Best Practices for Recruiting Underrepresented Folks in Communication Studies

I was dismayed, this year, to see so few of the excellent job opportunities in communication studies get circulated within the networks for brown and black scholars in the field. I was particularly troubled that so few of the people I consider friends and “progressive” put in any effort to target scholars of color as part of their recruitment efforts. As such, I want to do something about that.

This post is the first of several that will become a kind of living document — a work-in-progress to help people identify some best practices to advertise beyond the CRTNET crowd and attain more racial diversity in communication studies job applicant pools and faculties. Items will be added as suggestions come in to me. If you have suggestions for additions/changes, please post in the comments here or on my Facebook posts sharing links to this story. If you would like to contact me to talk about these best practices (because you are a search chair, administrator, or member of the media), please email me at darrel {at} wanzerserrano {dot} com.

There’s going to be a good deal of setup and narrativization of what I believe, based on my experience, an appropriate long-term plan might look like. Over the next month, I’ll talk about strategies you can be doing to help setup inclusive priorities for next year — especially since, for many of us, requests for new lines will be due to our deans later this winter or early in the spring. After I talk about “The Why” below, I’ll post about once a week (with an appropriate break for Christmas) to address first steps (making connections on your campus), second steps (proposing hires), and finally recruitment (advertising and networking beyond CRTNET). In the end, I’ll also publish a printable PDF with the appropriate recruitment resources to ease the process for those of you who don’t want to do name searches in NCA’s member directory. I imagine I’ll also do a followup post this spring on retention.

Before getting to “The Why,” I want to say something about the language I’m using throughout this blog post series. I hate to do it, but I’m using the rhetoric of “diversity” and “inclusion” despite how problematic it can be. If you haven’t done so, considering reading Sara Ahmed’s On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life. In it, Ahmed offers an excellent engagement of the pitfalls of “diversity” and the ways in which it can offer cover for institutional racism. I use the language of “diversity,” however, because it is the common parlance in our institutional settings — institutions that are often PWIs, predominantly white institutions — and I believe that part of the work of rhetoricians means meeting audiences where they are at.

The Why

Most fields in academia, at most institutions in academia, over-represent straight white cisgender men in the ranks of tenure-track and tenured professors. As a result, we face a problem that exists at multiple levels. Despite colleges and universities arguably doing a better, but not great, job recruiting underrepresented minorities (and I’m thinking specifically of African American, Latina/o/x, and Native American/indigenous folks), retention remains lax. At the graduate level, black, brown, and native peoples remain drastically underrepresented, which magnifies the problem when we get to the professoriate. There’s no one solution to this problem of under-representation, but I believe the problems and solutions share a degree of interrelation. This blog series is intended to address the problem from the angle of recruitment and hiring of underrepresented people into our tenure-track lines. I believe that with more racial minorities in the professoriate, our recruitment and retention of graduate students of color will improve; and with more people of color at the front of classrooms (as faculty and graduate student assistants), the retention of underrepresented undergraduates is improved.

Furthermore, you want a more diverse department and university. Diversity exposes people to a wider variety of perspectives and backgrounds that enhance teaching and research. Scholars have done a good job making the case for diversity in higher education. And the importance of diversity translates into a specific need for a more diverse faculty. Even business experts agree on the importance of diversity and inclusion in the work world. So let’s get to work!

Baldwin on ignorance and justice