A New Way to Purge White Males at Yale?

In the academic world, the rules on “diversity” hires generally remain unspoken. Public colleges and universities–and private schools that care about their reputations–can’t well advertise new positions with the tagline, “No white males need apply.” Beyond the legal ramifications, such a move would abandon any pretense that colleges want the best possible faculty for all positions.

So less direct approaches are preferred. In recruiting “diverse” candidates at the senior level, colleges can craft job descriptions in which one and only one candidate is qualified. (Imagine, for instance, the stated requirements that Cornell employed to bring aboard as a tenured full professor Grant Farred, whose most recent publication had been a bizarre book labeling then-Houston Rockets center Yao Ming “the most profound threat to American empire.”) In weighting the scales at the entry level, a heavy race/class/gender emphasis in job lines can do the trick. (Consider how Duke must have designed a line to bring aboard the Group of 88 extremist Wahneema Lubiano, she of the perpetually-forthcoming but never-appearing manuscripts.) Or department chairs and campus administrators can employ subtle pressure on search committees to either select a wholly “diverse” field of finalists or ensure that the non-“diverse” candidate invited to campus serves as a token who lacks any real chance at getting the job. (The recent Rutgers athletic director search serves as a high-profile example of the latter pattern.)

According to the Yale Daily News, however, Yale is on the cusp of adopting a more direct approach. The Academic Review Committee, which the Daily News described as “a group of 14 professors working to determine the optimum size of the FAS and a system by which to allocate faculty positions,” has called for creation of new faculty lines, under the control of the central administration. These new, central lines will be explicitly budgeted to produce a host of new types of professors, including “diversity hires.”

In one respect, Yale deserves praise for its new initiative. Rather than continue a secret policy of discrimination, the university–at least for some of its new faculty positions–will henceforth be clear that it doesn’t want to consider candidates of the non-preferred race or gender or ethnicity. (Candidates that never had a chance at the job because of their personal characteristics therefore will be spared the trouble of filing an application or the tension of hoping for a job offer that can never come.) At the same time, however, that admission surely will give the lie to any claim from Yale that it always seeks to hire the best possible candidate for all faculty jobs, regardless of a candidate’s race, gender, or ethnicity, since at least on some occasions, the university will be deliberately limiting the application pool on grounds wholly unrelated to a prospective professor’s academic qualifications.

The ARC itself resulted from a call of Yale’s then-provost to “keep Yale at the frontiers in the advance of knowledge.” Some of those frontiers, it appears, will be quite limited.

KC Johnson

KC Johnson is a history professor at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is the author, along with Stuart Taylor, of The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America's Universities.

5 thoughts on “A New Way to Purge White Males at Yale?

  1. At the large state land grant where I formerly worked as an Engineering Professor, I had a male colleague who had non-tenure-track Visiting Assistant Professor status because he was from Turkey and not yet a U.S. permanent resident. After several years, his permanent residency came through and he was eligible for a tenure track position which was opened up for him as had been promised when he was originally hired.
    However, he couldn’t just be hired; there had to be an open search for the new position – ads in the relevant media, etc. Of course we wrote the ads so that he was the only one qualified for the position which made the whole thing a bit of a fraud.
    I was put in charge of the search. I found out the following things. If you’re from Turkey you are “white”. White male applicants could be rejected out of hand. However, for each non-white or female applicant, I had to write a separate justification as to why the applicant could not be considered.
    Fortunately for this guy, all the non-white and/or female applicants were either non-residents or too far away from receiving a Ph.D. We also had to have at least two white male applicants visit for on-campus interviews which was a waste of everyone’s time and got their hopes up that they would receive serious consideration.
    Since they were so desperate to hire women and non-whites, I was eventually informed that there was a permanent opening just in case a qualified woman or non-white stumbled in the front door and applied for a faculty position.
    So public university – not so much yay.

  2. Nice job, KC. Here’s what I posted on the Yale Daily News website:
    Re “diversity hires”: Not only is it unfair, divisive, and antimeritocratic to weigh race, ethnicity, and sex in hiring decisions — it is illegal. The “diversity” justification for preferences has, alas, been allowed by the courts for student admissions — but NOT in the employment context, where the statutes are different. See this link and the other articles cited therein:
    http://www.nas.org/articles/A_Half-Dozen_Push-Backs_for_Faculty_Hiring_Committee_Meetings

  3. Prof. Eager, you might look up Heather MacDonald’s description in a recent City Journal article which alleges that UC San Diego is doing exactly this in science and engineering. The NFL has something called the Rooney Rule, a demand that teams must interview black candidates when they have an openings for head coaches- maybe they could just add teams through expansion and hire coaches with the right appearance for those teams. If it’s good enough for Yale, then it must be good enough in football!

  4. I don’t think this works in science. First, you just don’t get black applicants. Second, you get nine million Chinese and Indian applicants, large numbers of whom are doing irrelevant jobs like working as a color chemist in a leather belt factory in Hunan province. In the large state research university where I worked there were plenty of qualified women and Asian applicants, and plenty of women and Asians hired, but I do not think I saw a single instance of a hire on anything but the merits. Nor did I ever hear a remark like “too bad we can’t hire _____ but she’s not qualified.” Everyone wants highly productive researchers as colleagues. I never saw any other agenda than merit. Public university! Yay!

  5. Does anyone inside or outside the academy believe such behavior will not threaten the existence of places like Yale?
    In a significant sense, we should be grateful for this example of egregious honesty.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.