Whitney Wilson ’90 provides these comments on Faculty sections of the Report, authored by John Gerry, Associate Dean of the Faculty.

The opening part of this section of the report lays out the Colleges’ rationale for wanting a diverse faculty. The articulated reasons mirror those generally laid out for wanting a diverse student body (i.e. a remedy for past discrimination, and the general benefits of a diversity of backgrounds and ideas). There has been plenty of debate on the merits of these reasons, and I won’t rehash those arguments now.

One of the most astonishing statements I saw in the report was in the section relating to faculty recruitment and was characterized as a “recommendation”:

Continue to allocate FTE to curricular areas in which we are likely to attract minority candidates. Critical to our recent success in bringing minorities onto the faculty has been that we have begun hiring into interdisciplinary programs (Latina/o Studies, American Studies, African American Studies).

This seems to suggest that Williams should be adding faculty positions to, at least in part, make it easier to add minority faculty. Does this make any sense? It might if there were a complete lack of minority faculty in Williamstown. But the statistics provided by the College in Tables 32-50 show generally that minority faculty are present at Williams in more than negligible numbers. I believe that most people in the Williams community would agree that one of the important components of a Williams education is the curriculum. It appears that the College is at least contemplating shaping that curriculum for the express purpose of adding diversity to the faculty. Regardless of one’s position on the importance of a (more) diverse faculty, I don’t believe that the curriculum should be affected by efforts to increase the number of minority faculty members.

One of the other recommendations – more recruiting from the ranks of Bolin Fellows – could and should be fully implemented. The advantage of doing so is that it allows for a much more informed picture of a prospective faculty member prior to hiring him or her. That is, the College has the opportunity has the opportunity to closely observe the candidate in the Williamstown environment for a year. ( I wonder whether making the fellowships two year positions – or perhaps renewable for a second year – would make sense. Certainly, many, if not most dissertations take at least two years or more to write). This should allow a much more informed judgment to be made about the strength of the candidate (particularly his or her teaching ability) that could possibly be evident from a short series of interviews. This type of extended “interview” is the model used by large law firms to fill their entry level positions from law students who intern at them for a summer. While I certainly won’t vouch for the overall hiring and retention practices of large law firms, this is one area where I think they have it right. Hiring Bolin Fellows would also allow faculty candidates a better opportunity to know what living in Williamstown would be like. This would, hopefully, make it less likely that good (in this case, minority) faculty members would leave because they didn’t want to live/work in Williamstown.

Finally, if we agree having a more diverse faculty is an important goal (or at least agree that the administration has decided that it is an important goal), one way to accomplish this is to take more chances in hiring. Based on the experiences of a friend who applied for an advertised position at Williams, it appears that “paper qualifications” are extremely important in the hiring process. While such qualifications can be a way to cull through dozens – or even hundreds – of applicants, it undoubtedly eliminates many candidates who might make excellent Williams professors. So long as the College is willing to not reappoint faculty at the end of their first three years, the downside of taking chances on minority faculty applicants who might flourish at Williams and be an asset to the Williams community is outweighed by the benefits.

Thanks to Whitney and all our discussants for taking the time to make such thoughtful comments.

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