Promotion, tenure, and the value of diversity, equity and inclusion work

Webinar Summary

The information, ideas, and opinions shared during the Promotion, tenure, and the value of diversity, equity and inclusion work panel discussion is summarized below. Synthesis was compiled by Catherine Riihimaki on July 5, 2022. View full recording »

Organizations mentioned by panelists

Getting credit for DEI work

Advice for faculty interested in doing DEI work and getting credit for it (note that these are personal decisions, context dependent, and less linear than this list implies):

  1. Decide what your values and goals are. What do you need in your job in order to feel like you are making meaningful contributions?
  2. Do the work to build a theoretical framework through practicing active learning, learning techniques of bystander intervention, and studying the history of different groups. Read, discuss, learn, and unlearn.
  3. Develop skills as equity-minded leaders, mentors, and teachers. Then practice those skills in all of your spaces. Learn how to empower grassroot efforts, build consensus, and build structural diversity.
  4. Look not for silver bullets but silver buckshot. For example, consider small efforts like adding DEI work in NSF grant budgets. This work can serve as a pilot that leads to bigger projects later.
  5. Analyze your setting to assess whether you can align your work with your institution's mission statement and your program's goals. Anticipate people who will be potential allies/mentors or people who will be hostile to your efforts. Learn where the levers of change are in your setting. Frame things in the values of the people who are the decision-makers at your setting.
  6. Make the invisible work visible in personal statements, but also throughout your professional work. Get the data! If you can show how DEI initiatives can change enrollment and other aspects of your institution/department, you can make huge strides. For example, consider looking at data from climate surveys on your campus.
  7. Pay it forward: make sure that you are providing support and mentoring to ensure success of others when and where you can.

Advice for P&T file reviewers and policy changers

Advice for faculty who review tenure and promotion files (P&T) and/or have the ability to change policies at their institution:

  • Move into senior leadership (department chair, dean, academic senate, etc.). If you want to have an impact, you need to be part of the process. Those who review P&T files have a responsibility to call for change. This work furthers systemic change and offers institutions strategic advantages.
  • Be an active mentor for non-tenured faculty, including speaking up for them when they are not in the room.
  • Recognize biases in evaluation systems that are "merit" based. Recognize that the current evaluation systems were set up decades ago as assimilation efforts, not as liberatory practices. This is true of the ways that scholarly work is credited, as well as the ways in which classroom evaluations reflect student biases. Pay attention to circumstances that are beyond the candidate's control (e.g., COVID, child rearing leave, disability-related issues).
  • Make a formal policy about workloads and ensure that the service work is transparent and shared equitably. Be mindful of the service load of people from traditionally excluded groups to ensure that there is equity in expectations and credit. Department chairs especially need to be well-trained in equity-minded leadership. Look for ways to honor service work through "fellow" designations or awards that confer cultural capital, and look for community building opportunities (may take several years) to ensure that work can be shared equitably.
  • Use strategies for getting buy-in to change policies, ideally working from the bottom-up. These include direct appeals, bringing chairs together from different departments to hear examples from other departments for how power is shared in evaluations (e.g., discuss how different departments include junior faculty in promotion and tenure discussions and voting on files), hosting workshops on evaluation models within the institution (including guest speakers) and with professional organizations, and writing group faculty memos on structural changes.
  • Look to existing models, such as the ones below:
    • IUPUI (Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis): created a pathway for faculty who want to be evaluated holistically about their DEI efforts, and transparency about the expectations;
    • Portland State University: after tenure, they allow a change in the balance of teaching, research, and service, provided it is consistent with department priorities;
    • WPI (Worcester Polytechnic Institute): they have expanded the definition of "research" in their faculty expectations (e.g., scholarship of discovery, research of teaching and learning, scholarship of engagement) that includes much DEI work; and
    • UCLA(University of California, Los Angeles): DEI statements are being phased in for promotion and tenure files, with optional inclusion in the first year, required inclusion for the second year, and close scrutiny and returned statements for revision in the third year. They have also hosted discussions of how to evaluate work that is team-based and/or community work that doesn't necessarily lead to publications.
  • Consider tracking metrics that measure the "cultural health" of your department and institution, recognizing that traditional metrics may not value inclusive climates that enable equitable success. Climate surveys, qualitative interviews, and exit surveys of faculty are helpful.

The future with DEIJ

If you could envision a future in which diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice work was supported, resourced, and valued for faculty at all career stages, what does that future look like?

  • One where we see people engaged in transformative solidarity in departments, where there are coalitions of allies and individuals from different backgrounds who are all being active and in solidarity with each other to transform the culture.
  • One where we all have the exact same goals and we also have the exact same definitions of what success is and who we're really targeting for DEI initiatives.
  • One with equity-minded leadership at all levels and a culture and climate that supports each community member to be self-actualized, in touch with their own identities, and to be accountable to themselves and each other.
  • No more barriers for anyone.

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