The Strange Fine Print Of A Job Offer

Here’s a peculiar requirement for a tenure-track job teaching early modern British literature at Duquesne University: “Applicants must be willing to contribute actively to the mission and to respect the Spiritan Catholic identity of Duquesne University. The mission is implemented through a commitment to academic excellence, a spirit of service, moral and spiritual values, sensitivity to world concerns, and an ecumenical campus community.” “Sensitivity to world concerns”? I cannot recall a single job description back in the old days that raised a qualification like this one. What does that have to do with 17th-century British literature?
More and more we see academic job descriptions with unsettling requirements, commonly phrased as commitments or dispositions. The English Department at the University of Delaware for instance, “seeks to hire an associate or full professor of 19th-century American literature, with tenure, with research interests in issues of race and ethnicity… Applicants with demonstrated interdisciplinary interests and experience contributing to diversity initiatives on campus are encouraged to apply.”
What exactly does “experience contributing to diversity initiatives” mean? I suppose any activity that boosts the presence of people of color on campus. But it certainly has no necessary relation to the quality of a candidate’s research. We have, that is to say, an administrative criterion tacked onto a research profile, one that rules out anybody who hasn’t endorsed various diversity initiatives. You might be a highly qualified scholar, but if you see problems in affirmative action in college admissions, or if you argue for a reading list of foundational texts that is deemed insufficiently multicultural , don’t bother to apply.
This amounts to a form of social engineering in the employment process. More importantly, it marks an incursion into the research-based nature of faculty hiring. It raises serious questions about academic freedom as well, and it would be worthwhile to ask faculty organizations about their position on these non-research add-ons in research job openings.


  • Mark Bauerlein

    Mark Bauerlein is a professor emeritus of English at Emory University and an editor at First Things, where he hosts a podcast twice a week. He is the author of five books, including The Dumbest Generation Grows Up: From Stupefied Youth to Dangerous Adults.

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2 thoughts on “The Strange Fine Print Of A Job Offer

  1. Interesting, though unfortunately not surprising.
    You reference the more straight-forward job descriptions of “the old days.” Forgive the whippersnapper (that would be me), but when would you say the shift in academia came about from the “old days” to the times we are in now?

  2. Wouldn’t it be simpler just to *allow* colleges to announce “We’re a leftist institution” or “we’re a Catholic institution loyal to the Pope,” etc., and then to allow them to add that “we seek to hire faculty who are enthusiastic about our stated mission”?
    The notion that every college has to be as “neutral” is Down the Street State U. (not that they’re really neutral, but let that pass) is gives rise to these kinds of vague ideological filters.

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