Letters to the Editor

Multiculturalism and the Hiring Process

E.L. Rountree, May 1992

In the October 1991 Perspectives, a job listing closed with these statements: "The University of ________________ is building a multicultural faculty and strongly encourages applications from female and minority candidates. Preference will be given to applicants who can serve well an increasingly diverse University community."

This language goes far beyond a simple statement that Equal Opportunity Employment and Affirmative Action guidelines and procedures will be followed and that females and minorities are encouraged to apply. The second sentence is blatantly discriminatory.

The hiring committee that filed this announcement would consider the views of an applicant on multiculturalism as a key factor in its hiring criteria. If this committee cannot determine an applicant's views on multiculturalism during the interview process, how then can they ascertain the suitability of the applicant for their multicultural faculty? Only by observing the race, gender, ethnic origin, religious creed, or even the sexual preference of the applicant, either when selecting applicants to interview or during the interview process. The committee may not ensure a faculty that is multicultural in outlook, but it can at least strive for a faculty that looks multicultural.

At what point does the push for a multicultural faculty infringe on the legal rights of job applicants? Can hiring committees brazenly predetermine who they will interview and who they will hire based on such a nebulous notion as multiculturalism? Will this crusade be guided by the absurd goal of having a professor of a different color or gender in every classroom and office? If not prescribed by statistical parameters, will this drive be delimited only by the political and philosophical predilections of the hiring committee?

The quality of teaching and scholarship at American universities will decline if this goal of building a multicultural faculty becomes paramount in the hiring process, replacing the accepted criteria of teaching and research ability and professional competence.

This headlong rush into a new age of discrimination is deeply troublesome. Where will it stop? No matter how lofty the goal, discrimination always produces the same end—hatred.

E.L. Rountree, Doctoral Candidate
History Department, Ohio University

The AHA's Professional Division opposes discrimination in hiring, and the guidelines for the Employment Information section of Perspectives make clear that advertisements containing discriminatory language will not be published. While the above letter views the quoted job listing as discriminatory, the wording is not discriminatory per se—the ad encourages applications from women and minority candidates but does not restrict the pool of applicants on that basis. Furthermore, while many departments indicate interest in building more diverse faculties, the demographics of the profession make the attainment of that goal highly unlikely for most. According to the most recent profile of the discipline compiled by the National Research Council, just over three-fourths of all Ph.D. historians are white males. The NRC reports that only 5.4 percent of those individuals receiving their Ph.D.'s between 1946 and 1988—essentially the universe of employable historians—come from minority ethnic or racial backgrounds. And only 18.8 percent of historians are female. The overlap between the two categories is small—only 16.2 percent of minority historians are female. With the overlap eliminated, that leaves only 23.6 percent of all historians within the category of "female and minority candidates," and there is no evidence to suggest that they are employed in greater proportion than white males. In fact, NRC reports that women constitute only 16.7 percent of academically employed historians, below the level one would predict based on their share of doctorates earned and certainly not even beginning to approach overrepresentation. In other words, there remains a strong case for affirmative action and little support for charges of reverse discrimination.

The Professional Division