “marginalized person” because we implicitly disagree about how and why legally protected factors should play a role in academic hiring. And because we disagree not only am I in your estimation not marginalized, but I might also suffer from “white fragility” and “the rage of privilege denied.” So again, we are in the ad hominem mode of attack trying to imagine my person rather than addressing the points of concern I have raised. These are troubling reflexes for a profession that is supposed to be based on critical thought and reasoning, and I fear that the ideology surfacing in this thread is symptomatic of an increasing trend toward throwing out a bunch of jargon terms in the face of disagreement that we are all supposed to accept as unquestionably true. If this uncritical posturing were confined to academic discourse that would be one thing, disturbing and troubling as it is,  but it is in your estimation clearly a reasonable ground to deny people legally protected rights. It is astonishing to me that you cannot even acknowledge the potential problem here with how we determine who is worthy of being targeted for a diversity opportunity over another.   

Here is a thought experiment for you: Imagine a Jew on the academic job market who openly supports Israel. Their father was born in Israel and emigrated to the United States as a child after the war. Sadly, much of the extended family was killed in the Holocaust. The candidate’s father has inherited a great deal of trauma. When he arrived here, the candidate’s father was taunted in school for being a Jew, and he was rejected from attending college because of the quotas. In fact, his family had to move houses a couple of times because the neighbors did not want Jews in the neighborhood. Growing up, the candidate did not feel that things were right in the family. Their father often seemed distant and fearful. He did not want to discuss the family history. In fact, there was not much family to discuss. The candidate had their own encounters with antisemitism growing up. And when they arrived at college in Oberlin, they encountered a great deal of opposition to Israel. In fact, one of the faculty members there posted antisemitic tropes on her social media account. Some of their classmates said it was immoral to support Israel, but this person thinks it is important because of their family history. When they arrived at their English PhD program, they were denied a diversity fellowship after they described some of these experiences in the application. Fast forward to this person on the academic job market in English who identifies as a Jew and who supports Israel. 

I would like to know the following since those posting on this thread seem quite adept at determining who is privileged and worthy of advancement in the profession based on their identity:

Is this candidate privileged? 

Is this candidate white?

Is this candidate marginalized?

Is this candidate a victim? 

Is this candidate a “good fit” given the fact that they support Israel?

How should this candidate be judged against a Queer candidate, a Trans candidate, a Latinx candidate, or a Muslim candidate? 

 

 

Is it really that hard to believe that people from these groups could be better qualified for a position or fellowship than others?

I know you're arguing against using identity as an indicator in deciding who is worthy for a job, but while doing that, you are similarly using the identity of people hired (or given a diversity fellowship), without knowing their qualifications, to show that people who are not from groups considered historically marginalized are not hired. The implicit hubris of believing that "non-minority" people (using this term loosely) can't possibly be denied because their qualifications weren't good enough for the job is privilege in itself.

For instance, the example you gave above about the problems the father of a candidate faced, you followed that up by stating that that person was denied a diversity fellowship. Was offering this anecdote supposed to prove that the groups you listed at the bottom were favored? Because one of them may have received a fellowship over the person in the example? 

Your entire argument reads like an attack on marginalized groups because of the inability to successfully acquire fellowships and jobs. In fact, there are infinite number of reasons for this inability, including the job market, your own qualifications, better qualifications of other people, the opinions of individual employers. Yet, all you seem interested in attacking is the hiring of minorities. 

So to answer all your questions: 1) Maybe 2) Maybe, what do they identify as? 3) Maybe 4) maybe 5) maybe.  You described all that the candidate's father experienced, but not much of what he or she experienced themselves other than their politics being challenged. 

But if, to you, having an unpopular political opinion  equates to marginalization which is imbued with power, stereotyping, prejudice and access, then that misunderstanding might be the fundamental issue with your argument. 

Edited by Cryss

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Re: 1-2 - I would take it under advisement, if I were you, that despite you supposedly being neutral several posters understood your underlying motives. Perhaps you weren’t being as neutral as you thought. It is certainly possible to discuss something one cares about while being impartial. You were not doing this.

Re: 3 - You didn’t say diversity was evil, it was just implied in your posts. You see, and this is the reason why you have been accused of bad faith, it is one thing to criticize diversity hiring practices for their limitations and another to criticize them for existing at all (how vs why). Your posts were not framing the issue as “diversity hiring is difficult and complex and there are issues with who decides what is diverse”. Your framing was: “you all need to be wary that diversity hiring is a thing so your identity affects your employment and that’s wrong”. You would certainly get support and debate for the first, but not for the second, and not if you use the first only to assert the second (bad faith, at least if you attempt to hide these intentions). You did not bring these issues up until this very post I am responding to. 

Re: 4 - These are some very good points. From a practical perspective, how does one assess the authenticity of identity, how does one determine which identity is hired over another? These are important methodological concerns that do not mean that the entire endeavor should be thrown out because it is difficult. Surely this context-dependent for each case, as well. As for your critical race theory point, that is kind of the very point of critical race theory isn’t it? That it ISN’T law but should be law. Your whole point is based on concepts that critical race theory criticises about how the legal and education systems work. It seems like you stand on the “Bakke vs. Regents of U California” says that this is illegal, whereas my stance is “That the system resulted in “Bakke vs. Regents of U California” is WHY we need to take steps to do these things. I recommend Derrick Bell Jr.’s “Racial Realism” about this.

1 hour ago, strawberryB said:

Someone like me on the committee? Again, you presume that I am not in your words a “marginalized person” because we implicitly disagree about how and why legally protected factors should play a role in academic hiring. And because we disagree not only am I in your estimation not marginalized, but I might also suffer from “white fragility” and “the rage of privilege denied.” So again, we are in the ad hominem mode of attack trying to imagine my person rather than addressing the points of concern I have raised. These are troubling reflexes for a profession that is supposed to be based on critical thought and reasoning, and I fear that the ideology surfacing in this thread is symptomatic of an increasing trend toward throwing out a bunch of jargon terms in the face of disagreement that we are all supposed to accept as unquestionably true. If this uncritical posturing were confined to academic discourse that would be one thing, disturbing and troubling as it is,  but it is in your estimation clearly a reasonable ground to deny people legally protected rights. It is astonishing to me that you cannot even acknowledge the potential problem here with how we determine who is worthy of being targeted for a diversity opportunity over another.   

Here is a thought experiment for you: Imagine a Jew on the academic job market who openly supports Israel. Their father was born in Israel and emigrated to the United States as a child after the war. Sadly, much of the extended family was killed in the Holocaust. The candidate’s father has inherited a great deal of trauma. When he arrived here, the candidate’s father was taunted in school for being a Jew, and he was rejected from attending college because of the quotas. In fact, his family had to move houses a couple of times because the neighbors did not want Jews in the neighborhood. Growing up, the candidate did not feel that things were right in the family. Their father often seemed distant and fearful. He did not want to discuss the family history. In fact, there was not much family to discuss. The candidate had their own encounters with antisemitism growing up. And when they arrived at college in Oberlin, they encountered a great deal of opposition to Israel. In fact, one of the faculty members there posted antisemitic tropes on her social media account. Some of their classmates said it was immoral to support Israel, but this person thinks it is important because of their family history. When they arrived at their English PhD program, they were denied a diversity fellowship after they described some of these experiences in the application. Fast forward to this person on the academic job market in English who identifies as a Jew and who supports Israel. 

I would like to know the following since those posting on this thread seem quite adept at determining who is privileged and worthy of advancement in the profession based on their identity:

Is this candidate privileged? 

Is this candidate white?

Is this candidate marginalized?

Is this candidate a victim? 

Is this candidate a “good fit” given the fact that they support Israel?

How should this candidate be judged against a Queer candidate, a Trans candidate, a Latinx candidate, or a Muslim candidate? 

 

 

Do you not see the issue that these legally protected rights you speak of, if intrepreted your way, will maintain the inequity of the status quo and continue benefitting those who need the least help? I assume that you do, but that you do not care because it falls in line with your argumentation. 

As for your hypothetical, I AM an israeli-born jew and yet, at least for me, your description does not ring true. Perhaps it is true for your or someone you know, yet not for anyone I know or for myself (indeed someone being born in Israel despite their family dying in the holocaust and then moving from Israel to the US after the war (when jewish emigration was mostly TO Israel) would be an uncommon experience). 

Anyway, why does the framing pit this jewish person and other marginalized candidates against each other, rather than suffering similar circumstances? Your question presents identity as a set of binaries. Perhaps there will be times when they are considered for the same job, yet surely the result would depend on the context? On the makeup of the department and the qualifications of the candidates (a factor you, as the above poster outlines, ignore). There ARE levels of marginalization (refer to Kimberlee Crenshaw’s intersectionality), and perhaps these levels DO sway a hiring decision. However, your rhetorical decision to place these people in opposition is proof of your bad faith as the issue is not how they might compete for a spot but the implication that they need to compete at all. No marginalized person prefers diversity hiring over, you know, living in an inherently diverse system where their identity is no longer a factor at all (not to be confused with racial blindness).

 

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"Do you not see the issue that these legally protected rights you speak of, if intrepreted your way, will maintain the inequity of the status quo and continue benefitting those who need the least help? I assume that you do, but that you do not care because it falls in line with your argumentation."

No, I don't see the issue for some of the very reasons exhibited in this thread. In an earlier post you have disclosed  that you are "a cisgendered heterosexual white male (able-bodied, mid-to-upper class, non-religious) who has never been in any graduate cohort (out of, so far, 4) where the majority - the immense majority - did not share those identities (except for gender): boo hoo." And above you have disclosed that "I AM an israeli-born jew and yet, at least for me, your description does not ring true." Of course, you are entitled to identify and describe yourself in whatever way you choose. Someone else might consider themselves non-white with a similar background. 

My point--and I will repeat it again--is that identity is used as a criteria in academic hiring decisions; the links I have supplied demonstrate that along with any number of other sources. To what extent it is used and under what rubric, we do not know because the practice is not legal and/or skating very close to the line of illegality. The result is that a series of assumptions are used in these decisions that have an impact on who gets hired and why. Obviously, if you were on a hiring committee, you would have your own answers to the questions I posed. "Cryss" seems to think that the issue in my scenario is with "unpopular political belief" rather than possible discrimination on the basis of religion and/or ethnicity. These differences in perspective about identity--and the frequent prejudice they can entail--is precisely the reason why it is impermissible to use them in hiring decisions. What compounds this prejudice is the fact that it cannot be discussed because of 1) The legal liability, and 2) The ideological assumptions that often cannot be questioned. It is a denial of reality--and demonstrates an ignorance of these practices-- to pretend like candidates aren't pitted against one another all the time in the framework of the identity hierarchy. This is the consequence of using this criteria to inform a hiring decision--it requires judgment or what might better be described as prejudice. What's more, Jews, especially zionists, are the object of frequent derision in the academy, and it is willful ignorance to pretend like inclusivity does not come with its own exclusions. On a side note, Bakke is about admissions standards, which involves different--although related--legal issues from those in the hiring context. The consequences are even more severe in a hiring context, especially in a highly constrained job market, because it might very well mean the denial of a career or livelihood. 

As far as my "bad faith" and "neutrality" goes, this continues to be an ad hominem and irrelevant point. Respond to the concerns and stop trying to imagine and denigrate the person making them. I know it is energizing to cast judgment on my perceived motives and character, but it shuts downs the opportunity for meaningful disagreement and debate about these issues--even vehement disagreement. I believe that it is a real problem to evaluate candidates implicitly or explicitly on the basis of their identity precisely because it calls into question the line between merit and prejudicial favoritism. I never suggested that candidates with different identities were inherently without merit or getting jobs exclusively because of their marginalized identity; the concern I have expressed is with the practice of considering identity in the academic hiring equation and how that happens. 

 

Edited by strawberryB

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44 minutes ago, strawberryB said:

My point--and I will repeat it again--is that identity is used as a criteria in academic hiring decisions

 You keep repeating this as if people are unaware of it.  What you are missing is the fact that identity has always been used as a criteria in academic hiring decisions.  The only difference is that--in a tiny minority of current postings--it is being used as a criteria for inclusion rather than exclusion.

 

The obvious "tell"?

-Departments that are 100% white faculty?  Crickets.

-Job postings that openly exclude LGBT applicants (and two cycles ago, there were SEVERAL such positions)?  Crickets.

When complaints about "diversity" and "identity" only arise when the "victim" is the straight/white/male trifecta, the issue, as someone said earlier, is one of privilege.

 

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1 hour ago, strawberryB said:

As far as my "bad faith" and "neutrality" goes, this continues to be an ad hominem and irrelevant point. Respond to the concerns and stop trying to imagine and denigrate the person making them. I know it is energizing to cast judgment on my perceived motives and character, but it shuts downs the opportunity for meaningful disagreement and debate about these issues--even vehement disagreement. I believe that it is a real problem to evaluate candidates implicitly or explicitly on the basis of their identity precisely because it calls into question the line between merit and prejudicial favoritism. I never suggested that candidates with different identities were inherently without merit or getting jobs exclusively because of their marginalized identity; the concern I have expressed is with the practice of considering identity in the academic hiring equation and how that happens. 

 

We have been responding to the concerns AND the bad faith (in fact it is you who has refused to address many of the points some of us have made, but that the issue of rhetorical etiquette seems less important so it doesn’t matter). You have repeatedly positioned yourself as being a victim of ad hominem so, isn’t it up to us to then address that issue? We can certainly leave it behind, you just have to stop centering that in this debate (I completely understand defending oneself from accusations one deems unfair, and would probably do the same in this perceived situation).

1 hour ago, strawberryB said:

"Do you not see the issue that these legally protected rights you speak of, if intrepreted your way, will maintain the inequity of the status quo and continue benefitting those who need the least help? I assume that you do, but that you do not care because it falls in line with your argumentation."

No, I don't see the issue for some of the very reasons exhibited in this thread. In an earlier post you have disclosed  that you are "a cisgendered heterosexual white male (able-bodied, mid-to-upper class, non-religious) who has never been in any graduate cohort (out of, so far, 4) where the majority - the immense majority - did not share those identities (except for gender): boo hoo." And above you have disclosed that "I AM an israeli-born jew and yet, at least for me, your description does not ring true." Of course, you are entitled to identify and describe yourself in whatever way you choose. Someone else might consider themselves non-white with a similar background. 

For someone against the absolute essentialism of identity your presentation of jewishness-whiteness as some sort of binary is strange. Moreover, why is this a counterargument to my point? 

1 hour ago, strawberryB said:

My point--and I will repeat it again--is that identity is used as a criteria in academic hiring decisions; the links I have supplied demonstrate that along with any number of other sources. To what extent it is used and under what rubric, we do not know because the practice is not legal and/or skating very close to the line of illegality. The result is that a series of assumptions are used in these decisions that have an impact on who gets hired and why. Obviously, if you were on a hiring committee, you would have your own answers to the questions I posed. "Cryss" seems to think that the issue in my scenario is with "unpopular political belief" rather than possible discrimination on the basis of religion and/or ethnicity. These differences in perspective about identity--and the frequent prejudice they can entail--is precisely the reason why it is impermissible to use them in hiring decisions. What compounds this prejudice is the fact that it cannot be discussed because of 1) The legal liability, and 2) The ideological assumptions that often cannot be questioned. It is a denial of reality--and demonstrates an ignorance of these practices-- to pretend like candidates aren't pitted against one another all the time in the framework of the identity hierarchy. This is the consequence of using this criteria to inform a hiring decision--it requires judgment or what might better be described as prejudice. What's more, Jews, especially zionists, are the object of frequent derision in the academy, and it is willful ignorance to pretend like inclusivity does not come with its own exclusions. On a side note, Bakke is about admissions standards, which involves different--although related--legal issues from those in the hiring context. The consequences are even more severe in a hiring context, especially in a highly constrained job market, because it might very well mean the denial of a career or livelihood. 

Interesting that differences in perspectives matter here, but you haven’t made a similar issue about perceived prestige of the alma mater, or of the type of work one does. Perhaps the issue is that you consider these to be factors that should be considered and identity is not. As the above poster has said, believing identity to not be a factor comes from a place of privilege, because it does matter and has always mattered, to the detriment of those who don’t have the privilege of an “unmarked” identity (like whiteness is not a race and heterosexuality not a sexuality because they are the “norm”). So why not take issue with identity being an issue in this way? 

Of course inclusivity comes with exclusion, but that’s because he system is so diverse that if a department hire a trans prof. they somehow get a pass from hiring another trans, or other LGBTQ candidate, or a candidate diverse in other ways, because they’ve done their “good deed” already. Again, the real problem is the lack of diversity yet you take issue with the steps to fight that.

What you perceive to be ad hominem is people telling you what mentalities and ideologies produce these arguments (and yet it is everyone else who is being perversely ideological). You don’t seem to disidentify with these mentalities, you just disagree that they are relevant, or so it seems. 

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5 hours ago, Tybalt said:

 You keep repeating this as if people are unaware of it.  What you are missing is the fact that identity has always been used as a criteria in academic hiring decisions.  The only difference is that--in a tiny minority of current postings--it is being used as a criteria for inclusion rather than exclusion.

 

The obvious "tell"?

-Departments that are 100% white faculty?  Crickets.

-Job postings that openly exclude LGBT applicants (and two cycles ago, there were SEVERAL such positions)?  Crickets.

When complaints about "diversity" and "identity" only arise when the "victim" is the straight/white/male trifecta, the issue, as someone said earlier, is one of privilege.

 

1) How do you know what percentage of humanities listings or searches use identity as a basis for selecting a candidate? The vast majority of recent searches that I have seen are happening at institutions that have adopted policies similar to those I've referenced. 

2) "Departments that are 100% white faculty?":  Why don't you link to the English Departments in the United States that have 100% white faculty? And also provide your criteria for whiteness, and your confidence level that you can discern the whiteness of each individual faculty member in the offending department because that is implicitly the ability you claim to have. Then, if you do find an offending department, let's check in with the faculty to see how they identify against how you identify them. I'm not saying you won't find such a department, but the ease with which you make this pronouncement suggests an extraordinary ability. Also, what would you deem an appropriate number of non-white faculty in each department? 

3) "Job postings that openly exclude LGBT applicants (and two cycles ago, there were SEVERAL such positions)": Could you link to the several such positions in English/humanities departments? Or are you referring to the BYU ads in STEM fields at a religious institution? I think you'd have to admit that there are any number of positions in the humanities where queer applicants are strongly encouraged, if not required. I find BYU's discrimination deplorable. 

4) "When complaints about "diversity" and "identity" only arise when the "victim" is the straight/white/male trifecta, the issue, as someone said earlier, is one of privilege.": Or maybe it's an issue of being discriminated against and having one's fundamental civil rights violated? The ease with which you excuse these protections for your bogeyman malefactor is deeply troubling. Let's adjust my scenario and make the candidate a straight jewish man--who you'd consider to be white? You'd have no problem with the denial of his civil rights? This is precisely the kind of illogic I would like prospective students to see because it is emblematic of the ideology at the present time. You can value the importance of diversity and inclusion without making recourse to this kind of discriminatory logic. 

4 hours ago, WildeThing said:

Interesting that differences in perspectives matter here, but you haven’t made a similar issue about perceived prestige of the alma mater, or of the type of work one does. Perhaps the issue is that you consider these to be factors that should be considered and identity is not.

Prestige and the type of work one does should absolutely be considered in a hiring decision. Foremost, they are not legally protected. I think the obsession with institutional prestige is misguided, but a scholar's work is critically important for the evaluation of their abilities. Also, these factors aren't ripe for speculation and prejudice--people can be open about how and why they are evaluating them. As I keep repeating, one of my concerns with the use of identity in hiring is how it often goes undisclosed or without explanation. 

4 hours ago, WildeThing said:

What you perceive to be ad hominem is people telling you what mentalities and ideologies produce these arguments (and yet it is everyone else who is being perversely ideological). You don’t seem to disidentify with these mentalities, you just disagree that they are relevant, or so it seems. 

By "mentalities" I take it you mean "privileged" and bigoted  because I disagree with these practices? That has been your refrain. It is precisely this logic that I am taking issue with because I find it deeply damaging, reductive, and prejudiced. For over forty years scholars in the humanities have been insisting on the need to diversify their faculties, and an incredible amount of progress has been made in that time. Our faculties should be diverse, and they should represent a range of views and experiences. But it's as though we are back in the early 1980s where good old boys rule the school as opposed to retiring, dying, and leaving many chairs and deanships in the capable hands of those historically excluded generations ago. Claiming ongoing oppression in these departments and environments allows one to leverage incredible institutional power that would be surrendered if these gains were acknowledged, and there is in fact a threat against the humanities that requires the exercise of power. Sadly, everything fell apart in the aftermath of 2008, and the jobs obviously are not coming back. With so many qualified people desperate for employment and so few opportunities, we have had to figure out a new way to cull candidates. Given the fact that many of us occupy the far left of the political spectrum, we have found it permissible to covertly enforce a program of affirmative action as we define it. The problem is that it is not lawful and it is not accountable. We make haphazard and prejudiced decisions about candidates' identities and we excuse that conduct as ethical and necessary in a political and social culture where we can casually turn "privileged white men" into malefactors without any objections. The people posting on this thread may find those assumptions permissible, but the law and the public at large do not. Nor should they: the overconfidence with which people here seem to think they can define and judge identity should alarm us all. 

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12 hours ago, strawberryB said:

 And also provide your criteria for whiteness, and your confidence level that you can discern the whiteness of each individual faculty member in the offending department because that is implicitly the ability you claim to have.

Ascertaining identities is, indeed, a difficult and complex task. Luckily there has been quite a lot written on the subject from many perspectives, with Michael Omi being one good example. However, the fact that this step is difficult does not mean that the whole process should be thrown out.

12 hours ago, strawberryB said:

4) "When complaints about "diversity" and "identity" only arise when the "victim" is the straight/white/male trifecta, the issue, as someone said earlier, is one of privilege.": Or maybe it's an issue of being discriminated against and having one's fundamental civil rights violated? The ease with which you excuse these protections for your bogeyman malefactor is deeply troubling. Let's adjust my scenario and make the candidate a straight jewish man--who you'd consider to be white? You'd have no problem with the denial of his civil rights? This is precisely the kind of illogic I would like prospective students to see because it is emblematic of the ideology at the present time. You can value the importance of diversity and inclusion without making recourse to this kind of discriminatory logic.

I am going to respond to the rest of your points here and call it a day on this thread, since this response shows a clear fracture in how we perceive reality. As the climate "debate" has shown, there is nothing to be done when we fundamentally disagree on what something is, as it inhibits any discussion of what can be done. To reiterate one last time: identity is always an issue, has always been an issue. Marginalized identities have been, and are, discriminated against in hiring practices, including in academia. The concept of diversity hires (leaving aside methodology for a second) is meant to counteract this discrimination. You interpret this as discrimination. This is why privilege has been sounded: to interpret measured for equity as discrimination necessitates a view of the status quo (with its discrimination) as normative.

I reject your premise that Jewishness and whiteness are inherently a binary - yes, Jews have historically been considered non-white but reducing the complexity of identity to white and non-white is precisely what true adherence to the ideals of diversity would sway you against. Similarly, why do you assume how anyone here would interpret this hypothetical man's identity? Either way, you're assuming that this candidate would be rejected because of his perceived whiteness, despite having no evidence that this is how hiring committees function (your argument is based on the lack of transparency, to which you then impose malicious intentions, even though most identification practices are based on self-identification). As has been said MULTIPLE times, you have decided that candidates are being turned away because of their identity - that identity is the determinant factor - rather than the possibility that it is one of many factors. Similarly, you assume that diversity is a simple presence/absence (because, as many of your arguments have shown, you operate on an assumption of whiteness vs. non-whiteness), rather than it is a complex spectrum, wherein one department might value your straight Jewish man to be offering more diversity to their faculty than someone else who you feel it is easier to label as non-white.

13 hours ago, strawberryB said:

Prestige and the type of work one does should absolutely be considered in a hiring decision. Foremost, they are not legally protected. I think the obsession with institutional prestige is misguided, but a scholar's work is critically important for the evaluation of their abilities. Also, these factors aren't ripe for speculation and prejudice--people can be open about how and why they are evaluating them. As I keep repeating, one of my concerns with the use of identity in hiring is how it often goes undisclosed or without explanation.

Really? Because I have never heard of a hiring (or admissions) committee providing a breakdown of why one candidate was selected over another. You realize that this is GradCafe right? Where half of the posts are about attempting to decipher the nebulous nature of such committees, which are apparently open now.

 

13 hours ago, strawberryB said:

By "mentalities" I take it you mean "privileged" and bigoted  because I disagree with these practices? That has been your refrain. It is precisely this logic that I am taking issue with because I find it deeply damaging, reductive, and prejudiced. For over forty years scholars in the humanities have been insisting on the need to diversify their faculties, and an incredible amount of progress has been made in that time. Our faculties should be diverse, and they should represent a range of views and experiences. But it's as though we are back in the early 1980s where good old boys rule the school as opposed to retiring, dying, and leaving many chairs and deanships in the capable hands of those historically excluded generations ago. Claiming ongoing oppression in these departments and environments allows one to leverage incredible institutional power that would be surrendered if these gains were acknowledged, and there is in fact a threat against the humanities that requires the exercise of power. Sadly, everything fell apart in the aftermath of 2008, and the jobs obviously are not coming back. With so many qualified people desperate for employment and so few opportunities, we have had to figure out a new way to cull candidates. Given the fact that many of us occupy the far left of the political spectrum, we have found it permissible to covertly enforce a program of affirmative action as we define it. The problem is that it is not lawful and it is not accountable. We make haphazard and prejudiced decisions about candidates' identities and we excuse that conduct as ethical and necessary in a political and social culture where we can casually turn "privileged white men" into malefactors without any objections. The people posting on this thread may find those assumptions permissible, but the law and the public at large do not. Nor should they: the overconfidence with which people here seem to think they can define and judge identity should alarm us all. 

Yes, when you display a mentality derived from privilege and I identify it as such I am being reductive, yet you refer to everyone as having a leftist ideological bend and that is... true? Your implication that "we have come a long way," as if we have achieved equality, is patently untrue and mimics gaslighting so well I can smell the propane. Again I recommend Derrick Bell Jr.'s "Racial Realism."

Lastly, again, no one is presuming that they are able to define and judge identity. They're just not giving up on diversity as a result. But hey, since this clearly does not work, how would you suggest we achieve better diversity in our institutions?

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