This toolkit, developed by the President and Provost’s Leadership Council for Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice in 2020, is designed to serve as a resource for tenure-track search committees and administrators at Oregon State University. 

Search Tenets

The following tenets should be attended to throughout the search process.

Shared governance describes the sharing of responsibilities between faculty and administration in decisions related to the academic work of the university; “full-cycle” means that administrators “close the loop” with faculty at the conclusion of the decision-making process, as described in the OSU Faculty Senate Shared Governance Document (PDF). In searches, faculty (along with staff and students) and administration (usually via the hiring official) have well-defined roles and responsibilities. To ensure “full-cycle” governance, the hiring official and the search committee connect regularly to check for alignment. Differences of opinion are best resolved through in-person dialogue between the hiring official and the search committee. For more information about search roles, see Forming the Search Committee.

According to OSU’s strategic plan, equity, diversity, inclusion and social justice are among the important principles that underpin our mission and vision, guide our priorities and actions and are visible in our achievements. Each faculty search should advance these principles. For example:

  • Articulate the equity/diversity/inclusion/social justice impact the new faculty member will be expected to have in the description of duties.
  • Identify the qualifications, skills and competencies a successful candidate will need to achieve the expected equity/diversity/inclusion/social justice impacts. 
  • Continue to use just practices that increase diversity and inclusion throughout the search, such as those recommended in this toolkit and by the Search Advocate program.

To avoid confirmation bias (the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs), collect and evaluate all available objective/factual evidence before reaching judgment. 

  • Steer clear of judgmental or inflammatory language – instead of describing someone as “unprofessional” or characterizing their scholarship as “weak,” describe exactly what you see in the application materials and the candidates’ interviews.
  • Have stakeholders describe objectively what the candidate said or did – or what they saw in the candidate’s materials – that caused them to form their conclusions.
  • Ask yourself whether you have enough objective information to form a conclusion, or whether you still have just a question.

Implicit/cognitive bias is a well-documented feature of human cognition and may be reinforced by institutional or disciplinary norms, standards and systems that are needlessly narrow, rigid or restrictive. Implicit bias may result from unconscious stereotypes (which often conflict with conscious beliefs) and/or from cognitive shortcuts or heuristics that are consistent, inaccurate and outside our conscious awareness. Take advantage of the variety of resources to help committee members understand implicit bias, such as this video series made available for public use by UCLA.

The biases listed below are adapted from “Rising above Cognitive Errors Guidelines for Search, Tenure Review and Other Evaluation Committees” by JoAnn Moody, PhD, JD.

  1. Negative Stereotypes. "A stereotype can he defined as a broad generalization about a particular group and the presumption that a member of the group embodies the generalized traits of that group." Negative stereotypes are negative presumptions such as presumptions of incompetence in an area, or presumptions of lack of character or trustworthiness.
  2. Positive Stereotypes. Members of a group are presumed to be competent or bona fide. Such a member receives the benefit of the doubt. Positive achievements are noted more than negative performance and success is assumed.
  3. Raising the Bar. Related to negative stereotypes, when we require members of certain groups to prove that they are not incompetent by using more filters or higher standards for them.
  4. Elitism. Favoring attributes related to selectivity, such as a candidate’s education at prestigious institutions or work in prestigious programs. Having unfavorable reactions based on characteristics such as less-selective educational institutions, regional accent, dress, accents, social class, etc. The assumption is that coming from a prestigious program is a proxy for excellence and potential for success. In fact, it is not always an accurate proxy AND may cause us to overlook excellent candidates from other programs.
  5. First Impressions. Automatically drawing unexamined conclusions in a matter of seconds based on our personal likes/dislikes.
  6. The Longing to Clone. Devaluing someone who is not like most of 'us' on the committee, or wanting someone to resemble, in attributes, someone we admire and are replacing.
  7. Good Fit/Bad Fit. While it may be about whether the person can meet the programmatic needs for the position, it often is about how comfortable and culturally at ease we will feel working with that person. To avoid bias this must be carefully and inclusively defined as a research area complementary to that of current faculty, and/or a set of job-related performance skills.
  8. Provincialism. Similar to cloning, this is undervaluing something outside your own province, circle or clan. For example, trusting only reference letters from people you know.
  9. Extraneous Myths and Assumptions. Undermining the careful collection and analysis of information, such as “we can't get a person like that to come here,” or “this person will decline our offer, or if they accept it they won’t stay.”
  10. Wishful Thinking. Opinions rather than facts and evidence. Examples are assumptions that American higher education institutions operate as objective meritocracies, or that because we are “color-blind” and “gender-blind” there is no need for extra care in our deliberations.
  11. Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. Some call it ‘channeling,’ where we structure our interaction with someone to receive information congruent with our assumptions, or avoid information incongruent with our assumptions.
  12. Seizing a Pretext. Hiding one's real concern or agenda (e.g., excessive weight) behind something trivial, or focusing on a few negatives rather than the overall performance.
  13. Character over Context, or Attribution errors. The assumption that an individual’s personal characteristics are the sole explanation for their behavior and that the context or circumstances are irrelevant. For example, do we react strongly to a single interaction with the candidate that occurred in a social setting, late in the day, or outside of the professional arena? Might we actually blame a candidate or assume they are responsible for something that is someone else’s fault?
  14. Premature Ranking/Digging In. Rush to use numbers, as if they are objective, to drive a decision. This can prevent engagement and thoughtful discussion using higher-order thinking.
  15. Momentum of the Group. It can be difficult for committee members to successfully advocate for consideration of other candidates when the majority seems to be rushing to consensus.
  16. “Rising Star” -- focus on finding a superstar may cause us to miss excellent performers and disadvantage first-generation faculty candidates.

Structural Bias refers to societal or institutional patterns and practices that advantage some and disadvantage others based on identity. These typically result from norms, standards, patterns, policies, procedures, practices and symbols that reflect the status quo or dominant perspective. Examples of structural bias include failing to mitigate cognitive bias (because we assume our systems are “fair”), establishing needlessly narrow qualifications and standards, judging candidates on their ability to self-promote rather than on their ability to do the job, judging “professionalism” by how accurately candidates meet our institutional/disciplinary norms, marketing the unit/university/community to a narrow set of interests, etc.

Like most higher education institutions, Oregon State University has several initiatives to support faculty hiring. These include:

  1. Tenured Faculty Diversity Initiative (TFDI) administered by Faculty Affairs. Through a proposal process a unit may receive partial funding to support the first two years of a faculty hire that increases institutional diversity. Contact the Senior Vice Provost (SVP) for Faculty Affairs for more information.
  2. Dual career hiring program administered by the SVP for Faculty Affairs and the Provost may provide a one-third match for a tenure-track spousal hire for up to three years. Contact the SVP for Faculty Affairs for more information.