Proposing Hires: Best Practices for Recruiting Underrepresented Folks in Communication Studies

In December, I went live with a series about Best Practices for Recruiting Underrepresented Folks in Communication Studies. The second post in that series was about first steps — about making connections and forming relationships on your campus so that you can both setup a long-term plan and do some inherent good in supporting voices and programs that often lack full support at a PWI. This entry in my series is about proposing your new hires. This is the time of year (on my campus, at least) when deans are requesting proposals for new hires. So this post aims to offer some guidance about how you can proceed in a manner that keeps diversity, inclusion, and equity in mind. 

As I mentioned above, most colleges and universities go through some kind of process to seek lines and require department chairs to justify the requests that they’re making. In a nation undergoing rapid demographic shifts, and in a state higher education environment where financial resources are tight, it boggles the mind that departments are failing to prioritize people (well, it’s not that surprising when you read that article) and areas of inquiry that map onto the diversifying US and student population.

Every single area of communication studies can be linked up with sub-areas related to race and ethnicity; but very rarely do people make it a priority to do this. As your department is going through the process of prioritizing hires, start thinking about how you can link it up to relevant concerns and sub-areas that are likely to attract more diverse pools. For example, rather than hiring a generic media studies position, link it up to areas that center questions of race and ethnicity: black screen (televisual and cinematic) studies; race and digital media; etc.

Additionally, consider exploring options to do joint-appointments with race and ethnic studies units in your college/university. Joint appointments aren’t without their problems — there need to be clear expectations from the beginning about divisions of labor (especially service work), tenure evaluation, etc., to help ensure that a new hire isn’t being pulled in too many directions to actually be able to effectively get their research and teaching goals accomplished. That said, joint appointments have some distinct advantages in recruitment and retention because they can bolster the sense and experience of community (personal, intellectual, and more) for a candidate.

For example, if a Latina/o/x candidate has a ready-made community of other scholars with similar experiences and an overlap of research interests, the job will be more attractive to them. Once on campus, those communities serve to increase job satisfaction and personal satisfaction as people start to craft a home for themselves. I can tell you from personal experience: few things are as isolating as being the only Latino in a department and being the first Underrepresented Minority Faculty member to successfully navigate tenure; and things would have been a bit different (and, I think, easier) had I been in a joint appointment with Latina/o/x studies.

As with my suggestions last time, there are undoubtedly countless other ways that you could approach a hiring plan that would increase diversity. For example, you may seek hires outside of the regular hiring cycle/plan in order to recruit specific individuals who you feel are great fits for your department and university. There may also be ways to work with your Chief Diversity Officer or a dean to do the same. Hopefully, though, this gives you an idea of where you can start. At the very least, it seems like it takes minimal effort to specify areas of research and teaching that could prove inviting to scholars of color; and I have a hard time imagining a single job that couldn’t specify or even center race/ethnicity in its area/description.