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Equal Opportunity office seeks early input in faculty hiring process

By Dan Heuchert

Consulting with U.Va.'s Office of Equal Opportunity Programs (EOP) early in the faculty hiring process improves the search, according to the officials who head the office's faculty recruiting and monitoring efforts.

Director Karen Holt and Robbie Greenlee, who joined the office this summer as a compliance officer, want to be helpful, not play the heavy.

"We want to be viewed as very proactive," Holt said. "We don't want to be viewed as the people who come in and tell you what we're doing wrong."

The office must sign off on all faculty hires, and the best time to contact it is in a search's beginning stages, rather than at the end, Holt said.

They can offer advice even before the beginning. This summer, EOP released its updated 1998-99 Equal Opportunity Plan, and staffers are meeting with deans and department heads to advise them on faculty search procedures. In addition, the office produced a pamphlet on faculty recruitment, spelling out the process and offering tips to make it more successful.

The goal is not to mandate hiring a woman or member of a minority group for any specific job, Holt said. Instead, the EOP is emphasizing broadening applicant pools, which she said is "the No. 1 obstacle" to reaching diversity goals. Once such pools are put together, search committees are free to choose the best candidates regardless of race or gender, she said. Too often, she said, people leading searches are content to limit their options to those with whom they are familiar. "They think they know everybody, and the rest of this is just to satisfy some silly bureaucratic requirement."

U.Va.'s need for a more diverse faculty is real, according to the '98-99 plan. Comparing 1997-98 employment levels at U.Va. to the number of women and minorities theoretically available in each segment of the work force, it found that women are underrepresented in all five areas of Arts & Sciences (arts and humanities, biological sciences, foreign languages, physical sciences and social sciences), as well as in the McIntire School of Commerce, the Curry School of Education, the School of Law and the pre-clinical areas in the School of Medicine. African Americans are underrepresented in Medicine's clinical disciplines.

The study found similar deficits in non-faculty positions. Women were underrepresented in technical and paraprofessional and some skilled craft positions, while blacks were underrepresented in the executive/administrative/manager level, and in some professional and secretarial/clerical fields.

Those deficits may grow larger. Holt's office is updating its formula for determining the availability of women and minorities in the workforce -- some of the numbers figured into the current calculations are outdated -- and the results are expected to show even more diversity among available workers, Holt said.

But statistics can be misleading, Holt cautioned. "Anyone who looks at only numbers and makes conclusions about effort is missing the story."

Greenlee hopes to make that effort more efficient. One of her duties as the compliance officer is to "offer suggestions, options and resources" to search committees for seeking out women and minorities. She can assist in writing up position requirements and advertisements with an eye to attracting diverse applicant pools -- perhaps by lessening or deleting unnecessarily onerous experience requirements, for example.

Determining where to advertise can also be important, she said. While it is easy to place a $700 ad in Black Issues in Higher Education, for example, it might be more effective to spend $100 in postage to send position announcements to selected institutions, or to professional associations that have minority committees.

The EOP's early involvement "allows you to identify what the objectives are initially, rather than to be disappointed at the end of the search," said Vice President for Student Affairs William W. Harmon, who worked closely with the office in the recent search for a new dean of students. That process ended up with four female finalists, one of whom was an African American.

"We have found working with Karen and her staff to be most refreshing, in that they demonstrate an unusual level of accessibility, a willingness to be helpers in the process instead of being obstacles in the process," said Craig Littlepage, associate director of athletics. ³Itıs just an unusual level of commitment to what they do and to provide themselves as resources."

Mark Reisler, associate dean for administration at the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration, says the school has had "a good relationship" with the EOP office over the years. "It's generally fairly routine and straight-forward. They have suggested we use a couple of media we haven't used before, like the Web. Š It has certainly helped provide more exposure."


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