Guide To Teaching and Learning

Inclusion and Anti-Bias Awareness in Faculty Searches: Introduction

All humans make instant judgments because all humans instinctively place everything we encounter into categories which then get reinforced over time. This one-minute video shows how we all have implicit/unconscious biases. It’s not just about race, gender, ability, etc. It’s about being human.

But when those unconscious judgments involve race, gender, ability, size or other assessments of human beings, such as applicants for faculty positions, it can affect who is interviewed and who is offered a position. Even when we think we are not biased. 

This resource is intended to raise awareness of how unconscious or implicit bias can impact searches, to promote self-awareness as applicants are reviewed and candidates are discussed in order to minimize the impact of bias on faculty searches and to empower others to question judgments about candidates by search committee members.

This 25-minute LinkedIn Learning video with Stacey Gordon (New School sign-in required) about the nature of implicit bias and its potential impact on searches is recommended by The New School’s Human Resources department and the Office of Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice.

Additional video links for understanding implicit bias are available under Further Resources.

Suggestions for minimizing the influence of bias in searches

  • Assume you have bias. Those who think they don’t are more–not less–likely to discriminate.
  • Develop and employ ground rules/community agreements for the committee to ensure respectful and inclusive conversations.
  • Ensure all members of the search committee are heard.
  • Develop and clearly articulate evaluation criteria before reviewing candidates.
  • Ensure evaluation criteria are applied to all candidates equally.
  • Focus on reasons for including–rather than excluding–candidates. Emphasize candidates’ positive qualities. (Research shows this promotes a more deliberative and careful process that reduces bias.)
  • Evaluate each candidate’s entire application. 
  • Be alert to ‘cognitive shortcuts‘.
  • Periodically consciously re-assess your judgments and consider whether evaluation biases and assumptions are influencing your decisions.
  • Do not rush. Allot ample time for evaluation and discussion.

Implicit bias is more likely to affect our decision making when we are tired, in a hurry, feeling overworked or distracted, or uncertain of exactly what we should do—in other words, under the conditions we often face while serving on search committees. And research shows that bias can be contagious; we are more likely to feel, express, or enact bias after witnessing it in others.

Promoting inclusion of diverse candidates

  • Develop a set of standard interview questions that will be asked of each candidate to provide for direct comparison.
  • Remember that rapport between an interviewer and a candidate as an indicator of “fit” can be complicated. When the interviewer and candidate have different backgrounds, interviewers may need to be especially self-aware to establish good rapport with those less similar to themselves.
  • Ensure candidates meet with a diverse set of individuals on campus. 

Assessing the candidates

Two key components help ensure the efficient and effective assessment of job applicants and mitigate the potential impact of implicit bias:

  1. A clear and consistent assessment rubric, i.e., the criteria by which committees and other decision-makers evaluate applicants’ qualifications and potential
  2. A clear and consistent assessment plan, i.e., the process by which committees evaluate applicants, make selections at each stage of evaluation, and ultimately make recommendations to the voting faculty and/or to leadership with hiring authority.

Sample search evaluation/rubric templates

Guidance on creating and implementing assessment rubrics and an assessment plan

Interrupting Bias in the Faculty Search Process

University of Washington ADVANCE ten-minute video of a search committee discussion: Interrupting Bias

To facilitate interrupting bias, search committees are encouraged to adopt community agreements for their meetings to ensure all voices are heard and ideas respected. 

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