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It’s Time for Swarthmore to Commit to Faculty Diversity

April 28, 2011

On February 6, 1998, the Swarthmore College faculty met, discussed, and passed—unanimously—a resolution to “increase the number of faculty of color.” Over a decade later, Swarthmore College is stagnating in this endeavor. While there has been incremental movement towards the fulfillment of this resolution, it is clear that efforts to do so have not reached their full potential. Consequently, we, the IC/BCC Coalition, seek an active, renewed commitment to the goal of increasing faculty diversity at this College.

We have engaged in multiple conversations with various channels in the administration with a view to revive that commitment, but have found the response less than satisfying. We believe that still more “dialogue” prevents actual engagement with the issue when there are so many concrete, immediate options to work with. Faculty diversity was universally endorsed as a necessary goal by the College faculty over thirteen years ago; now is the time for the administration to explicitly express sustained commitment to that goal, as well as develop a realistic strategic plan to realize that goal.

Faculty diversity was an issue of high importance in 1998, and it remains just as relevant today. In the original resolution that was passed, Swarthmore College faculty affirmed: “For the sake of furthering Swarthmore College’s community and educational values, the faculty endorses that all Departments and Programs in the College, with the help of the Administration, take necesary [sic] and appropriate steps so that within a decade we may see a significant increase in the racial and ethnic diversity of faculty hired in tenure-track positions well distributed in all three Divisions of the College.”

Attached to the 1998 resolution was a background document (not voted on by the faculty) outlining the motivations for increasing the number of faculty of color. This included emphasis on the fact that “we do not mean to imply that hiring more Asian/Pacific/Asian American faculty (for instance) is important only to the Asian/Pacific/Asian American students enrolled… [rather,] community and educational values will be strengthened for all of us.”

This is a timeless contention. Increased faculty diversity provides benefits for both underrepresented students as well as the community overall. Swarthmore College cannot proudly claim that 40% of the Class of 2014 are domestic students of color, as the College did in the October 2010 edition of the Swarthmore College Bulletin, without making congruous changes to the composition of its faculty. Unfortunately, while the absolute number of minority faculty members went up 8.5% between 1999 and 2009, as a percentage of total faculty, minority faculty declined from 20.5% to 17.3%, according to the Equal Opportunity Office (EOO).

This is an unacceptable trend judging by the College’s own mission of “mak[ing] its students more valuable human beings and more useful members of society.” Students cannot reach their “full intellectual and personal potential” (also from the mission statement) without an understanding of the diversifying and globalizing world around them. Thus, there are three simple, concrete steps that we propose to the College administration at this point in time:

First, consultation of the EOO must be institutionalized in the hiring process. This is an easy and logical first step towards increasing faculty diversity. Currently, its involvement is not mandatory. Though the College obviously cannot make hires based on, for example, race, the EOO’s input needs to be heard if the College is serious about faculty diversity.

Second, we encourage the College to start looking beyond the so-called “elite” schools in hiring searches. This will both help with the basic issue of racial diversity as well as provide a wider range of scholarship being done by potential hires. Additionally, the IC/BCC Coalition has identified the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program, which seeks to assist students of color with a demonstrated interest in pursuing PhDs in the arts and sciences, as an avenue where Swarthmore can make a firmer commitment. It is, after all, a program our institution already has ties to.

Third, structural changes are needed to improve understanding and communication between the faculty, administration, and students. Though we are grateful for the open doors that professors and department offices have always offered us, simply walking through these doors on a student-by-student basis does not provide a measurable system to gauge student interest in curriculum offerings. Even the involvement of students in visiting professor hires becomes distorted if students are not able to make it to lectures and meet-and-greets. Thus, we suggest institutionalizing forums where students can express their interests and faculty members can respond. Candidate professors’ lectures could be posted online. Basically, formal avenues must be provided to students to solve our collective action problems. Furthermore, departments would be held accountable if dialogue becomes formalized and transparent.

We are not asking for more diversity for diversity’s sake. Our mission is to create the most enlightening and supportive environment for the students on this campus. Faculty of color are simply one aspect of this mission; we also desire faculty who have a demonstrated interest to being active members of this College community and engaging thoughtfully with students and administration alike. By the raw numbers our faculty diversity falls short of the 18% minority figure at other leading coed liberal arts colleges such as Williams and Amherst. But increasing faculty diversity also requires a culture of accountability and transparency.

The ethos of social concern and community building sets Swarthmore College apart from comparable institutions. It is time for the administration to affirm that commitment.

James Mao ’12 and Hanna King ’14
IC/BCC Coalition

  • graduating senior

    So important – thank you for writing this!

  • Phil Chodrow

    Thoughtful and compelling–thanks to the both of you.

  • ???

    IC/BCC, not to put this type of pressure on you, but why didn't you make elections awesome again?

  • efficiency?

    This is important stuff.

    But one of the authors' claims is troubling. They note that faculty diversity hasn't increased, and note that a solution could include hiring from a wider range of institutions; not just the most prestigious ones. It seems that the authors believe that partially because of the school's choice of hiring from only the most prestigious institutions has faculty diversity not increased. The authors also claim that increased faculty diversity is requisite fostering "an understanding of the diversifying and globalizing world."

    But while Swarthmore seeks to produce capable citizens, not all students are interested in *studying* the world the authors describe. Some may want to only learn about Chemistry and Biology; others may want to learn only about Mathematics. While having faculty to foster this understanding is obviously better than not have such capable faculty, the authors prioritize fostering this understanding over bringing the most talented new faculty from prestigious institutions (though the two may not be mutually exclusive). Since many Swatties choose to pursue graduate study, having talented faculty to help students interested in graduate study is imperative. And since only some students may be expressly interested in studying this changing world, it seems like the authors and students are best served by restricting their recommendations to disciplines that specifically engage in and attract students interested in studying this dynamic world.

    Let's increase diversity in the disciplines in which diversity is most productive.

  • Tayarisha Poe

    Dearest "efficiency?"

    While I see what you're attempting to get across with your statement, I disagree, for two reasons. First, Swarthmore is a place that markets itself as being all about studying this dynamic world in each and every aspect of a liberal arts education. Second, to say "Let's increase diversity in the disciplines in which diversity is most productive." isn't exactly a statement that can be supported without prejudicial, stereotypical, culturally, or racially motivated support. While I believe what you mean is that divisions such as the sciences require people who are the best in their fields, as opposed to people who are simply "diverse," I'd stick by the claim that diversity is important across every. single. field. The best professors put themselves into their classes, and the greater diversity of experience we have, the better served we, as the student body, will be.

    Also, it's a ludicrous thing to insinuate that the diverse faculty James and Hanna are seeking to be brought to this fine institution would NOT be the top in their field! It implies that faculty of color cannot have the same level of expertise as their white peers. While I'm sure that isn't what you meant, it's just a point I'd like to address. Swarthmore has proven its commitment to excellence, and now it's time to prove their commitment to faculty diversity.

  • Clarification?

    Tayarisha Poe,

    I'm pretty sure efficiency? does not mean that faculty of color cannot have the same level of expertise as their white peers. Individual faculty of color have just as much expertise as their white counterparts. What I think efficiency was getting at was a bigger problem in the system. Let's look at the example of chemistry. Of all the recipients of PhDs in Chemistry between 1995 and 2004, only 3.3% were black while 54.6% were white males. If our faculty were chosen from this pool of qualified candidates completely by random and without regard to race, only .3 of a professor would be black! Surely there is a problem in society for these numbers to be as they are. However, the issue may not be at the collegiate hiring level but may instead originate well before this in our country's educational system where students of color are not given enough of a chance to succeed. In order to get a more diverse faculty, there must be diversity in the pool of candidates that could be hired. Without this pool of diverse candidates to pick from, the numbers tell us that getting a diverse faculty may not be possible.

    Source on the statistic:

  • I think Clarification got here first…

    "By the raw numbers our faculty diversity falls short of the 18% minority figure at other leading coed liberal arts colleges such as Williams and Amherst."
    Umm, is 17.3% really that much of a difference from 18%? While diversity is an important goal, I don't think it should take priority over scholarship, teaching ability, and so on. It contributes to our education and community, but I don't think our numbers are particularly troubling. Yes, 40% of Swatties are domestic people of color/minorities/whatever term you'd rather use, but that itself does not mirror the racial makeup of the US population. A further 8% of Swatties are international students, which puts white Americans at approximately 52%. But according to the census, 66% of Americans identify as non-Hispanic whites, 14% as Latinos/as, 12.4% as black, and 4.4% as Asian. In fact, Swarthmore is more diverse – racially, at least – than America as a whole.

    Furthermore, trying to achieve faculty diversity is very difficult because disadvantaged groups are less likely to hold a bachelors' degree, let alone a PhD. With a little math:
    There are 309 million Americans.
    66% are white – approximately 204 million people
    14% are Latino/a – approximately 43 million people
    12.4% are black – approximately 38 million people
    4.4% are Asian – approximately 13 million people

    30% of whites hold a bachelor's degree – approximately 61 million people
    6% of Latinos/as hold a bachelor's degree – approximately 5 million people
    17.3% of blacks hold a bachelor's degree – approximately 6.5 million people
    49.8% of Asian-Americans hold a bachelor's degree – approximately 6.5 million people
    Total number of college grads is about 79 million
    77% of college grads are white
    6% of college grads are Latino/a
    8% of college grads are black
    8% of college grads are Asian-American

    These are only the numbers for bachelors' degrees; I imagine these gaps only increase at the graduate level. If only 23% of PhDs (the most generous figure) are not Caucasian, than 17.3% of 18% starts to seem like a very representative number. It's horrible that higher education is restricted to so many minorities, but we can only hire from the pool of qualified candidates.

  • oops

    I meant to say "It's horrible that so many minorities are restricted from higher education." Sorry!

  • Phil Chodrow


    Without getting too much into the details, I don't think that the authors of this article have suggested that Swarthmore shouldn't try to hire top-quality faculty in its departments. The point is that diversity should be ONE goal of the college, to a greater extent than it has been in the past.

    This need NOT get in the way of "merit," because, in general, top institutions like Swat have a LOT of leeway in picking who enters our faculty. Last semester, the Philosophy Dept. received over 200 (maybe over 300, I can't remember) applications for a 3 year visiting professorship. And philosophy is by no means exceptional in this regard. There are a LOT of strong academics looking for jobs out there. Some of them (maybe not "many," but some) will also be ethnically diverse, and we can take active efforts to recruit them, without sacrificing "quality."

    Whether or not we have the resources to undertake this recruitment right now is another interesting question, but not one that detracts from the points made by the authors.

  • efficiency?

    Tyresha Poe-

    You wrote "Second, to say "Let's increase diversity in the disciplines in which diversity is most productive." isn't exactly a statement that can be supported without prejudicial, stereotypical, culturally, or racially motivated support." Why is your claim true? As you point out, diversity may not directly impact students' learning of differential equations or physical chemistry. But having diversity will likely improve a history, political science, or literature course, for instance.

    Also, carefully observe that I made special note that diversity and best professors are *not* mutually exclusive. You're right, it is not a point I meant; in fact I made no such point. What I wrote is *precisely* what I meant; not anything else.

  • Meritocracy?

    Why don't we simply hire the best professors we can? Diversity and talent are, as stated, NOT mutually exclusive. I don't like the thought of a highly educated, awesome prof–OF ANY RACE– being rejected in the name of abstract affirmative action statistics….

  • Argos

    Meritocracy, refer yourself to the previous discussion in which we explain why diversity of identity and personal experience is of value to the students and why academic merit is not the only quality that matters in our faculty.

  • efficiency?


    How does diversity of identity and personal experience help me learn partial differential equations? How does it help me get into the best graduate program possible? Also, how much are non-whites harmed by not having non-white professors? Is it more than all students may be harmed as a result of a choice of diversity over talent (if such a choice must be made)?

  • Argos

    So I just read your comment about wanting diversity in the fields in which it is more "productive", which does not make sense.

    So I'm a biology major and most of my credits here have been in bio, chem, and math, plus I've taken some electives from other sciences as well.

    And yes, I am also concerned about understanding hard science concepts and getting into a grad program (though finding the most elitist program is not a major concern).

    That being said, I don't understand why you think diversity would be chosen over talent. I don't think any quality inherently needs to be prioritized over the other. If you can learn your differential equations equally well from anyone, you might as well learn them from faculty whose experiences are also helpful to students who care about more than just theory.

  • a concerned international student

    I agree with efficiency? here. I want the best education possible which translates to the college hiring the best professors possible, regardless of their ethnic diversity. When I am attending a lecture I do not care about the ethnicity of my professor, rather I expect my professor to be an expert in his/her field and have the ability to empathize with the concerns of the students.

    When the ICC/BCC coalition refer to 'diversity' I hope they mean the need to introduce new courses or departments (say Ethnic Studies), and not the need to hire an ethnically more diverse Math professor.

    I might be misinterpreting the goals of those who desire greater faculty diversity yet I am concerned about the quality of my education, that's all.

  • no


  • Disciple

    efficiency?: While a professor's ability to teach differential equations may not be directly impacted by their identity (whatever aspect you want to look at, be it gender/sex/race/ethnicity/etc.) it can impact their ability to interact with students (also an important part of teaching).

  • Argos

    Agreed. Some of my more satisfying first-year interactions with faculty at Swat were with a linear algebra prof and a cellular bio prof, both who shared my experience of coming into Academia from a rough, underfunded Philly high school and could speak to my concerns about not being well-prepared for the rigors of Swat.

    "No" meanwhile does not deserve further acknowledgement.

  • Phil Chodrow

    I’d like to ask anyone who opposes initiatives on faculty diversity to ask themselves where they stand on affirmative action for college admissions. The best reasons for affirmative action are also some of the best reasons for faculty diversity—the argument for one needs minimal alteration to become an argument for another.

    In particular, the strongest argument for affirmative action follows these lines:

    (1) “Merit” is impossible to define in a nonrelational way.
    (2) Identities are part of the relevant (relational) conception of merit.
    (3) Schools should admit students with their identities in mind.

    The same argument holds for faculty hiring too, and for the same reasons. The crux, of course, is the appropriate modification of premise (2). Argos has consistently pointed out that having faculty mentors who share the experiences of students is a fundamental aspect of any relevant conception of “merit”—and this is far from the only reason to support the premise.

    If you think that support for affirmative action is consistent with opposition to faculty diversity initiatives, I’d be interested to hear those arguments.


  • red

    Phil, can you explain what you mean by 'relational' and 'non-relational'?

    Also, it's not hard to see why someone would support affirmative action for students but not for faculty. (1) The student body plays more of a social role in one's college life than do the professors. So the purported benefits are greater at the student level. (2) Admittance to an elite college is a privilege that is different from employment at the same college.

  • efficiency?

    Argos & Disciple-

    That's fine. But you need to respond to the question: if a choice of diversity over talent must be made, is the total net benefit positive? Why?


    You've argued that "faculty mentors who share the experiences of students is a fundamental aspect of any relevant conception of “merit."" But you have not argued that this mentorship is **uniquely** given by faculty members. Could this mentorship be replicated by a dean, for instance?

  • efficiency?


    You wrote:

    "So I just read your comment about wanting diversity in the fields in which it is more "productive", which does not make sense."

    Why doesn't it make sense? If you're going to just say I'm wrong, you have to explain why, otherwise you're no better than a MySpace blogger. History, literature, etc. professors, where diversity is *directly* encompassed by their general area of study, are more credible (and accordingly more productive) in their field than non-whites. An obvious example is black studies, for instance. How credible/productive would a WASP be in black studies?

  • Phil Chodrow

    Hey red,

    Let’s think about fruit.

    Consider an apple. Apples can be shiny, round, and juicy, or dull, mushy, and mealy. These are characteristics of apples which don’t depend on the other apples in the orchard—if my apple is dull, mushy, and mealy, then, no matter what the other apples in the orchard are like, I still have a bad apple. In other words, if we define the “merit” of the apple, that merit does not depend on the other apples around (though the apple might still look good by comparison). This notion of merit is non-relational, for precisely this reason.

    However, constructing a college community is not like trying to pick a bushel of the best apples. If we still need to drag out the analogy, I suppose constructing this community would be like putting together a fruit salad. Even if your apples are somehow much, much “better” than your pears, cantaloupes, etc. (e.g. maybe your apples have Student Apple Test scores, or the other apples gave them great recommendations, or they were leaders of all the branches on their tree, etc.), a fruit salad composed of apples will be a poor fruit salad. Monotone. Boring. Not what a fruit salad is supposed to be.

    The criterion of selection needs to account for this intuition. Yes, have some of your awesome apples. But also include some cantaloupe. Maybe some grapes, but not blackberries, because those flavors clash. Banana slices. Etc. The “merit” of each of these inclusions will involve the non-relational value of each component (use the best fruit possible), but will also involve the relational value (how well do these flavors and textures match? Will some of the fruit go bad before others? Etc.). My point was simply that, if we demand that our conception of “merit” for college admissions be strictly non-relational, we’ll make a pretty bad fruit salad…I mean, a pretty boring Swarthmore. The implicit suggestion is that “merit” is not actually a very good term to use here at all.

    As far as your differences go, I can’t say I find these too compelling. In order:

    1). Is it so obvious that the social (and intellectual, and emotional) benefits are greater in the case of students than in that of faculty? Remember, faculty are the ones who wield influence over what courses get taught; therefore, what your peers are working one; therefore what your peers are interested in and talking about. Faculty are the ones who will open academic opportunities to students who need them, who will mentor students in need, who will serve, for better or for worse, as the face of academia to the Swarthmore community.

    It may be that in some abstract way the benefits are “greater” in the student case. But don’t let this hide the fact that the benefits are also significant in the faculty case; check out Argos’s insightful comments for more on this.

    2). I don’t quite see this as relevant. As my argumentation above might suggest, I don’t think that the best reasons for admittance have to do with privileges and fairness. Neither do those for hiring. Rather, these reasons are answers to the question of how to make the most vibrant, enriching, and genuinely worthwhile college community. And, as my response to 1). claims, diversity among faculty members is critical in this regard.


    Have you ever had such a relationship with a dean, or do you know someone who has? And has this relationship been an adequate substitute for the professor who advises a thesis on a topic of long-standing passion, or offers a directed reading, encourages creativity in the classroom, responds to student experiences in office hours? I’m willing to be proven wrong here, though I have to admit that I’m skeptical.


  • red

    Phil, thanks for the explanation. It's always interesting to hear your thoughts.

    I agree that whether a student or faculty "merits" a position depends on a relational (according to your definition) conception of merit, and that merit may therefore no longer be the best or appropriate term. This is basically saying that I support the admissions or hiring process when it "builds a class" or "creates a school," with all the subjectivity entailed, rather than merely picking the highest test scorers or the most prolific publishers. But when I think of building a class, I think of choosing X number of tuba players vs. Y number of flutists.

    Could you elaborate why race is essential to relational merit? This is the relevant question, not whether merit is relational or not. And — just in case — be careful not to conflate race with the myriad factors that can be associated with it, such as personality, commitment to teaching, socioeconomic class, unique life experiences, academic interests, etc. For the purposes of the application process, whether for students or for faculty, all the above factors and more can be assessed independently of race (more or less) and so should not even as a practical matter be conflated with it. Also, are you worried about the legal or philosophical implications that might be raised by explicitly race-based policies? Furthermore, to how great an extent is race (and race alone) important to your conception of relational merit, and does the current emphasis placed on it overshoot or under-serve that conception?

    As for the differences between faculty and students:

    1). Many of your concerns can be met separately from race if we isolate race from such factors as academic interests (what classes are available and taught), mentoring ability (the intellectual guidance provided), commitment to teaching (whether academic opportunities are presented to students) and personality and teaching style. All those latter factors can be noted and selected for, as they currently are, producing the desired healthy outcomes without touching the one thing that seems most controversial today. However, I do admit that race is singularly important when it comes time to "put a face" on academia.

    2). This second difference is definitely relevant to the larger debate on this subject, despite your personal opinion, because a popular argument is that affirmative action is meant to redress inequities in privilege, serving a societal role that is broader than creating a vibrant community beneficial only to its constituent members.

  • Argos

    Efficiency? –
    So w/r/t mentorship, we have more profs than deans and teaching faculty are the people who interact with students directly in a teaching role. I'd rather be mentored by profs than deans, and on the rare occasion when I'm not too socially awkward to seek out a mentor, a prof is who I go to.

    The question that you're asking regarding choosing "talent over diversity" does not make sense in our context, in which both qualities contribute to an individual's merit and are not necessarily exclusive of each other. Diversity, being intrinsically linked to personal experiences, impacts a person's talent and other qualities as a human being.

    Like, if I wasn't queer, I'd probably be (much more of) a jackass, less interesting, less of an activist, and less capable of providing insight on certain Things.

    That example might not be relevant or helpful.

    Anyway. You're phrasing things in irrelevant hypotheticals and it sounds like you're doing it just to be contrary.

  • Phil Chodrow


    Thanks for your thoughts. I agree with you that all the relevant notions of diversity do NOT pertain specifically to "race," if "race" means something like a skin tone or a genetic endowment. I hope I didn't give the impression that this is what I was talking about.

    What's much more important here is something we might call "identity." Without trying to offer a rigorous definition, identity clear1ly includes notions like:

    1). Ethnicity (and therefore race)
    2). Gender/Sexual Identity
    3). "Life experiences"
    4). Interests
    5). Ability-differences

    and generally anything else that might have an "identity politics" associated with it. The claim is that identity IS relevant, for all the reasons mentioned above.

    So, racial quotas are abominable, in any direction, if the implication is that a certain community needs a given number of people with particular genetic make-up. And similarly for quotas concerning sexuality etc. But affirmative action is worthy of support and defense when its goal is to build a better community by promoting identity diversity, of which racial diversity, sexual diversity, etc. are constituent components.

    With regards to 1). and 2)., I'd suggest the following:

    1). I sincerely doubt that we'll be able to abstract many of the notions you describe from the notion of identity, including race. Particularly troubling is "mentoring ability"–again, refer to Argos's excellent comments for the important of sharing some common aspects of identity in good mentorship.

    2). This point is well-taken, and not what I meant to deny in my ill-worded comment about "privilege and fairness." I would like to separate out two justifications of affirmative action:

    a). Affirmative action is good because it redresses historical injustice.
    This is a poor argument; we can discuss it if you're interested, but I don't think this is the one you evinced with your comment.

    b). Affirmative action is good because it makes our society better by addressing severe present inequalities in opportunity for members of minorities to, say, be represented by politicians, or treated by doctors, or guarded by police who share their identities. This is significant because it is one way in which affirmative action helps underprivileged communities to improve their lot.

    Claim b). seems useful and important (it is related to an argument Ronald Dworkin made in arguing the Bakke case). But it does seem that b). applies well to both faculty hiring and admissions decisions–society is better served when its educators reflect the diversity of its identities, precisely because students the students are better served. So I don't see that this is a strong way to distinguish the two cases.


  • Clarification?

    Hey Phil,

    I'm not sure I understand how your thoughts on 2a and 2b are different. In a you say the argument that states "affirmative action is good because it redresses historical injustice" is poor and should not be made. However, in 2b you claim that affirmative action is good because it addresses present inequalities in society. To me, these are exactly the same argument made from a different relative framework. In argument a, the source of the current injustice in b can be traced back to historical injustices. In argument b, you acknowledge that there are injustices but completely ignore the sources of them.

    Please correct me if I am missing something in your argument, but it seems to me that your poor reason and your god reason for affirmative action are really only one reason: fix injustices of the day that must have been caused by previous (historical injustices)

  • Clarification?

    sorry, i should have proofread the last paragraph in my post. it should read as follows…

    Please correct me if I am missing something in your argument, but it seems to me that your poor reason and your good reason for affirmative action are really only one reason: fix injustices of the day that must have been caused by previous (historical) injustices.

  • Phil Chodrow

    Hey Clarification?,

    I can understand how you'd get that impression; I do maintain, however, that the reasons are different. It's true that the reason that the inequalities exist is because of the historical injustice. However, focusing on one instead of the other makes a difference.

    For instance, consider a worthy question: when should affirmative action end? If the reason is that we are addressing a historical injustice, the answer is far from obvious: how much affirmative action is necessary to, for instance, redress people of color for America's complicity in slavery? How many spots in top schools and careers cancel out a life spent in slavery? This question would be all but inapproachable in a rigorous way were we focused on redressing an injustice.

    On the other hand, if what we care about is the inequality, the answer is easy: affirmative action comes to an end when the systemic inequalities do. Easy, at least in theory.

    Here's a different case which invokes a similar distinction. What are prisons for? One answer is that prisons are there to punish criminals. If you've committed a crime, you deserve something bad to happen to you. Time in prison is this "something bad." In this view, prisons fulfill something like the role of redressing an injustice.

    Another answer is that prisons are there to address concrete problems, such as: society is not safe with this person at liberty, perhaps (an idealized version of) the penal system will help reform the perpetrator's character, etc. That is, the prison term (ideally) takes our present, unjust situation, and makes it better.

    Crudely, the difference is like the difference between being angry at a criminal and being compassionate for her victims. The two are compatible. But pure anger is not going to get us very far, in affirmative action, or in the penal system.

    Does this offer the clarification for which you asked?

  • Clarification?

    Thanks for the clarification Phil. While I don't necessarily agree that this difference in perspective between the two greatly differentiates the respective arguments, I definitely has a better understanding about where you are coming from on this topic now. Thanks Phil!

  • Clarification?

    Thanks for the clarification Phil. While I don't necessarily agree that this difference in perspective between the two greatly differentiates the respective arguments, I definitely has a better understanding about where you are coming from on this topic now. Thanks Phil!

  • returning to the topic at hand…

    Okay, this is a really interesting discussion and all, but I think we need to look at the statistics. The level of faculty diversity being called for seems pretty unattainable considering the representation of different races in graduate programs. Swat clearly aims for a diverse faculty, but unfortunately our small college cannot dictate the candidate pool or easily redress societal injustices.

    While I think it's a good thing to always consider diversity while hiring, it seems that Swat is doing a fairly good job in this respect.

  • Get real

    Look, if you want students of color to come to Swarthmore, which is what every school wants, cause, let's face it, being of color is cool, then you better get professors that can relate to those students. I'm of color and I want to see professors who look like me on this campus. Nothing against White people, but you can't tell me that that shouldn't matter, plus your opinion is biased to begin with when you're surrounded by professors who already look like you and probably come from a similar background. I need role models, people from similar backgrounds. Swat, step it up.
    Focus on how to keep people of color at this school. Period.

  • Watufani M. Poe ’13

    YES GET REAL!!!!! I cosign all they say!!!

  • I suck at math

    eh. 17.3% vs 18%.

    Not a big difference to me.

    Just my opinion. Don't hate!

  • wonder bread

    Wow, "Get real". Don't assume anything about my background just because my skin is a certain color. I don't assume anything about yours.

  • Get real

    Ok Wonder Bread, so if my assumptions are wrong, tell me this, do you feel that you've met professors that you can relate to? If yes, then your point is mute. If no, then that goes to show how much "diversity" in all forms Swat is lacking. Either way, thanks for helping me prove my point.
    If I want to go to CAPs and see someone of color, I should be able to choose from more than 2 people.
    And the professors of color make me feel more comfortable anyway. They ask me how I'm doing every time they see me. We talk about homelife in addition to school. They are the reasons I'm willing to put up with Swat. Not to make White professors sound unloving, but there just isn't the same level of interest nor ease of trust.
    And for the record, I give you permission to assume this about my color: My experience, in some shape or form IS different from yours. Point. Blank.

  • Rachael Mansbach

    I do agree that it makes sense to strive for a community in which all students feel welcomed, and I agree that that makes a very good argument for diversity. However, I do not think that you can look at somebody and say "oh, they are ___; therefore they would be most comfortable with a person of ____", because it really does depend on the person. Yes, "Get real", you should be able to have somebody you can relate to. And your experience is most definitely different from, say, mine; however, I don't think that I can assume that you would be most comfortable with professors of color (except that you've explicitly said so!) because there is so much more there that is important. In my case, for instance, it's MUCH more important that a professor be female than that she be of a particular ethnicity, in terms of feeling it easy to approach her (I use her because I am talking about my hypothetical female professor). Anyways, I DO think diversity is important, but I think we need to be careful how we apply it (Phil's fruit salad metaphor is pretty good, I think) and not just pare everything down to a matter of color or automatically think we know what is important to everyone in a professor.

  • Get over yourself

    @ Get real:

    Actually, from your last paragraph, it sounds to me like you've met quite a few professors that you can relate to. I'm white, and over four years I've never had a professor "ask me how I'm doing every time they see me" or "talk about homelife in addition to school." So it seems pretty ridiculous to say that if Wonder Bread has had professors s/he can relate to, than his or her point is moot. Because it sounds like, if that's the case, your point is moot, and mine isn't.

    Heads up, Swat: Just because someone doesn't have the exact same experience you do doesn't make their opinion invalid! In fact, you should probably listen up and maybe you will actually have your opinion challenged by someone as intelligent and reasonable as you. You know, in other words, actually learn something.

    Get Real, you're making some pretty incorrect and offensive suggestions when you say, "Nothing against White people, but you can't tell me that that shouldn't matter, plus your opinion is biased to begin with when you're surrounded by professors who already look like you and probably come from a similar background."
    Oh wow, people have BIASED opinions? Crazy, I never would have thought! And you know what, I guess my opinion is totally useless since my professors are a bunch of elderly white men who come from wealthy backgrounds, because, you know, they look just like me and share my background. Wow, guess I'll have to reconsider my entire Swat experience now. Oh, and here's a suggestion: when you start out a sentence, "Nothing against White people," we have a problem. If I began this post, "Nothing against ethnic minorities….," how would you feel? And again, "Not to make White professors sound unloving, but there just isn't the same level of interest nor ease of trust." Yeah, problematic. White professors aren't as interested in you (or you aren't as interested in them)? They don't trust you? Should I assume the corollary is that black or asian professors just won't care that much about me because I look different?

    Also, if I think that we need more diversity in terms of economic backgrounds or gender or sexual orientation on our faculty, that doesn't mean I agree with you. In fact, it might mean that I completely disagree with you because your goal may very well be at odds with my own.

    Let's stop privileging experiences here. I'd respect your point of view a lot more if you weren't constantly asserting that it's the only legit one. Sorry, but you're acting like your opinion is the end all be all of this argument, and it's not.

  • Get real

    Dear Rachael and Get over yourself,

    Oh god. Look. Excuse me for not being politically correct, it is so hard to do in every situation, not to mention it's so overrated. And if you said "No offense to ethnic minorities," I wouldn't mind, the important part is what you'd say next in that sentence.
    But the point is simple and I don't understand why there needs to be some long, discussion. About 18% of Swat faculty is of color. That's a small number. Let's take that small number and make it bigger, across disciplines. Let's search for the best professors of color and try to get them at Swat.
    And I am sticking to my opinion that for many people of color to succeed they need to see people in higher positions that look like them. There are exceptions to this rule, sadly, but we obviously don't want to get into an honest discussion about race.
    So things really are simple, if you think more faculty of color is needed, you're cool; if you don't, well, you're wrong.
    And don't jump on the bandwagon with "Respect my experience" unless you've got something to prove. If you haven't found any professor you can relate to, go write your own proposal to search for him/her. Or tell us about it. But don't get away from the issue.
    One day we all, Brown, Black, Yellow, White, will live together in perfect understanding. But that's not today, or tomorrow. Today, people of color have different experiences than non-people of color. Accept it because it is true. And as a person of color, who is paying to attend this elite college, if I want a prof of color in every department I should get it. Why not when White is in every department already, on a well outnumbered ratio.
    Gosh, it's all a numbers game.

  • Paul Cato

    I think the concept GR is referring to when s/he speaks of "bias" is White Privilege – a phenomenon that is real/can't be denied – and I think it's the only sort of privilege they've brought up because this discussion's about ethnicity. I'd give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they aren't ranking privileges.

    Though I disagree with the way they've framed it, I wouldn't call it "bias", it just means that because of your social location (I'm referring to those commenters who have identified themselves as white, not assuming all dissenters are white) you lack insight into certain experiences and difficulties that people of color face, one of those being forced to see only a small number of professors whose ethnicities match your own. Just as I, a male, can sign up for a science class and be almost certain that my professor's gender will match mine, the white students as Swat can be pretty sure their teachers will be white.

    regarding the saying "hi" and personal communication, when one finds themselves in the minority bonds and a sense of community naturally develop between those from a similar social location – I'd ascribe GR's experiences to that – not some sort of privilege. That being said, that sense of community doesn't make up for a lack of colored professors and I am really sorry you haven't found professors to relate to.

    Now I've only tried to build understanding – and that meant making assumptions with the hope of providing explanations. If my assumptions are wrong and Get Real is truly trying to be antagonistic I apologize. Though I disagree with some of their claims about the impact of diversity I disagree with their methods: you have no right to rank privilege or experience or to dismiss the experiences of others. I'd like to think that our experiences as racial minorities would give us the insight *not* to do that. Get over yourself, I agree with Get Real, why not right a letter advocating diversity in those other realms?

    Anyways I've just been in settings with little diversity all of my life and can attest to the double consciousness (seeing Du Bois' "Souls of Black Folk – I. Of Our Spiritual Strivings") and burden that comes with it. By no means do I wish to discount any trouble you've faced, I simply wish to stress the fact that a lack of ethnic diversity dos have an impact.

  • Argos

    I think it's understandable that people are getting a little freaked out. Being challenged to accept that because of a social position you have no control over, you experience some form of dominant culture or privilege and thus need to take a good hard look at how you speak and act, is difficult. Being told to do this by someone who comes off as aggressive and pissed off can make this more difficult.

    Anyway now that it's been acknowledged that Get Real has made some of us uncomfortable, it's worth looking at what they're saying regardless of the off-putting way in which they're saying it. This particular letter is calling for more ethnic diversity in faculty, which we totally are lacking in and need more of, yes it is totally valid for students to want to see people succeeding in academia in spite of marginalization, and if you don't experience this marginalization, your opinion might be coming from a different perspective.

    All of that being said: I really hope Get Real isn't ranking experiences, and is just trying to focus on the issue at hand. Because if they are ranking experiences, that's pretty lame and unproductive. There are a ton of people on campus who are dealing with oppression that isn't related to ethnicity who would like to have more(some?) faculty to relate to. When you call someone out on their experiences and they get defensive, they may have dealt with some other form of oppression and feel that their own experiences are being invalidated or ignored. Dealing with this stuff a little more sensitively might keep you from losing possible allies.

  • Paul Cato


    I really hope you aren't a senior…I'd hate to see you and your comments go :'(

  • Paul Cato


  • Get over yourself

    @ Get real,

    I have no problem with not being politically correct. I'm pointing out that unless you want to antagonize people you shouldn't start a sentence with, "Nothing against ____, but," because unless you grew up under a rock you know the implications of those words. Don't act like the preface "no offense" needs to be contextualized. Also, if I wanted to be politically correct I'd go all white guilt on you and talk about how sorry I am that our genes vary.

    My point is also simple. About 18% of our faculty are of color. In 1998, only 9.4% of Ph.D.s were granted to ethnic minorities (4,014 out of 42,683). Obviously that was several years ago and the percentage has probably increased by now. So yeah, 18% is small. But the percentage of Ph.D.s is small, too. I want faculty diversity, but I also want you to be realistic. I agree that role models are necessary; in fact, if you read my comment, I never suggested otherwise. Oh, and really subtle dig about how "we obviously don't want to get into an honest discussion about race," by the way. Just because I disagree with you doesn't mean I don't want honest discussion, whatever that is.

    "So things really are simple, if you think more faculty of color is needed, you're cool; if you don't, well, you're wrong."

    Honestly, your comment is so ignorant and absurd that I don't even know how to reply. "If you don't agree with me, you're wrong" – are you actually serious? Clearly a Swat education has been wasted on you if this is the extent of your analytical and rhetorical skills. Things are NEVER that simple, and the idea that you could be so thoroughly convinced that you are the arbiter of "wrong" and "cool" is mind-boggling. I hope you are a freshman so you have a couple of years to learn that people can have an opinion that differs from yours and it can still be correct! Because an opinion is not a fact. And it is not a fact that our school needs more faculty of color – that's an opinion.

    "And don't jump on the bandwagon with 'Respect my experience' unless you've got something to prove."

    Okay, you completely miss the point. I don't care if a guy is the straightest, whitest, richest, most WASP-y douchebag on the planet – he still has an experience, and he still gets to express it. Dick Cheney's experience is no less legit than mine or yours, even though I think he's a terrible person. No one has to PROVE why his or her experience matters. But you want me to prove it? Fine. I want a white prof from a lower-middle class background, a first generation college student who doesn't have a very supportive family. I want a prof who openly suffers from severe mental illness and still succeeds in her field. I could go on. The point is not to have an oppression Olympics where "my experience is worse than yours so it's the only one that counts." The point is that we have different opinions, and that's cool.

    @ Paul Cato and Argos:

    Thanks for the diversity 101 workshop, but I'm pretty sure I got that during freshman orientation. It's not that I misunderstand Get Real – I just disagree.

    See, the thing is, I'm not freaked out. I understand what white privilege is, but I'm uninterested in the white guilt game. It's probably because I've been at Swat for four years. I try to understand where other people are coming from, because that's all anyone can do. But white privilege is only one of MANY kinds of privilege, and being black does not inherently mean you are, in the grand scheme of things, less privileged than a white person. It's more likely, but not automatically true.

    Guess what? I disagree with the article. I understand where it is coming from, acknowledge the validity of many of its points, and, indeed, regard a diverse student body and faculty as essential. But I think that demands to greatly increase the faculty's racial diversity are unrealistic, and I just don't see it as Swat's top priority at this moment. I'd rather have different kinds of diversity represented. Obviously, lots of people disagree with me. That's the cool thing about opinions.

  • Paul Cato

    Get Over Yourself,

    While many of your points are legitimate you should realize that your tone and language is just as aggressive/confrontational as Get Real's – in fact that's probably why s/he has continued to argue with you. With all due respect, get over yourself.

  • Get real

    I could go all rouge and say that if we really didn't want to rank experiences, and be very economical, we would increase the number of profs of color and who also {grew up poor, are immigrants(1st or 2nd), dealt with identity issues at some point in their lives, dealt with mental issues, were bullied, have a range of socio-economic backgrounds}, you get where I'm going with a list of what may be considered disadvantages. {Many institutions have started to do just this actually, to hit more birds with one stone}
    But I wont do that.
    I agree that there are multiple forms of identity and experience, and I definitely agree that many people are disadvantaged in ways that do not involve race. Now just tell me why all of that means we don't increase faculty of color?
    Because what is bothering me is that all of everyone's reasons about "other forms of diversity matter, people of color are not the only ones suffering" sounds wonderful but why in the world does that mean that we don't increase faculty of color. I REPEAT why does any of that negate raising the amount of faculty of color? It does not. It's like saying if we give into the Civil Rights Movement we can't get Feminism Movement too; {when you could get Angela Davis to cover both}. My point is if now you are reading this letter to increase faculty diversity and you've received insight that there are a bunch of other forms of diversity lacking, go, write your own proposal. But don't make your case here. You should be thanking those that wrote the letter, saying "Now I realize there are other things lacking from Swat's profs and I want to increase those as well" as opposed to sounding like "Yes there is a small number of profs of color but what about the profs who are disadvantaged in other ways, lets focus on them instead". Because you're not really offering much, to debate, just a new, tangent argument.
    Specifically to Get over yourself, um, par my "failing rhetorical skills", you still sound wrong, and I'm sad that me just saying so wasn't enough proof. You said that you believe there are different types of diversity to be represented. True. I loved what you said for your description of various forms of diversity. If we are not ranking experiences, why shouldn't ethnic diversity AND socio-economic/physical diversity be pushed for? But you saying you only want the latter sounds like you still don't grasp all types of diversity. Thank you for your bluntness, finally. See, it is a cool way to write, isn't it :)
    And Argos, aww, I sound aggressive and pissed off? I was going for carefree and blunt. Thank you for writing in ways I choose not, your sensitivity is needed. But in my opinion, everyone needs to feel a bit uncomfortable throughout their lives, it's good for the soul.
    P.S. @Get over yourself: I'm curious, what should be Swat's top priority, this might not be the proper place to tell me, but I was genuinely curious.

  • Walter

    Get real,

    When you are asking for more faculty diversity, you are asking for two things:
    1) professors who can relate to your difficulties, and
    2) professors who can relate to your "homelife".

    Someone who can relate to your difficulties would make a better professor. But do not assume that someone of a different race cannot do this, even if your difficulty is racial in origin, and do not assume that someone of the same race will automatically be able to. It seems like one of the aspects of your racial experience is an expectation that you have an implicit connection with members of your race. What if we hired a black professor like Richard Rodriguez? — someone who spent their entire lives attempting to assimilate into white culture? He would fit the bill of what the letter is looking for, but he would not fit what you are looking for.

    I don't think the second criteria — a professor who can relate to your homelife — matters so much. Get over yourself brings in a very strong counterexample when he says that he hasn't related to a professor in matters of homelife in all his four years here. Whether professors should be expected to do this or not is a different debate entirely. Either way, I would attempt to be more persuasive in order to not put off people who might otherwise find your arguments compelling.

  • Over myself…?

    (from the commenter formerly known as Get over Yourself)

    @ Paul Cato:

    Yeah, I know that my language is off-putting, but I wasn't attempting to be the thread moderator – I leave that role to you. Rather, I know that if you want someone to pay attention to your comments on the DG, don't be nice. I've made similar arguments earlier in this thread and received no response, and now I've got a conversation / a way to procrastinate on my exams. Plus, I was (and usually am) in a bitchy mood, and so I expressed my irritation online instead of punching someone. I think my therapist would approve. Also, I appreciate your concern that I should get over myself, but believe me when I say that I am already completely over myself. I even restrain myself from criticizing spelling errors!

    Anyway, obviously my points are being overlooked because I sound like an asshole (for which I have no one but myself to blame, so whatever), so I'm going to try to be nice. I hope this doesn't detract from anyone's amusement but my own.

    @ Get Real / lots of people at this point:

    Look, I DO want to increase the number of faculty of color, and faculty diversity more generally. But I think that it's pretty freaking difficult because of the limited pool of qualified people of color earning advanced degrees. When it comes down to two equally qualified candidates, pick the person with the more diverse experience! – whether it's racial, socio-economic, personal, whatever. My problem is I think people are being unrealistic instead of trying to problem-solve. What Swat should focus on for students from groups that are underrepresented in academia is:
    1) Yes, give them more role models in the form of profs, deans, counselors, etc.
    2) Give them more academic support and encourage them to pursue higher education.
    I think the latter is easier to achieve, because I know enough about the hiring process to say with conviction that hiring more minorities is wayyyyy easier said than done, especially depending on the department. Chemistry might not be able to offer a prof that you can relate to, but it can and should offer support in other forms.

    Basically, what I'm saying is that I want to make the Swat experience better for all students, especially for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, but I don't know if the policy the letter advocates for is the best way to solve our problems.

    Sorry if it seemed like I was trying to change the topic. You challenged Wonder Bread to talk about his experiences at Swat, and I followed up on that for him/her. I have to disagree with you on the the topic of tangents, though. Comment threads are precisely the place where we can start discussing another related issue and say, "Hey, you know what, I want ethnic diversity among faculty! In fact, I think we should consider many more forms of diversity as well!" The point is not to detract from the discussion or to divert from the subject at hand, but instead to use this conversation as a launchpad for new ideas. I apologize if I appeared that my goal was anything else.

    "If we are not ranking experiences, why shouldn't ethnic diversity AND socio-economic/physical diversity be pushed for? But you saying you only want the latter sounds like you still don't grasp all types of diversity."

    Whoa, whoa, I definitely didn't say that's all I cared about. I said that, for me, the latter issues affect my experience at Swat considerably. I'm definitely not being exclusive, like we have to choose one form of diversity over another. In fact, all I've been arguing for is an understanding of the plurality of kinds of diversity! You know, not ranking experiences, considering different realms of diversity, etc etc.

    I thought I was being pretty blunt before, sorry. Guess my sarcasm interfered again. Ok, so here I am, being blunt: Telling people they're wrong if they disagree with you is one of the most obnoxious and intellectually invalid things you can write. It's not a real argument. My opinion isn't wrong: we disagree. In fact, I think we probably disagree a lot less than you imagine because I feel like you've misinterpreted a lot of my comments so far. I might be mistaken and you still think everything I said is totally false, but that doesn't make my opinion, or yours, incorrect.

    [To answer your off-topic question: As for Swat's top priority, it's hard to pick just one thing. I guess I'd go for the mental health of students. It's a stressful place for everyone, and I think the school should try to strike a better balance between being academically challenging and being a place where you can feel happy and moderately good about yourself. For example, the transition to college is a big one for lots of us. Maybe you went to a really easy high school and aren't prepared for the work at Swat; maybe you are a first-gen college student and are struggling under high-expectations with little knowledge about what college is like; maybe you are feeling out of place in an environment that is still predominantly white and pretty wealthy. Maybe you experience lots of these things and hate your roommate, too. There's not a whole lot of support for these issues, and I see that as a serious problem for a diverse range of students. Role models are good, but receiving real support is even better, I think. Just my two cents.]

    I apologize for sounding like an asshole. I just think that no one gets a trump card in these conversations, so I added my contradictory comments. You can rate them down because you think I'm wrong / a douchebag (although I'd prefer higher ratings, thanks), but I hope you at least consider my points. Cool.

  • The way you express yourself matters

    I'm not as kind as Get over yourself/Over myself…?

    Get real: you need to run your comments through spell check and grammar check and then edit them before you post them. The way you state your points makes it very hard to read them, let alone be persuaded by them. If this is such an important issue–which you and I believe it is–take the time to make it seem as if you care about what you're writing.

  • Paul Cato

    I agree with everything you said in that last comment (though I wish you'd refer to me as "Paul," hearing "Paul Cato" all the time is depressing for some reason haha)

    And trust me, I of all people understand being in a bitchy mood, no harm done.