Assessing diversity statements

These days it seems that most positions in higher education ask candidates to provide a diversity statement. But search committees sometimes have difficulty interpreting and assessing the diversity statements that candidates submit. Does everyone who fills a page with words get full credit? No!

Fortunately, there are more resources that offer guidance on how to more meaningfully interpret and evaluate diversity statements. Berkeley’s Office of Faculty Equity and Welfare recommends that search committee members consider three primary areas in assessing faculty candidates’ diversity statements:

  • Knowledge and understanding of diversity equity, and inclusion (DEI) issues
  • Track record of work related to DEI
  • Plans for furthering DEI at your institution

These core areas can help us to focus on three substantive areas that are evidence of a candidate’s commitment (and the level of that commitment) to DEI.

CSU researchers Sara Bombaci and Liba Pejchar published an article that also gives some categories to assess in diversity statements, along with offering an analysis of DEI experts’ perceptions of the usefulness of such statements. Their categories align and build on those outlined by Berkeley. For instance, they highlight for faculty candidates the importance of identifying their DEI work in their research, teaching, and service. Bombaci and Pejchar also suggest that a candidate’s diversity statement should include their work “promoting underrepresented scholars and allyship,” which is important. Has the candidate showed that they have supported marginalized students as mentors? Have they demonstrated their support for underrepresented colleagues (faculty and staff) and community?

Notably, these resources are focused on faculty hiring, but certainly we want our staff candidates to be engaged in and committed to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) as well. So, to broaden our categories for all higher education searches, here are some questions to consider in assessing candidate diversity statements.

  • Do they demonstrate a critical consciousness (do they understand how privilege and power systems function within JEDI work?)
  • Does their track record demonstrate the integration of JEDI into their core work/job functions?
  • Have they demonstrated their willingness to learn and reflect related to JEDI? (Have they taken courses or participated in professional development previously?)
  • Have they supported and promoted underrepresented students, colleagues, and communities?
  • Have they worked to build JEDI capacity beyond themselves in previous organizations?
  • What are their plans to contribute and enhance JEDI at our institution?

Beyond using these questions to guide our assessment of diversity questions, we should also use them (or variations of them) to guide candidates in writing their statements. If we share more explicitly what we’re hoping to learn about their commitment and contributions to JEDI, we help to set candidates and ourselves up for success!