Phi Beta Cons

Should Yale Hire The “Most Diverse”?

Both Yale and Princeton, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports, have hired new diversity deans. At Yale, Kathryn Lofton, chair of the religious studies department, will “the inaugural deputy dean for diversity and faculty development in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.”

Insofar as the Yale faculty, which is 92.7% un-diverse, is committed to maintaining the standards under which it was selected, Prof. Lofton will indeed have her work “cut out for her,” as the Chronicle predicts. I was particularly struck by this passage:

In hiring, she says, scholars often default to replicating what they’ve already done. But what if when reviewing applications, they come across someone who is approaching their [sic] field in a radically different way? Will members of the search committee discard the application because it doesn’t fit the job description, or are they willing to broaden their search?

How can Yale, she asks, design searches that draw in the most diverse and innovative candidates, while maintaining excellence in established fields of research?


These questions, good ones all, prompt further questions.

  1. Should search committees consider all candidates who approach their field “in a radically different way” and whose applications do not fit the job description, or only diverse candidates?
  2. Are “the most diverse” candidates always or likely to the the most “innovative”?
  3. Since Prof. Lofton seems to assume a tension between “the most diverse and innovative candidates” and “maintaining excellence,” which should prevail?
  4. What criteria does Prof. Lofton propose for Yale to determine which candidates are the “most diverse”?

Groucho Marx once famously said that he did not care to belong to any club that would have him. I wonder if a time will come when a “diverse” candidate will refuse an offer extended so that he or she can provide “diversity” to others.


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