Friday, September 07, 2007

Hiring American Style

A few days ago two University officials visited the Law School to instruct us on how to recruit for diversity without running afoul of the law (or Ward Connerly). My hunch is that people who follow the rules carefully examined their behavior and, those most in need of guidance decided the talk could not possibly apply to them. That visit, Jim Chen's post on about the language as an identifiers, a New Yorker article on micro burst expressions several years ago, Wolf's, Radical Chic, Zinn's History, and my own posts on 1) signaling, 2) the question of whether Law Schools are really interesting in having faculty who are both African American and diverse and 3) the laziness of mid level school hiring committees that look for elite credentials all seemed to come together.

Can I tie it altogether in a blog length post? Not a chance, (I thought about graphing it all on a three dimensional graph but if you leaned too close to the monitor it could hit you in the eye.) but here is where it ends up. As a totally amateur sociologist I sense that most hiring committees feel comfortable with candidates in the following order:

1. White elitist educated male
2. White elitist educated female
3. African American elitist educated male
4. African American elitist educated female
5. White non elite female.
6. White non elite female.
7. Non elite African American female
8. Non elite African American male.

First note that elite always trumps non elite. Second, it is at least arguable that this is in reverse order of diversity. Third, there appears to be no correlation, for the mid level school, between credentials and scholarship.

So what is it about? It's just plain ol American history. Elitist dominated Committees like the 1s and 2s because they have more in common with those folks and they will try to find room for them on a faculty.

They will also, in the quest for non diverse diversity, search high and low for 3s and 4s. I am not saying 3s and 4s are always not diverse but increasingly -- let's put it this way -- diversity candidates do not seem to have much trouble seeming not all that diverse. And the less diverse they really are, the more comfortable they are to hiring committees. I actually feel for these candidates. Many have the "street creds" of Mr. Rogers but they have to please everyone. A smattering of people on a faculty looking for "deep" diversity may be put off by too much cozying up to the 1s and 2s by the 3s and 4s. On the other hand, it is important to seem "safe" to the 1s and 2s in order to be hired at all.

Now we get down to 5-8 and Howard Zinn. You know the story -- whether the American Revolution, the Civil War or Vietnam-- the elites take care of their own and they use the non elites to get there whether it means using them to fight their battles or pitting them against each other.

Is law school hiring an example of Zinn's version of history playing out in a different and, thankfully, far less tragic context. Why wouldn't it be?


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