That Crazy College Game of "More Diverse Than Thou"

Jon Sanders
Posted: Mar 30, 2007 12:01 AM

To judge by postings in The Chronicle of Higher Education's "Careers" section, university personnel offices agree that the perfect, one-legged, omnisexual, pantheistic African-Inuit candidate with Vietnam War experience needs extra special encouragement to apply.

Seems the chance to teach six to nine hours a week and write one article a year for the American Journal for Sitting Unread on a Dusty Library Shelf just isn't encouraging enough. This means colleges advertising open positions have to play "More Diverse Than Thou" against each other in order to get the attention of a coveted "diverse candidate."

Now, as everyone knows, the concept of diversity at an American university is like Peanut M&M's: different colors on the outside, same nutty interior. Therefore many universities don't see a need to improve on the standard disclaimer proclaiming the school an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.

Many other schools, however, apparently think that disclaimer lacks sufficient multicultural sensitivity. They need to specify exactly what they want while maintaining at least a show of plausible deniability. Imagine a spoof 1950s job notice winking and nodding that "blondes and large-breasted women are especially encouraged to apply." Now make it serious and put it in a 21st-century context. Or just read the "Careers" section.

In the March 16th edition, for example, Louisiana Tech University takes baby steps away from the standard EO/AAE disclaimer, by announcing "[m]inorities are encouraged to apply." So does Emory and Henry College, which "encourages applications from members of underrepresented groups." "Populations traditionally under represented [sic] in higher education are encouraged to apply" at Methodist University.

Those were all too weak for Blue Ridge Community College, Jacksonville State University, and the University of Virginia. There, minority applicants are "strongly" encouraged.

What if women need special encouragement, too? That's what several more colleges thought, so "women and minorities" — or some variation of those two groups ("females," "underrepresented groups," "people of color" or "individuals of diverse racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds") — are encouraged to apply at the following schools: Maywood University, North Dakota State University, the University of Vermont, Murray State University, West Chester University of Pennsylvania, Niagara University, West Virginia University Institute of Technology, the University of North Texas, DePauw University, the University of Southern Mississippi, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Southern Arkansas University, Yale University, Purdue University, Bastyr University, Norwich University, the University of Indianapolis, Dartmouth College, Washington College, the University of Alaska Southeast, Emporia State University, and Azusa Pacific University.

Those encouragements weren't strong enough for the University of Washington, the State University of New York at Geneseo, Daemen College, and the University of California at Berkeley, which all offer assurances that women and minorities are "strongly encouraged" to apply there. One ad for DePauw also adds "strongly." Meanwhile, at the George Washington University, they are "particularly encouraged" to apply, and at Denison University, women and minorities are "highly encouraged."

What about the disabled? "Women, ethnic minorities and persons with disabilities" (or some variation of those three) are encouraged to apply at Harper College, Virginia Commonweath University, Virginia Tech, Vanderbilt University, Troy University, Whitman College, SUNY-Oswego, the U.S. Naval Academy, and Southwest Minnesota State University. Take that, Yale.

Fairfield University trumps by "strongly" encouraging those three groups to apply. The University of Arkansas at Little Rock says to heck with encouragement, they "actively seek the candidacy of minorities, women, and persons with disabilities."

Don't forget veterans! Stony Brook University doesn't: "Women, people of color, individuals with disabilities, and veterans are encouraged" etc. Neither does Towson University, Ithaca College, Dutchess Community College, the University of Dayton, or West Virginia University (which only remembers "Vietnam-era and disabled veterans").

Bluefield State College is "committed to the principle that minorities, women, veterans, and individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply"; actual encouragement must be inferred. Applicants from those four groups are also "welcome" at Concord University. At Ohio University, "[h]igh priority is place on the creation of an environment supportive of women, minorities, veterans and persons with disabilities," which may or may not apply to the hiring process. The University of Mary Washington and Michigan State University both "actively encourag[e]" those four groups to apply, whereas Cleveland State University "especially encourages" them.

Several universities specify the grounds upon which they won't discriminate. Regent University avoids discrimination on the grounds of "race, color, sex, age, national origin, or disability." Volunteer State Community College adds "religion" and "status as a veteran with a disability or veteran of the Vietnam Era" to Regent's list. Western Illinois University adds sexual orientation, religion, marital status and unspecified veteran status. The University of New Hampshire expands Western Illinois's even more, adding "gender identity or expression." Arkansas State University has a nondiscrimination list similar to Regent's, too, but it includes religion and "any other legally protected classification."

The University of Maryland explicitly states that it will not discriminate against candidates for "race, sex, color, religion, national origin, and [gasp] political orientation."

Manchester College finds being that specific troublesome, but it knows how to play the D-word; it opts for "[a]pplicants who will further diversify our faculty and staff are warmly welcome." Likewise, the University of Kansas "especially encourage[s]" applications from "qualified persons who will enhance the diversity of the law school community." St. Lawrence University "welcome[s] applications from candidates who bring diverse cultural, ethnic and national perspectives to their work." The University of Louisville is "committed to diversity and, in that spirit, seeks applications from a broad variety of candidates." Virginia Tech "has a strong commitment to the principle of diversity and seeks a broad spectrum of candidates." Beating its chest, Central Michigan University announces it "strongly and actively strives to increase diversity within its community." Dickinson College "is committed to diversity, and we encourage candidates who will contribute to meeting that goal to apply." Elsewhere Dickinson College explains that those are "[w]omen and culturally diverse candidates."

Other universities require overt adherence to diversity politics. Eastern Kentucky University and Portland State University both limit their welcome of applications to those from "diverse candidates and candidates that support diversity." At Southeastern Louisiana University, "applicants must be committed to working with diversity." Berkeley "seeks candidates who can make positive contributions in a context of ethnic and cultural diversity." There's nothing passive about College Misericordia, which "actively supports cultural diversity. To promote this endeavor, we invite individuals who contribute to such diversity to apply, including minorities and women."

Assumption College "encourages candidates who would enrich the College's diversity." Bowdoin College "encourage[s] inquiries from candidates who will enrich and contribute to the cultural and ethnic diversity of our College." Georgia State University requires "[a]ppreciation of multiculturalism, teamwork and collegiality" (in that order).

Nevertheless, American universities are amateurs at this game compared with the pros in Canada. Look at the categories added by the two Canadian universities in that issue. McMaster University in Ontario "encourages applications from all qualified candidates, including women, members of visible minorities, Aboriginal persons, members of sexual minorities, and persons with disabilities." The University of Toronto has a three-line disclaimer boasting it is "strongly committed to diversity within its community and welcomes applicants from visible minority group members, women, Aboriginal persons, persons with disabilities, members of sexual minority groups, and others who may contribute to the further diversification of ideas."

Still, one supposes there's an opening for some enterprising American college to encourage applications from invisible minorities.