College falls short of its goals for affirmative action hirings again

For the second year in a row the College did not meet its goal for the hiring of new female and minority faculty members.

At the November faculty meeting, Assistant to the President for Affirmative Action and Government Relations Nancy McIntire shared the results of the 1997-98 hiring report with faculty and administrators.

According to McIntire, there has been a downward trend over the previous four years in the hiring of minority faculty members. There were seven minorities hired in 1993-94 for the year 1994-95. That number steadily decreased until it reached zero minorities hired for the year 1996-97. The goal for 1997-98 was to hire three to four minorities for college-wide regular appointments (including physical education), but only one minority appointment was made during that academic year.

McIntire also said the hiring results for women have not followed a comparable downward trend. In the previous four years, the College exceeded its goal in every division except for Division II. However, for the 1997-98 academic year the goal was only reached in Division I. In total, there were three appointments of women that year, falling six short of the goal of nine.

The policy of affirmative action has been part of the faculty hiring process at Williams since the early 1970s. The first formal plan came out of work done by the Committee on Equal Opportunity in 1971. Since that time, the plan for hiring new faculty members has involved setting specific targets and quotas for women and minorities.

McIntire said because the numbers are so small it is unlikely that the percentage goal will be precisely met. She explained the decreasing trend in minority hiring by noting that 1993-94 was a large hiring year in general at Williams. That year, there were 14 positions available, compared to only seven available positions in the 1994-95 school year.

However, McIntire added that 1995-96 was an even bigger hiring year with 25 positions available, but only two minorities hired.

“This number was lower than we would liked it to have been,” McIntire said. “We hope it isn’t a long-term trend.”

McIntire noted that the success of the affirmative goals also depends on the nature of the jobs are available. For example, she said there are more likely to be women hired in a year when there are openings in the psychology department as compared to a year in which there are openings in the philosophy department simply because there are more women with doctorates in psychology than philosophy.

Similarly, she reported that 1993-94 was a successful year for hiring minorities in part because the College was conducting a search for professors to teach Latino studies.

Dean of the Faculty David Smith said Williams has had some success in its hiring of minority faculty, but could do better.

“Williams has done about as well as comparable colleges in hiring minority faculty and better than most colleges and universities,” he said. “Still, the numbers are small, and we need to work harder to produce better results. The market for first-rate minority faculty is highly competitive. Thus, to have success in hiring and retaining minority faculty, we must make consistent and exceptional efforts.”

McIntire said the process of hiring begins each spring at the department level. Each department submits a staffing report to the dean of the faculty and the Committee for Appointments and Promotions (CAP). This report summarizes the department’s anticipations for the next year’s staffing situation and its requests for new staffing.

McIntire said although the official approval for hiring doesn’t come until later in the fall semester, the departments receive tentative approval to start the hiring process in the spring as a result of the early deadlines for advertising in some publications (such as The Chronicle of Higher Education). McIntire works with each department and comes up with a composite list of all the anticipated openings, which is then advertised in national publications. McIntire added that the College makes a special effort to advertise in publications that target minority candidates.

Every three years, McIntire reviews national Ph.D. statistics using data provided by the National Research Council of Ph.D. recipients for fields taught at Williams. She then evaluates the College’s goals with this data and shares her finding with the dean of the faculty, the president and the provost. The findings then move on to the Affirmative Action Advisory Committee, which makes a final recommendation to the president.

The proportions of the voting membership of the faculty (or those members of faculty who can vote at faculty meetings), including physical education and non-tenure track voting members, has remained roughly stable at around 33 percent and 13 percent for women and minorities, respectively. When asked about the College’s long-term goal for these proportions, McIntire said, “It’s not an exact science. We haven’t got a long-range goal. We’ve been pushing towards a figure that more closely mirrors the production of women coming out with Ph.D’s, but we haven’t said, ‘By the year 2004 we will have a [certain] percentage of women on the faculty.’”

Chair of the Multicultural Center and Professor of Political Science Alex Willingham said he thinks the College should take a proactive approach to the issue of affirmative action. “The broader picture is fairly clear. Affirmative remains a part of the broader struggle for equity and diversity and involves a number of issues around difference that I think we need to address affirmatively,” he said. “Affirmative action policy is under attack in a number of places and the results have been mixed.”

Willingham said he believes that affirmative action policies have worked well in the past.

“I think the policies have been effective,” he said. “In the voting area with which I am most familiar, substantial numbers of elected officials from communities of color were able to gain public office because of racially conscious criticism of existing systems and race conscious reforms designed to change things. This involves election to Congress as well as local office. I dare say the same thing has occurred in other areas including admission to higher education and employment.”

Addressing affirmative action at Williams, he said, “Williams and similar institutions in the private sector will be especially important in the near future and will be challenged to hold the line in the face of attacks on affirmative action in public sector institutions.”

McIntire cited two specific successes in the College’s affirmative action policy.

She said over the years the number of women in the sciences has increased. She attributes this success to the hard work done at the department level as well as the talented candidate pool. Another success has been the Bolin Minority Graduate Student Fellowship, which brings minority graduate students to the College and allows them to finish their dissertation and teach for at least one semester at the College.

However, McIntire said a number of challenges to the College’s affirmative action policy remain.

“There is a challenge for all of us because of the national mood which seems to be opposed to affirmative action, and yet Williams remains committed to taking affirmative action to make sure our jobs are widely advertised,” she said. “We take seriously the candidacies of talented women and faculty of color because we’re committed to having a diverse faculty.” In the case of women, McIntire said the biggest challenge is hiring women who are going to stay and rise to positions of leadership.

For minorities, she said “the challenge is to find talented graduate students who are interested in teaching at a place like Williams.” She explained that the Bolin Fellowship is an example of the College’s attempt to have a long-term impact on the candidate pool of minorities with Ph.D.s. She also said that the College is trying to encourage its own minority undergraduates by providing internship opportunities.

“The challenge in terms of minority hiring is for all of us to be creative and figure out how to get more of our own undergraduate students into graduate school, through graduate school, and back to teach,” she said. “We need also to make sure that we are doing as much as possible in our outreach efforts to identify talented candidates.”