The Context for Diversity Initiatives

The University of Nebraska has long expressed a belief in the value of a diverse faculty as a necessary component in achieving excellence. It seeks to ensure that its faculty represents the neccessary range of background and experience to create a deep, broad, and vigorous intellectual environment. The University will retain a place among the best public land-grant universities only if it reaches out to and represents the full spectrum of diverse and talented individuals available.

Moreover, as a federal contractor, it is also the case that the University must follow government regulations for an affirmative action program: An affirmative action program is a management tool designed to ensure equal employment opportunity. A central premise underlying affirmative action is that, absent discrimination, over time a contractor's workforce, generally, will reflect the gender, racial and ethnic profile of the labor pools from which the contractor recruits and selects (41 Code of Federal Regulations 60-2.10 [a] [1]). Pursuant to Article 1, Section 30 of the Nebraska Constitution, nothing in that amendment shall prohibit action that must be taken to establish or maintain eligibility for a federal program, where ineligibility would result in a loss of federal funds to the state.

The Board of Regents policy goals pertaining to Gender Equity were issued in 1991 and reconfirmed in 1998. The Board of Regents policy goals pertaining to Equity for People of Color were issued in 1993 and reconfirmed in 1997.

In 2007, the faculty and administrative leadership of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln collectively discussed and adopted as guiding principles a set of seven core values, which are interdependent. We decided that UNL values learning that prepares students for lifetime success and leadership and that UNL values excellence pursued without compromise. These goals cannot be met unless UNL values a diversity of ideas and people and unless UNL values engagement with academic, business, and civic communities throughout Nebraska and the world.

In order to meet our legislated obligations to both the University and the State of Nebraska, and in order to be true to our own core values, the academic leadership of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln must identify and implement best practices to recruit and retain a diverse faculty, as defined by Federal, State, and Board of Regents policy documents cited above.

Effective December 10, 2008, Article I, Section 30, was added to the Nebraska Constitution and provides in part that the state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, gender or ethnicity. While it appears this amendment prohibits hiring decisions using race or gender as a factor, it does not reduce our obligations under federal law to assure that the pools from which we hire are as diverse as possible or hinder our pursuit of excellence through diversity. The best practices outlined below are not only within the actions remaining permissible, but become more important given the constitutional amendment.

Best practices to retain and recruit a diverse faculty will be successful if they:

  • Are actively endorsed, promoted, supported and recognized by the academic leadership of the University, including the SVCAA, the VCIANR, College Deans, Department Chairs and Heads, and faculty leaders;
  • Focus on processes that work within and resonate with UNL's academic culture of excellence;
  • Become an integral part of UNL's strategic planning process.

UNL's success will also depend on our ability to engage and cultivate faculty support and on our readiness to instill accountability by assessing and rewarding demonstrated commitment and contributions to the goal of increasing the diversity of the University community.

Lessons Learned

UNL was part of a consortium of research universities who have contracted with The Advisory Board, a group of research consultants, to provide research reports on major issues identified as critical by the Chief Academic Officers of partner universities. The Advisory Board was asked to provide a research report on the best practices for recruiting and retaining a diverse faculty, an issue identified as a top priority by the Chief Academic Officers. On May 12, 2008, consultants from The Advisory Board came to Lincoln and presented their finding to a large group of chairs, heads, and deans, as well as to the Senior Administrative Team of the University.

The final report included descriptions of breakthrough achievements, the lessons learned from these institutions, and innovative practices that have led to success in recruiting and retaining women and underrepresented minority faculty.

The Advisory Board report brought to us strategies that can lead to success, hallmarks of what our consultants term breakthrough performance. UNL strives to be among the top performers in all its endeavors and developed action plans designating timelines and responsibilities to implement proven strategies across four different stages of faculty recruitment and retention processes. The following outline of these stages includes some of the report's proven strategies:

Scout

  • cultivate relationships with other universities, and identify and adopt feeder departments that produce significant numbers of minority Ph.D.s;
  • identify and attend national association conferences with large numbers of minority members to establish networks;
  • host diverse scholars on campus.

Search

  • develop intentional strategic plans for pro-active recruitment for all searches, i.e. personally contact and encourage diverse talented applicants to apply for positions;
  • pledge a university-wide commitment to achieving a large and diverse pool of talent for every position;
  • closely monitor and review each search and, if necessary, intervene in the process at an appropriate point if the pool is not sufficiently diverse, based on data available from, e.g. The Survey of Earned Doctorates, IPEDS, or other recognized data bases. Intervention should be an option that academic administrators can exercise at all administrative levels of the process.

Support

  • continue to resource the recruiting effort through diversity dollars;
  • cultivate awareness of the importance of resolving dual career issues;
  • contact finalists before on-campus interviews to discuss resources available on campus and in the community.

Sustain

  • insure appropriate mentoring for success;
  • institute a meeting with the college dean (structure to be determined by the college dean) for all faculty by their third year on the tenure track to review the tenure process and address questions/concerns;
  • assess performance and progress in retaining faculty;
  • keep abreast of recruitment and retention practices.

In order to move forward, UNL deans were charged to work with department chairs and/or faculty to develop action plans for each of the strategies adopted.

Adopted April, 2009 following review by:

  • UNL Senior Administrative Team - November 22, 2008
  • UNL Deans Council - March 24, 2009
  • UNL Academic Planning Committee - January 28, 2009
  • UNL Faculty Senate - February 18, 2009