Chronicle of Higher Education op-ed: How and Why We Built a Majority-Minority Faculty, by Kevin R. Johnson (Dean, UC-Davis):
In the summer of 1989, the law school at the University of California at Davis added three new faculty members: two Latino men and an African-American woman. I was one of the Latinos, and I didn’t know until I read it in the local paper that the new arrivals were the only people of color on a previously all-white faculty.
I wasn’t surprised. At that time, the faculty at every top-tier American law school was overwhelmingly white and predominantly male. There was nothing unusual about the situation on my new campus, nor about the law school’s apparent intention to diversify.
What has proved unusual is that we succeeded. Today I am dean of the law school, and our faculty diversity is broad: gay and straight, white, Latino, African-American, and Asian. On a faculty of 36 tenured and tenure-track scholars, we have Filipino-, Iranian-, Indian-, and Algerian-Americans, as well as Korean-, Japanese-, and Chinese-Americans. With our most recent hires, we now have a faculty that is 47 percent female and 56 percent minority.
Unfortunately, that is still far from the norm at American law schools. It appears that we are the only law school among the top 30 in U.S. News & World Report’s rankings to have a majority-minority faculty. Indeed, except for law schools affiliated with historically black institutions, or those in Puerto Rico, we are not aware of any other American law school with a majority-minority faculty. At a time when diversity is an elusive goal — from Harvard to Hollywood — it is worth noting how we got here. ...
Law schools tend to rely on elite credentials in hiring professors. Some of those elite credentials — even if "race neutral" — are rarely found among many minority candidates. For example, law faculties often covet former Supreme Court clerks, but few minorities have the opportunity to serve in those positions. Only a handful of people of Mexican ancestry, for example, have ever served as Supreme Court clerks.
More generally, law schools must take care to avoid reliance upon elite, overly restrictive hiring criteria that artificially narrow the pool and disproportionately disqualify people of color.
To help identify promising scholars of color, we have networked with fellowship programs that develop such scholars. In the past two years, three of our hires — an African-American woman, an Asian-American man, and a Latina — had participated in a mentoring program for minority candidates at Duke Law School.