Hiring requirement to increase diversity

    The office of academic affairs is implementing a new diversity requirement for fall 2007 that will require that at least one person in every faculty search committee attend a presentation given by DAHRT, the Diversity Action Hiring and Retention Team.

    In an attempt to increase diversity on campus, the presentations are intended to aid departments in drawing from a wider and more diverse pool of potential faculty members. DAHRT, a group made up of Portland State faculty members, was formed to increase the amount of underrepresented groups hired, and they have previously held the hiring and retention presentations for any interested departments.

    ”It’s important because it’s important for the education of our students,” said Martha Balshem, assistant to the president for diversity. “We have a diverse student body and faculty diversity should follow that.”

    DAHRT does not only focus on finding and retaining a diverse faculty, the group also gives presentations to any Portland State department.

    Balshem said it is important that students be able to relate to faculty who come from similar backgrounds and who can relate to students’ individual struggles. Most departments understand this already, and administrators say these presentations will help move the university in a positive direction.

    ”Diversity is beneficial for students’ educational experiences,” said Burton Christopherson, director of affirmative action at PSU.

    The DAHRT presentations will also give advice on welcoming and retaining those new faculty members once hired.

    Balshem and Christopherson both said that because faculty members often are so busy helping students, they do not have time to publish their research, which can hurt their chance of being tenured. Pay is another problem faculty face, Balshem said. Much of the new faculty must teach year round, including summers, causing them to burn out.

    The DAHRT presentations will teach leaders about ways to help the new professors at PSU adjust and use their time wisely.

    Before the DAHRT requirement, efforts to increase diversity were directed to staff members of the university.

    Roy Koch, provost of academic affairs, said that changes to the hiring process would not take any additional time. Previously, the university examined the final candidates for a position, but now all of the candidates will be closely examined.

    ”Nobody’s resisting this idea,” he said. “Many departments are working with DAHRT already.”

    Christopherson said studies have shown that students who have experience with diversity are often better at critical thinking.

    In addition to the learning benefits, departments that hire members of underrepresented groups may be able to get financial incentives. Christopherson said that PSU’s place as the most diverse four-year institution in Oregon may be connected to President Daniel Bernstine’s Diversity Initiative, set up to promote diversity on the Portland State campus.

    This Office of the President’s Diversity Initiative runs in connection with PSUnity, the Diversity Action Council and DAHRT.

    ”If you’re the only faculty member of color in your department and you’re new,” Balshem said, “you’re going to have a tremendous amount of pressure.”

    Academic affairs will check, starting next fall, to make sure that faculty search parties are abiding by the new rule.

    Christopherson said he has faith that faculty search committees want to pay attention to diversity and retention. At the same time, he said he feels it was a necessary move to make attendance of these presentations mandatory.

    ”There’s not enough of anything,” Christopherson said.

    Affirmative action also monitors the hiring process to keep it fair, but only starts watching after the initial ads are placed and responded to.

    Christopherson added that the recruiting process is a very complex one. Oftentimes, the top 100 universities end up fighting for the same 2 percent of graduates.

    Though for right now this only applies to faculty, there has been interest in using DAHRT in other units, like extended studies. Koch said that the OAA would monitor the success of the presentations.

    ”We need it for the health of the university,” said Balshem.

    The next DAHRT meeting is on Nov. 28 in Smith Memorial Student Union, Room 329, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.