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Virginia Tech to Reward Faculty For Diversity Efforts

Virginia Tech to Reward Faculty For Diversity Efforts

The new annual instructor evaluations at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University will include a review of faculty members’ activities to promote diversity on campus.

Virginia Tech President Charles Steger outlined a plan Aug. 28 to add diversity to the criteria used to evaluate university instructors. Under the new guidelines, faculty will report any diversity-related activities, such as advising a minority student group or conducting community outreach programs, each spring on their annual activity report. Academic departments use these reports to provide merit-based pay increases.

In his memo, Steger noted that “creating a diverse and inclusive community is an important and long-standing priority for Virginia Tech.” The policy will begin this academic year, with teachers reporting
on their 2006-2007 activities next spring.

In the past, faculty generally included only teaching, research and outreach on their annual activity report, says Dr. Mark G. McNamee, university provost.

“Virginia Tech is working hard on multiple fronts to increase the diversity of the campus,” he told Diverse. Two years ago, the university developed the Principles of Community, a set of “core values” for the campus that included commitments to diversity and non-discrimination. The university also organizes an annual diversity summit and a commission on equal opportunity and diversity.

While faculty will self-report their diversity activities, academic departments will review the information under stringent criteria. Mentoring one or two minority students generally won’t be enough to earn recommendations for a salary increase, McNamee says.

Examples of more acceptable activities may include advising a minority student group, conducting community outreach programs, building relationships with Black colleges or working to increase the recruitment of minority faculty.

“Virginia Tech, like any university, has struggled with these issues. We are working hard. We have a long way to go, and this is a sign that we take this issue seriously,” McNamee says. The student body is about 30 percent minority, though progress is uneven. Blacks represent about 4 percent of enrollment at the university.

Dr. Marybeth Gasman, a University of Pennsylvania professor and chair of the historically Black institutions and scholars of color committee at the American Association of University Professors, says Virginia Tech’s move may be a first.

She says service to the campus or community often is a factor when universities make tenure and promotion decisions. But the new Virginia Tech policy appears to go beyond the norm. “It seems that the institution is making a verbal commitment to diversity efforts — but doing more than that, actually operationalizing the commitment.”

The annual faculty reports are critical for salary gains at Virginia Tech, since the university has no automatic cost-of-living increases. Academic departments recommend salary increases each summer based on the instructor reports.

— By Charles Dervarics

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