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Since When Is a ‘Personal Diversity Statement’ Required to Teach Here?

Today's universities are 'more aggressively competing for' underrepresented minorities, warns a new report

For anyone who dreams of teaching at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, hiring decisions may not be based on credentials, education or unique skills. They may instead be about one’s personal “diversity standards.”

A Cornell task force established last October to “enhance and accelerate the diversification of the Cornell faculty” recently issued a list of recommendations, as Campus Reform reported.

The provost’s task force to enhance faculty diversity” has outlined steps it believes could help Cornell keep its competitive edge in attracting outstanding both female and “underrepresented minority” (URM) faculty members.

“The committee is a diverse, highly committed group of faculty,” said the task force chair, Mark E. Lewis, a professor in the school of operations research and information engineering and a senior associate dean of diversity and faculty development in the engineering school.

“We want to create a microcosm of the society we all want to live in, where all can flourish and succeed.”

The report’s recommendations focus on three areas: “The need to ‘reset’ the climate for diversity and inclusion,” “increased access to and hiring of diverse populations at all levels of recruitment,” and “retaining diverse faculty, with efforts beginning at the time of hire and continuing until retirement.”

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Actions recommended include an “official university statement to formally connect Cornell’s motto to its commitment to diversity and inclusion,” and also — interestingly — a requirement that tenure-track faculty and senior leadership applicants “submit a personal ‘diversity and inclusion statement’ in their application.”

In addition, the committee thinks Cornell should “provide bias training for search committee members for senior administrative academic positions” and undertake efforts to “strengthen references to diversity and inclusion in colleges’ criteria for promotion and tenure,” noted Campus Reform.

The document also tackled faculty retention efforts. It offered four solutions to keep “diverse” staff at Cornell — three of which involve money for promoting diversity or for being “underrepresented faculty.”

Incredibly, the report advises administrators to “provide monetary rewards for time spent advising diverse students or serving on committees in need of diverse representation”; to “provide central funds to enhance the salaries of outstanding underrepresented faculty whose salary is significantly below market” (no word on the below-market salaries of non-underrepresented faculty members); to “enhance recognition for female and URM faculty excellence at the college level”; and to “provide a loan program to help new faculty buy a home in Ithaca and establish community connections.”

Related: Yet Another Public School Funded by Taxpayers Focuses on ‘Diversity’

The report also notes that “peer institutions are more aggressively competing for these faculty.”

Perhaps most tellingly, there are three words left out of the report about “attracting top talent” that is more than a bit foreboding: merit, experience and qualifications.

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