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Developing best practices for equitable faculty hiring

March 2, 2022

Amy Walker

University of Texas at Dallas

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of EAB.

How can we leverage current diversity, equity, inclusion and justice (DEIJ) initiatives at our institutions in a more meaningful way?

The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) by many metrics is a very diverse community with a large number of DEIJ initiatives and activities. However, in the Erik Jonsson School of Computer Science and Engineering (ECS) we are concerned that there is a lack of representation and inclusion in our student, staff and faculty body. This is not an uncommon concern in STEM; there is significant under-representation of women and other underrepresented groups. For example, in the U.S. only 13.5% of full professors are women in engineering.

Common approaches to DEIJ training, such as workshops and online trainings, can be frustrating for many staff and faculty because the question is “What’s next?” In my capstone project I worked on and implemented an action plan for faculty hiring to ensure that DEIJ concerns were addressed. The focus of the project was on the hiring committee’s activities and tested during a senior faculty search. Many studies have shown that our implicit biases can be mitigated through discussion and giving all participants enough time to make decisions.

At UT Dallas, DEIJ training is required during the faculty hiring process, given by the Office of Institutional Equity. In this case the training was a discussion amongst the committee members rather than a slide presentation. The committee talked at length about the desired skills that the ideal candidate needs as well as aspects about the applicant review process itself, for example anonymized applications.

In the end, the committee felt that anonymized review was not practical given the unique careers of the applicants. Once the applications were received, the committee members provided written reviews of each candidate, giving both their pros and cons.

The aim of the written reviews was that each committee member spend time reviewing each file. The hiring committee then met, had a long discussion about the candidates and selected a relatively large number of candidates (seven) for an initial interview.

At this meeting we also discussed the interview process in detail. The committee decided on a series of questions which focused more on the candidates’ skills rather than experiences. We also decided to ask the candidates to give a one-slide, five-minute presentation on their philosophy for the position (so that the candidate could highlight their skills and experiences as they would like).

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At the interview, each question was asked by the same committee member to ensure that the applicant experience was the same as much as possible. The interviews were also recorded with the candidate’s permission so that the committee members could watch them again as they reflected on each candidate. Afterwards, each committee member provided written reviews and ranked the candidates using 10-4 voting.

In 10-4 voting, each member distributes 10 votes and can give up to 4 votes to their preferred candidate. This enabled the committee to not just select one candidate but to choose a range of candidates. After the vote there was a second meeting to discuss the vote outcome, discuss the candidates based on the skills identified and choose finalists. This process proved effective and enabled the committee to come to a consensus.

See the fellows’ blogs from the capstone projects

Amy Walker and others participated in EAB’s Rising Higher Education Leaders Fellowship in fall 2021

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