In hiring, officials seek to rid unintentional bias

The University is continuing a plan that aims to improve the school’s hiring processes.

Haley Hansen

University of Minnesota administrators are moving ahead with an initiative that provides school leaders with resources for hiring diverse faculty members.

The initiative, which administrators introduced months ago, aims to eliminate unintentional biases and ensure best practices within colleges’ and departments’ hiring processes.

 “Any area where you don’t see the full diversity of humankind, where talents are evenly distributed, you have to think, ‘We’re missing something here,’” Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Karen Hanson said.

The initiative aligns with the school’s strategic plan that was introduced last fall, she said.

Many times, decisions to not hire diverse faculty members are unintentional, Hanson said, and people tend to gravitate toward people like them, though they may not be aware of it.

“It’s very easy to think of the people who are just like you,” she said.

The University will provide information to help departments steer away from those types of biases, Hanson said.

Associate Vice Provost for the Office for Equity and Diversity Michael Goh said the entire University’s five-campus system is feeling the push to hire more diverse faculty members.

But each college and school department will address their diversity issues in a specific way, he said. For example, some will likely focus on hiring more women, while others will focus more on hiring faculty members of color.

Faculty Consultative Committee Chair Rebecca Ropers-Huilman said some faculty members are excited to see a more solid framework for hiring diverse faculty members.

“It’s not good enough to do the same [hiring] practices we’ve always done because frankly [they’re] probably going to yield us the same thing that they’ve always yielded us,” she said.

The University is developing measures to gauge departments’ and colleges’ success with the diversity initiative and hold them accountable, Goh said, though it can’t mandate metrics for them to meet with hiring.

One recent example of the school’s work to increase diversity is its use of Bridge Funding, which provides financial support for colleges and departments that have found eligible candidates, but don’t necessarily have the immediate funding to hire them.

The funding, which is administered by the Office of Equity and Diversity, is nearly exhausted, which Goh said is a sign that colleges and departments are committed to hiring more diverse faculty members.

 “We have a University-wide ambition that I think reflects both faculty and students’ desire to exist in a campus space that more clearly reflects the communities that we live in,” Goh said. “This is a proactive effort to help encourage all of us to meet that goal.”