Recruitment and Advertising: Best Practices for Recruiting Underrepresented Folks in Communication Studies

This is my fourth, and for now final, post about best practices for recruiting underrepresented folks in communication studies. The first post helped frame the issues and provide a rationale. The second post laid out some initial steps involving relationship formation and partnerships with units like Latina/o/x studies and African American studies on your campuses.  Last week’s post was about some simple things that can be done to write job ads and propose hires that require minimal effort to diversify your pools. Today’s post is about putting in the effort to actually diversify your pool (or at least try).

The lack of attention to a variety of outlets and forums to recruit a more diverse applicant pool has become an unfortunate norm. Reflecting on where jobs were advertised in the most recent season of job recruitment, I was a little shocked and mostly dismayed at the lack of (minimal) effort from well intentioned people to recruit beyond CRTNET. 1. It’s 2017. 2. This isn’t rocket science. All it takes is a little critical thinking and you can advertise and draw from a wider pool. 3. CRTNET is a space that is often hostile to people of color and smart money has been on ignoring or unsubscribing from the listserv because of that hostility. Here are my recommendations.

First, go to NCA’s list of interest groups, divisions, and caucuses, which is available here: https://www.natcom.org/about-nca/membership-and-interest-groups/nca-interest-groups. Click on “Caucuses” to see a list of all of the caucuses. When you click on an individual one, like the Black Caucus, you’re presented with a short description of the organization and a list of leaders.

Then, go to the Member Directory (here: https://www.natcom.org/Member-Directory) and search for the name of the chair of the relevant caucus. When you do that, you’ll see a “See more…” link after their basic information — that link will provide you with an email address and a mailing address. Email relevant chairs (or other officers if the chair’s information is unavailable) to ask for their help in disseminating your job advertisement to their membership email list and (if applicable) their social media outlets (e.g., their Facebook group).

Second, identify key faculty of color (at PhD granting institutions and elsewhere) around the country from which to directly solicit applicants. Some of those people who you identify might be appropriate for your job; but even if they’re not a great fit, they might know of other people who are. As such, you can ask those beginning and established faculty to help spread the word about your desire to seek a diverse applicant pool. This strategy works particularly well when you (or one of your colleagues) have a personal connection to a scholar of color who can aid in recruitment.

Third, directly contact department chairs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) to ask for their assistance in disseminating your advertisement to their PhD students and alumni networks.

Fourth, be honest about the assumptions and expectations you have of faculty of color versus white faculty. Are you using a deficit approach to difference? Do you not see their work as “really” based in rhetoric because they take a non-Eurocentric approach? Are there reasons you are favoring white faculty who study race over faculty of color who study race? These are conversations you need to have with your faculty colleagues in order to have honest and productive interactions with those whom you seek to recruit and retain. The retention side of this is long-term, but it starts at the recruit stage. For example, if you recruit a Latino rhetorician who does decolonial rhetorical scholarship (using myself as the example, here), you really can’t be surprised at tenure time when his research portfolio is focused on the aforementioned topics; nor can you really be surprised if courses in those topic areas (when they’re new to your department and/or university) struggle for enrollment the first couple times they’re offered. You need to take ownership of the environment you’ve created and be part of the solution for transforming your PWI into a place that is productive and safe for scholars of color.

Fifth, if you extend an offer to an Underrepresented Minority Faculty person, please resist the drive (coming from folks who are more old-school, from administrators, and from others steeped in racism) to low-ball and repeat the tired discourse about people needing to be honored to receive an offer. Faculty of color do more work (much of it informal) from the moment they arrive in a job. Students of color seek them out for advice and safety. They are put on more committees because they are treated as the voice of diversity. They constantly have to justify their research and teaching (educating their colleagues) because white faculty at PWIs have been able to operate comfortably in their bubbles for their entire careers and feel (often subconsciously) threatened. Faculty of color have worked twice as hard to get the offer and, despite your best intentions, will probably have to work twice as hard to get tenure. Offers should be attractive, not baseline. Also, you should be doing the labor of transforming your departmental and university spaces to lessen this undue burden placed on faculty of color; but until that happens, be prepared to make offers that reflect the realities that lie ahead. #realtalk

All of that being said, there are many obstacles to recruiting and hiring Underrepresented Minority Faculty. When pools are large, people fall through the cracks. Oftentimes, EEO/Diversity offices will make it hard for you to affirmatively select scholars of color for your medium- or short-lists. Even with taking all of the aforementioned steps, committee member incompetence or malice can ensure a whitening of the pool. Even when you do manage to interview great scholars of color, it may be hard to seal the deal and hire them. Despite the realities of all of those points (many of which have been told to me in the context of this blog series), none of them are an excuse to not try.

The motivation for this series was seeing so few of the people I would like to count as friends (or at least disciplinary/work friends) do little-to-nothing to even try to diversify their pools. People throw their hands up saying “x field is so white anyway, there’s no point in trying.” The whiteness of communication studies, however, is not a reason to give up; rather, it’s a reason to try even harder. For example, I’m one of only a handful of Latina/o/x faculty at PhD granting programs in communication studies. Period. And that sucks. It also makes it harder to show other Latina/o/x undergraduates and graduates that communication studies has room for them. We need to do better; and the only way to do better is to actually (and consistently) start to try. 

Thanks for reading along in this series. I’ll be doing one more post collecting all of the previous posts, editing them, integrating feedback from the comments (here, on Facebook, and on Twitter), and making a one-page checklist that can help people stay on task though the job search/recruitment process. All of that will be united in a PDF that will eventually get its own menu item at the top. There are also countless things that can/should be added with regard to recruitment processes and retention, so I hope to have some more open discussions about that in the future. For now, however, thank you for following along and spreading the word.