I am on a search committee for a new faculty member in a department aligned with my own. We began the search full of excitement and hope, because after a long time the department is finally getting very much needed new energy. The candidate needs to have a high level of technical skill, and also the kind of teaching experience that will prepare him or her for our very diverse environment. Our student body is around 30% white, with the remaining 70% of various backgrounds (we have a map with pins noting the places our students are from, and it is quite impressive!). Of course, it is not just experience with ethnic diversity that we need. Faculty who come to my college often feel quite surprised and unsure how to handle the extreme level of diversity in college readiness. We have a candidate who meets every expectation, and more. Years of teaching experience with this population, several years teaching at our own institution, very strong technical credentials, community involvement, curriculum planning. His teaching demo blew us away, and he had a great idea for a new degree program within the department, one that he has the contacts and experience to get up and running in the short term. He is amazing. The only problem is, he is a white male. The department in question is full of white males. Human resources and the admin team don't like this. Not at all.
The next best candidate does happen to be a female who would qualify as diverse. She has international experience, but none teaching in any kind of a diverse environment or in an urban environment in the U.S. She could give us no ideas for expanding the department (she understandably said that she could only know that by coming and getting a feel for the place). Her teaching demo (we are HUGE into teaching here----it's the most important thing) was a bit scattered, and she messed up a few technical elements of her lesson. But she was okay, and I could see she'd get better. She's young. I liked her, I really did. I do wonder how she'll handle the diversity, since her previous experience seems a bit....privileged. But I liked her. I LOVED the other guy. We all felt the same way..
At present, it looks like a very real possibility that our first choice will not be getting the job, simply because he has the wrong kind of genitals and parents who hailed from the wrong place.
It will be a hard pill for all of us to swallow, and I also feel like it would put the successful candidate (the one the admins are trying to force us to hire) at a tremendous disadvantage because she would be coming in to face the sting of disappointment and anger that we were not permitted to choose what we felt was the best candidate.
My college does have a tremendously diverse student body, and if I were not so invested in this search, I might feel a bit differently about the way the students might need to see that diversity reflected in their professors. As it stands, I am very sad by how unfair it all seems.
What do my AWC colleagues think about the value of diversity in a faculty? Is it so much more important than other considerations, as was the case here?