After a festive inauguration weekend, President Biddy Martin enjoyed a productive second faculty meeting as the official College president last Tuesday, Oct. 18, in Converse Hall. The faculty approved 15 new courses for the spring semester, discussed the continuation of the capital campaign and the creation of a new fundraising program. Most importantly, they began the debate about the future diversification of the faculty.
As the College enters a new era in hiring, the administration and the faculty hope to diversify their ranks so that the makeup of the professors and scholars at the College reflects that of the student body. In comparing the College to seven co-ed peer institutions across the country, Dean of Faculty Gregory Call pointed out that the College was consistently on the low end of faculty diversity in terms of Hispanics, blacks and women. For example, the College has hired 93 female professors in the last 30 years, which consisted of 43 percent of the total hires.
With these statistics in mind, the faculty progressed to debate the definition of the word “diversity,” as well as emphasizing the need for quality above all other considerations in the hiring process. Several professors pointed to the need of recruiting scholars not just based on ethnic backgrounds, but on the diversity of their experiences, such as professors from state universities or non-traditional pathways. According to them, this would not only improve the quality of the College curriculum, but also provide the faculty additional experience to draw from in mentoring students about their options after Amherst.
Other faculty members voiced the desire for more international scholars at the College, while others reminded their colleagues that they must, as Professor of American Studies and English Karen Sanchez-Eppler put it, “create environments in which a diverse faculty thrive. Faculty of color have received tenure at a lower rate than white faculty, and women have received tenure at a lower rate, and I think that is about the culture with which we hold people, not about the excellence with which people enter.”