Last November, student activists at Pomona College, a selective liberal arts school in Southern California, demanded a change in the way that professors are evaluated. Alleging “unsafe academic environments,” they wanted future candidates for promotion or tenure to be judged in part on “a faculty member’s support of a diverse student body.” College President David Oxtoby dubbed it “an idea with merit.” And a semester later, faculty were set to formally vote on the matter.
The language before them: Should tenure candidates be judged in part on whether their teaching is “attentive to diversity in the student body” and whether they have fostered “an inclusive classroom where all students are encouraged to participate”?
The faculty overwhelmingly voted yes.
“The college is now asking you to think about who your students are,” Eric A. Hurley, an associate professor of psychology and Africana studies, told Inside Higher Ed. “For the people who already do this as a perceived responsibility anyway, this officially acknowledges that as contributing to your promotion.”
Ashley Thorne, executive director of a higher-education advocacy group, retorted that the change at Pomona “may subvert faculty members' academic freedom to teach a subject according to their best judgment and field of expertise,” adding that “a college should be encouraging its faculty to prioritize books and ideas that are intrinsically good, true and important, regardless of whether they count as 'underrepresented.' Students deserve an education that is guided by intellectual worth,” she told Inside Higher Ed, “not topics that merely fulfill a diversity requirement."