Currently, Haverford is undergoing a series of professor searches, including five tenure-track searches in the following departments: East Asian Languages and Cultures/History, Chemistry, Music, African and Africana Studies, and Gender and Sexuality Studies. Although it seemed that the COVID pandemic may have impacted professor hirings, Benjamin Le, the associate provost for faculty development, clarified that there was no such change, stating, “The number of tenure-track searches (5) this year is consistent with the number we’d do in any normal year, due to faculty retirements and other vacated positions.”
In response to the strike, the College has created racial equity commitments, including hiring more BIPOC faculty. During the strike, one issue students raised was the relative lack of tenured faculty of color and the existing power structures between white professors and BIPOC students, resulting in an unwelcoming academic environment. Students raised the issue in one of the strike documents that “There is a more structural problem with most faculty of colour holding contingent/precarious positions within departments … Institutional measures must be taken to CREATE spaces for diverse perspectives within departments and for their specializations.” Their concern has led to multiple tenure-track positions for faculty of color.
Le explains how “[hiring] committees evaluate applicants on a number of dimensions, and increasingly these include their ability engage in anti-racist and inclusive pedagogies, mentor students from a wide range of backgrounds, and to support diversity on campus.” However, it is unclear how these committees are held accountable to ensure that they follow the College’s anti-racist promises. Although Le did not further detail what these “dimensions” are and if they are resulting in changes to the hiring process.
The new tenure-track positions are aimed at continuing to expand diversity in curriculums. For instance, the music department is currently in the process of hiring a new professor of ethnomusicology for the newly-endowed Norton Family Professor of Music whose work focuses on the popular and traditional music of the Americas and the connections between music, identities, and cultures. Professor Richard Freedman, chair of the music department, noted the interdisciplinary potential that the new positions have, stating, “This position has the capacity to connect music study powerfully with Africana Studies, Anthropology, Latin American, Iberian and LatinX Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and potentially other departments and concentrations which engage issues of race, class, gender, and politics.” Like the other four departments currently searching for new tenure-track faculty members, the music department will hopefully increase the number of BIPOC faculty and strengthen the BIPOC community on campus.
Whether or not the hirings will meet the anti-racist commitments and the demands of the strike still remains to be seen. Still, the current faculty searches and positions show significant progress toward these demands.