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The Diversity Liaison’s Role

The CLAS Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee offers the following recommendations for department diversity liaisons. The steering committee is committed to serving as a source for guidance and support to liaisons.
Diversity Liaison Role: Summary

  • Become familiar with the Best Practices document and convey the information in it to search committees.
  • Work with search committees to minimize unconscious bias.
  • Advocate effectively for diversity.
  • Help committee members test their thinking.

Step-by-Step

Meet with the department chair and search chair

The idea would be to learn about goals for the search and to clarify your involvement in the process. Introduce yourself to the search committee. You’ll be helping them test their thinking in order to hopefully mitigate implicit biases and steer the committee members towards searches that are more inclusive.

In the event that multiple searches are running concurrently and once search committees are designated, ask for a volunteer on each committee to serve as the diversity advocate and communicate expectations. Suggest that these individuals consult with you throughout the course of the search if questions or concerns arise.

Develop the position description and the corresponding screening criteria (see attached criteria matrix)

Be flexible and inclusive with the criteria. Limit required qualifications to those necessary to do the job (i.e. don’t rely on what’s been done in the past and think instead of current and future needs). Limit rigid criteria (must have ____ number of years of experience; must have this type of publication in this type of journal). Consider multiple ways to meet the qualifications. Ask, “Do you know someone great for this job that wouldn’t meet the qualifications if we define them this way?”.

Marketing the position/recruiting

Recruit broadly: reach out to related professional organizations to post announcements on their listserves; contact minority serving publications; solicit recommendations from others within the department and even from contacts across other institutions, etc.

Screening (this process should rely on the criteria matrix)

For each candidate that meets the minimum qualifications, look for reasons to keep them in the pool before identifying reasons to screen them out of it. Consider strengths and weaknesses for ALL candidates to try to avoid unconscious biases against an individual. Ask: How are the strengths related to his/her ability to do the job? And, with respect to weaknesses, are these areas where the committee just needs to wait to get more information to properly assess or can they be viewed as areas for development (teachable/trainable)?

Consider using categories such as minimally qualified/well-qualified/highly qualified to initiate the discussion about the candidates.

Interviewing

The goal is to obtain the most complete information possible about a candidate’s qualifications, skills and potential. Allowing or not speaking up against speculation and assumption opens the door for biases to take over.

Prepare in advance an instrument to collect feedback from everyone who participates in the interview. The instrument should focus on the criteria articulated in the description and it should request specific examples that prompted a person’s judgement about the candidate. (see attached example of an evaluation tool)

The Selection Process

Refer to the information gathered from the application materials, the interviews and the reference checks. During the discussion, address areas of concern by asking if the concern is a relevant consideration with respect to the candidate’s demonstrated ability to perform the essential functions of the position. If you are tempted to speculate about the concern, go back and get the information necessary to feel comfortable about the conclusion being drawn (i.e. follow-up with the candidate, their references, etc.). Try to guide the conversation so that the committee stays within the realm of discussing how each finalist demonstrated (or not) the ability to be effective in each performance area that was identified. Don’t be afraid to ask committee members if they can identify any possible unintentional biases in how they’re describing a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses.

Integrating/Retaining

(recommendations to follow from the steering committee)