Meredith College’s English Department recently introduced their new creative writing minor, and with the department’s growth has come a new contingent, renewable full-time faculty position. A recent letter to the editors from an anonymous faculty member criticized the English Department’s choice of their final three candidates; The Herald has learned that two of the potential applicants are white and one is Latinx. The letter also called for further diversity and equity in hiring. The Meredith Herald spoke with Dr. Laura Fine, Head of the English Department, to learn more about what steps the English Department took to attempt to ensure equity in hiring for this new, non-tenure track position
When discussing the search for a new faculty member with The Herald, Dr. Fine shared the job posting, which can be read below.
“Meredith College seeks an experienced writing instructor to fill a non-tenure-track assistant professorship in English. This full-time, renewable position will begin in August 2021.
The teaching load will alternate between three and four classes a semester and will be a combination of composition, poetry, and possibly other creative writing courses. The successful candidate will have a strong commitment to implementing the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion in all areas of academic practice and will collaborate with other faculty in developing curriculum relevant to the needs of twenty-first century writers. Other responsibilities include advising and mentoring undergraduate students, department and college committee service, and scholarly research and activity.
Candidates must have a minimum of a master’s degree and five years of experience teaching writing at the college level. To apply, complete the online application.”
According to Dr. Fine, there were several steps taken throughout the hiring process to encourage equity for all who applied. She said, “Employment law states that we must make our decisions based on the candidates’ qualifications and their perceived ability to perform the job, without bias, for or against, any candidate due to their race or ethnicity. Therefore, we have no information on protected classes like race, ethnicity and sexual orientation unless individual applicants choose to share that information.” Dr. Fine said that “almost no one” in the applicant pool self-identified as a person of color, so the hiring committee looked at “categories such as composition and poetry teaching experience.” The committee also had a “commitment to diversity” category that they included to help judge the candidates’ commitment to diversity and equity. Dr. Fine elaborated, “Once we started interviewing candidates, the first question we asked was, ‘Can you talk about your commitment to diversity and how you create an inclusive classroom environment?’”
In the March 31 letter to the editors, the anonymous faculty member asserted that there is a lack of equity in the hiring process at Meredith. Dr. Fine agreed with this sentiment and noted, “I share many of the frustrations that the anonymous letter writer has about equity at Meredith and elsewhere.” For legal reasons, she was unable to share additional hiring details related to the new English Department hire. However, she did acknowledge that “academia is heavily white, and we are at a predominantly white institution — this also affects the candidates that apply.” Dr. Fine said, “We have to make sure Meredith is a supportive environment for BIPOC and LBGTQ colleagues, and unless potential applicants know this, it can also mean there will be hesitancy to apply.”
Dr. Fine said she believes that the English Department is aware that representation matters and that Meredith has far fewer BIPOC and LGBTQ faculty staff than they should. She shared her belief that “hiring members of these groups helps all groups.” She added, “I think we also need to improve processes for reporting incidents of racism and homophobia and increase anti-racism and equity training for all faculty and staff.” Dr. Fine said this interview process differed from previous ones because they have not had a “commitment to diversity” category when considering applicants in the past. Therefore, the department is hopeful for future candidates and the opportunity to expand diversity at Meredith.
By Rachel Van Horne, News Editor