Published April 8, 2012
Last Monday, President Lee Bollinger announced a new $30 million commitment to support the recruitment of “outstanding female and underrepresented minority scholars” in the ongoing effort to diversify Columbia faculty (“Columbia commits $30 million to increasing faculty diversity,” Apr. 2). Following their reports of the announcement, Spectator and Bwog’s comment sections exploded with debates over the existence of institutionalized racism and the value of actively recruiting women and people of color.
As members of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, the writers of this piece are personally implicated in debates over diversity. MMUF is an international organization which addresses “the serious shortage of faculty of color in higher education” by intellectually and financially supporting young scholars of color who plan to pursue graduate degrees. As CC students and MMUF fellows that represent academia’s underrepresented minorities, we hope to convince others that faculty diversity helps the entire university environment.
Diversity initiatives can be controversial because we are taught that hiring somebody based on their gender and/or race is always discriminatory and wrong. According to this logic, the ideal hiring practices should be gender- and race-blind, making it equally possible for people of all identities to attain faculty positions. Anything short of this merely reaffirms the second-class status of women and people of color (POC for short).