SATIRE Addressing the Faculty: Student Diversity Mismach

April 2002

University of Toronto has been struggling for a while now to arrange things so that the faculty complement more closely resembles the student body in terms of diversity. We haven’t yet got to the point of advertising for "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and queer" professors, but that’s only a matter of time. For the moment, we are focusing on sex and race, endeavouring with only limited success to bring our faculty complement into synchrony with our student body. Because the student body is so dramatically diverse, however - according to some counts both women and visible minorities now comprise over 50% of the student body, making these minorities majorities - faculty recruitment efforts continue to fall short. Is there any hope of recruiting enough Asian women faculty to mentor all the Asian women students? We fear not. Our concern about matching faculty and student demographics, however, must not breed despair. Rather, we propose a simple plan to rectify the situation, by bringing faculty and student race and sex characteristics quickly into harmony.

The basic problem is that hiring suitable faculty is difficult. There are only so many desirable faculty to go around, and U of T is not particularly well-positioned to hire scholars with just the right genetic make-up. Our salaries aren’t particularly competitive, even within Canada. The weather sucks. The facilities are run down. Classes are overcrowded. And things are likely to just keep getting worse. Realistically, there’s no way that we can change the faculty make-up to correspond to the student make-up within the foreseeable future. Unless....

Unlike faculty, students are easy to come by. There are thousands and thousands of them clamouring to get in, and every year we get a new batch of applicants. In fact, we can pretty much pick and choose which students get in. So far, we have been pretty much oblivious to student genetics when making admission decisions, but in the interests of fairness, this policy must change. If we are to achieve an appropriate and equitable faculty: student diversity ratio, we must start applying the same criteria to student applicants as we do to faculty applicants. In fact, if we implement a more diligent "diversity screening" among our student applicants, we can eliminate the "diversity gap" within 4 years.

We begin with a faculty survey. God knows there must be some data somewhere on the sex and racial composition of the faculty; in fact, we know there are, because people are always complaining about the figures. So, starting with the faculty complement, we then proceed to establish student recruitment guidelines so as to bring the students and faculty into greater congruence. If the faculty is, say, 70% male and 80% white, then starting this Spring, we must admit student applicants in corresponding percentages. Before you know it, the faculty will offer a perfect mirror of the student body. Because of the speed with which student admissions can be adjusted, from one year to the next, any changes in the faculty composition can be rapidly reflected in the student body. If - as a result of the vicissitudes of faculty hiring, retirement, defection, and death - the sex or ethnic make-up of the faculty changes, it’s a simple enough matter to admit students accordingly, so as to maintain a perfect balance. Some may object that basing student admissions on characteristics such as sex and race is unfair (especially to those saddled with the "wrong" characteristics). But no - one will argue with the need to have the faculty fully represent the characteristics of the student body. In fact, U of T is publically committed to achieving this form of equity, even if it means adopting "affirmative" recruitment standards. The only novelty in our proposal is that we apply the standards to the students rather than to the faculty, in the interests of simplicity and speed1. If you have an easier and quicker way to establish a proportionate faculty: student diversity ratio, we’d like to hear it.

1 This scheme has the additional advantage of preventing the stigma of affirmative-action hiring from undermining the self-esteem of the hired individual. Faculty will be spared the ignominy of having been chosen for the "wrong" reasons. Students, on the other hand, couldn't care less why they're chosen, as long as they're chosen (as was made clear when our law students knowingly submitted inflated grade reports when applying for summer jobs - only one of the myriad instances nowadays of student cheating at the university level).