By Emily Hoard
This year, three of the six faculty members hired this fall identify as members of communities of color, and 17 percent of tenure-track faculty members self-reported as being from underrepresented groups. In 2013, this percent- age was under 15 percent.
In a joint interview with University spokesman Adam Torgerson, University Presi- dent Steve Thorsett said that the University has imple- mented a number of “nation- al best practices” for recruit- ing and retaining a diverse faculty.
Thorsett said that he is ex- cited about the progress being made in diversifying the stu- dent body. He said that 38 per- cent of first-year students self- identified as being of color.
In the spring of 2014, a group of students organized a town hall meeting to discuss the issue of hiring faculty of color, retaining those faculty and granting them tenure af- ter the students discovered that a faculty member of color was denied tenure that fall.
About 100 people, includ- ing faculty members, admin- istrators and students attend- ed the event on April 29.
Senior exercise science ma- jor Manny Rodriguez said he agreed to write and share a testimonial at the event so he could help others understand why students of color need faculty of color.
“Studies show that there is a direct correlation between a healthy, diverse and sup- ported faculty and the well being and success of students of marginalized identities,” Rodriguez said in an inter- view. He said the testimonial was an opportunity for him to publically recognize faculty who have influenced him and address issues underrepre- sented students encounter at Willamette.
At the town hall, Professor of English and Associate Dean of Curriculum Gretchen Moon and Vice President and Executive Assistant to the President Kristen Grainger explained the role of Faculty Council and the tenure process.
A new professor is hired to the University in a certain position. Two examples are part-time visiting professors and tenure- track professors.
If a professor is hired on the tenure track, they will receive four reviews by Faculty Council over the course of six years to determine if they will be given tenure, meaning they can hold their position as long as they choose.
During each evaluation, the faculty member presents a set of materials including a personal statement, copies of publications and letters from students and faculty colleagues.
For the tenure review in the sixth year, candidates compile all the required materials and provide the Faculty Council with a list of eight other professors across the United States in their field who can judge their work objectively. With these materials and external reviews, the Faculty Council evaluates each professor’s success in meeting the established requirements for tenure.
These standards, outlined in the faculty handbook, are teaching effectiveness, service and professional development, which requires that faculty must have publications in peer-reviewed journals in order to receive tenure.
After the review, the Faculty Council makes a recommendation for who should receive tenure. The University’s Board of Trustees ultimately approves the recommendation.
However, junior American ethnic studies major Tiffany Chan said she would like to see more transparency in how student input is evaluated.
“We don’t know how much weight our letters hold or what they talk about in those [faculty council] meetings,” Chan said. “I think it’s really important for students to be in instrumental roles in the hiring process of faculty and who is in consideration of being hired.”
Grainger said that many people at the University are committed to achieving inclusivity and diversity. Though the current state of diversity at Willamette is not ideal, there is progress being made.
“I would urge dialogue between the faculty, students and administration so that there’s an understanding of how these things are achieved and that there is a shared sense of importance so we can collaborate to make good progress,” Grainger said in an interview.
At the end of the town hall meeting, students presented proposals for more transparency about the tenure process and more support for faculty of color.
“When multicultural staff leaves, I can’t help but think of how possibly isolating, maybe even hostile, it might feel for the remaining faculty of color,” Rodriguez said. “Can we support [faculty of color] and offer institutional support?”