On Behalf of Diversity in Academic Hiring: Part One

My recent post on “International Women’s Day” prompted a spirited exchange about affirmative action and prioritizing of diversity (not the same things) in academic hiring. Herewith a few comments:

1. Affirmative action is a political program meant to remedy certain deficiencies in previous academic hiring. The two main arguments I have encountered on its behalf are these: (a) privileged white males previously received preferential treatment, and so other groups are entitled to preferential treatment in return (this is the less persuasive of the arguments, in my view, since it boils down to “two wrongs make a right”) and (b) the hiring practices of most academies have been established by privileged white males and thus they tend to select for more privileged white males (PWMs), although PWMs believe that they are hiring merely according to “merit” plus the notorious X-factor of academic appointments, “fit.” Without affirmative action, that is, the system will perpetuate itself and never produce a proper number of appointments of non-PWMs. This (much better) argument seems to me to square quite directly with the sociology of knowledge over fifty or more years.

2. Prioritizing diversity is a different matter. A case needs to be made that the mission of the academic unit (university, faculty, department) will be advanced better by having different kinds of people—and particular kinds of “different”—rather than having all of the same kind.

A history department, for example, normally will do its job better if not everyone is a specialist in the American Civil War. An English department will do its job better if at least one person knows something about Shakespeare. Likewise, a philosophy department will do its job better if it hires both Continental and analytical philosophers—although try getting most North American philosophy departments to believe that!

What, then, about race and gender? It seems to me that it entirely depends on what the academic unit is trying to do. If having a diversity of ethnicities represented on the faculty will enrich the conversation, improve the unit’s ability to teach its students, and promote better research, then of course it should seek that diversity. A department of Asian studies, for example, will do its job better if not everyone is Chinese, and not all of those are from Hong Kong. A department of gender studies, for another, will do its job better if both men and women are employed in it.

By this point, then, the case for diversity as at least sometimes justifiable seems to me to be obvious. What remains is to justify it in any other given instance.

Here at Regent College, our mission will be advanced, it seems to me, if we teach our very diverse student body from more than the point of view of middle-aged, white, English-as-first-language males—who make up the majority of our current full-time teaching complement, although we do have fine women colleagues both full-time and part-time and a few colleagues (such as the estimable Edwin Hui) who are of a different ethnic background. We will, that is, teach better and research better if we hire more good people who share a pertinently different point of view, and I think that in theological studies and Christian formation gender and ethnicity are pertinent in both teaching and research (not to mention academic governance)—just as Regent insists on denominational and disciplinary diversity in the faculty on the same grounds.

My sense, then, is that unless a school already has in place a significant number of women and a significant amount of ethnic diversity, it will normally not develop such diversity without intentional hiring that does indeed give special attention to women and non-whites. Those aren’t the only two categories that matter, of course, but they are two categories that obviously (does anyone really doubt this?) have lagged behind others in hiring priorities.

One last point, however, that reiterates something I wrote in reply to a comment in my previous post. Looking at the make-up of the faculty of any particular academic unit (such as Regent College) and seeing a dearth of women and ethnic minorities cannot be read as prima facie evidence of either prejudice against such people or a failure to recruit such people. It is a simple demographic fact that there are very few women and non-whites who are seeking employment at places such as ours. We have tried very hard for the dozen years I have been here to diversify our faculty without sacrificing academic quality and we simply have had very few options in any given case. Our evangelical tradition has not encouraged nearly enough women to pursue academic theological careers (again, does anyone doubt that?) and we have produced very few non-whites with excellent academic preparation available to hire, either.

Maybe we can do something different, or something better. If you know the situation at Regent in particular, I’d love to hear from you with concrete suggestions. But they have to be concrete: particular things we can do, or particular people we should look at, etc. We already bemoan our sameness and it only hurts to have people keep pointing out the obvious as if we’re too stupid or sinful to look around our own faculty meetings and see who’s what.

0 Responses to “On Behalf of Diversity in Academic Hiring: Part One”

  1. P. W. Dunn

    “Our evangelical tradition has not encouraged nearly enough women to pursue academic theological careers (again, does anyone doubt that?) and we have produced very few non-whites with excellent academic preparation available to hire, either.” I do doubt it. I attend the Regent breakfast at SBL/AAR and see not a few women around the tables. In my years of connection with theological education, I’ve found that most evangelicals, at least the ones I’ve been around, have encouraged both men and women to further study if that is God’s call on their lives. In my experience, women generally receive as much or more encouragement, above all because they do not have to worry about employment after their studies–it is almost certain to happen.

    So we exchange what you call a system dominated by PWM and replace it with a preference for PWF. Big deal! But if you belong to an over-achieving minority, you are surreptitiously persecuted and overlooked. So what difference does it make if Regent is all middle-class white males, if it is made up of the very best people who were available at the time of hiring? I am not going to fret about that.

  2. mg

    “In my experience, women generally receive as much or more encouragement, above all because they do not have to worry about employment after their studies–it is almost certain to happen.”

    Your experience may be limited then.

    In my experience, I did not receive much encouragement to further my theological studies because I was told that I would NOT have a job at the end of the studies. I was also informed that there was no way my denomination would ordain me and as a female would have very few options for being hired in church settings. Therefore this left me wondering if I could even afford to go to seminary at all.

    If truly you have seen quite a few females at Regent- I surely wish I could be part of it.

  3. elderj

    We will, that is, teach better and research better if we hire more good people who share a pertinently different point of view, and I think that in theological studies and Christian formation gender and ethnicity are pertinent in both teaching and research

    This is the crux of the issue. Stackhouse and others believe that teaching and research are enhanced by having those who share a pertinently different point of view. On this point I agree. He proceeds then to connect such a view with gender (itself an unfortunate term) and ethnicity, which seems to infer that woman as woman and ethnic person as ethnic person inherently has a pertinently different point of view. This is almost always not the case for while such persons have different life experiences, they often (especially in academia) share a rather liberal / left ideology whether in seminary or secular settings. While this may not be the particular situation at Regent, it is the situation at many places.

    • Andy

      Huh?! I hope it’s a typo that women and ethnically diverse people “often share a rather liberal / left ideology whether in seminary or secular settings” as compared to PWM’s. I’d have to see the case made for that!

      • elderj

        It is not a typo. While correlation is not causation it is certainly true that those churches which are considered to be most “liberal / left” have the highest proportion of women in positions of leadership. It is also true that many hermeneutics of suspicion, liberation and feminist theologies, and a more general antagonism towards the existing power structures that have been endorsed and sustained by status quo interpretations of scripture are most likely to held by those who view themselves as having been marginalized (i.e. women). This is not to say that all women or ethnic minority academics are always liberal/leftist in their orientation. That would be an irresponsible and untrue assertion (and unprovable), but on balance I believe they are more likely to share such an orientation.

        • SGS

          With respect, elderj,your argument is inherently flawed. If what you refer to as “liberal/left” oriented churches have more females on their leadership, this likely has more to do with their willingness to hire (and ordain) women than it does with their female leadership’s theological position. One of the difficulties I have, as a woman with an MDiv, is that many of the options open to me in terms of church leadership, are in churches with which I have some pretty significant theological differences – I know many, many women in the same position.

          I’m also curious to know what you mean by “the existing power structures that have been endorsed and sustained by status quo interpretations of scripture.” This sounds to me suspiciously like an argument based on comfort-zone.

  4. Emily Hunter McGowin

    Thank you, Dr. Stackhouse, for making some important distinctions.

    While I have a few other comments I’d like to make, I am truly flabberghasted by the suggestion that evangelical women “generally receive as much or more encouragement, above all because they do not have to worry about employment after their studies–it is almost certain to happen.”

    With all due respect, your limited contact with evangelical women has significantly skewed your point of view. (I suppose that if you’re a Canadian citizen, there’s the possibility that things are drastically different for evangelicals in Canada than in the States–but I doubt it.)

    I can’t think of a woman in my circles (which have included a variety of theological societies and evangelical denominations in the US), who have NOT been discouraged, patronized, and patted on the head, intellectually speaking, because they wanted to pursue a career either in higher education or full-time pastoral ministry.

    Even though I was a “high-achieving minority” (thought still Caucasian) in my area, I was never told that I was guaranteed a job. In fact, quite the opposite. I was told over and over, by men and women alike, that I would never be able to be hired in a “Christian” institution and that I was destined to be(come) a liberal radical feminist working in a “secular” university for the rest of my life (because women who choose to believe the world is not flat for them must be liberal radicals).

    All this is to say, I think your statement is deeply misinformed. Evangelicalism is by no means women-friendly when it comes to promoting and supporting them higher education or pastoral ministry.

    • P. W. Dunn

      Ok Emily and MG. I don’t know your context so I can’t say anything about it. I have indeed seen a lot of women at the Regent breakfast at AAR/SBL, and I’m not just making it up. And Prof. Stackhouse was asking above all about the Regent setting and suggesting that everyone would accept his premise.

      Just an anecdote so that perhaps you can see that there are two sides to this: I knew someone who taught as a sometimes full-time adjunct for over 10 years at a broadly-based evangelical seminary and was told repeatedly by the Dean that as soon as it was feasible financially, he would be hired full-time. That Dean retired. Then one day in a faculty meeting, the new Dean passed out a CV of a woman right in front of my acquaintance. The new Dean said, “Here is a CV of someone whom I know to be available and I think we should offer her a job.” My acquaintance was completely bypassed in the hiring process and not even given an opportunity to compete for the job. That school went on to hire not only that particular woman (in biblical studies), but also the next two full-time appointments in biblical studies were also women.

      During that same period, I learned the following: ATS (Association of Theological Schools) publishes statistics on professors in the member schools. Between 1990-1995, there was a net loss of ca. 500 jobs held by white men, and a net gain of ca. 500 jobs by white women. All the other categories (African-American, Asian, men, women etc.) had stayed virtually the same. What does this mean? It means that when I broke into the job market in 1995, you had your work cut out for you if you were a white man, but if you were a white woman, statistically speaking, you were just walking into jobs. The stats matched the anecdote! When I learned these things, I stopped even trying for a job in academics and started doing volunteer work in Africa–something I had wanted to do anyways. At least that way I wasn’t competing with my unemployed male colleagues for the few full-time positions for which they might have a chance.

      • P. W. Dunn

        I just want to add one more important bit of information. All of the job postings that I read in those days included the following line: “Women and minorities are encouraged to apply” or some such thing.

  5. P. W. Dunn

    Prof. Stackhouse’s post also brings up another sensitive point for me. While it is true that a diverse faculty of highly qualified professors may be able to enrich students, one has to be very careful about how to go about creating such a faculty. I see two concerns:

    (1) First, effective professors must understand the context that they are working in. This is why I believe, e.g., that an African can be much more effective in Africa than a Westerner and have personally worked towards developing francophone African faculty for francophone Africa. If you allow this my first premise, then the important thing for North American faculty is to have professors who can function effectively in the North America context–I would argue that that would mean, in most cases, people who know the culture here intimately and who speak English (and potentially French and Spanish) as their first language of education.

    (2) Secondly, faculties esp. in North America who are in quest of deepening the diversity of their faculty may overlook the first need, at least from a global standpoint. We have experienced cases where African professors are recruited to enrich North American faculties (that is if you don’t have a jaded view that they are just trying to put a black face on their faculty page!); this results in a widening of gap between the few who are available to serve in places like Africa and the superabundance of resources here, where many white males with PhDs languish in underemployment.

    The North American quest for diversity is therefore damaging to the global church. But it is not just the church that suffers from this brain drain. It is also true of other disciplines besides theology. So Prof. Stackhouse, you can kick yourself in the pants for not having more diversity, but at least you haven’t, hopefully, gone to the point of pillaging resources from the global church.

  6. J

    Dr. Stackhouse, I do believe you’ve hit upon the contrapositive to this issue with your observation that the people who study in your discipline tend to be white males.

    The choice of candidates in a particular field plays at least some role in the demographic makeup of any faculty. That much should be self-evident. But that being the case, what about faculties such as (for instance) sociology or women’s studies, whose membership are primarily female? Would we expect that women’s studies engage actively for a hunt of male candidates in the name of the benefits brought from diversity?

    This is particularly important when we consider that women now make up a significant majority of students at all three levels: high school, undergraduate, and graduate. Obviously, there are variations by faculty (compare Engineering versus, say, French Lit), but does a demographic shift of this nature not need to be addressed? I would argue it does not because I’m almost universally against affirmative action, but it IS a relevant concern to those who believe the contrary.

  7. John Stackhouse

    Brother Dunn, I’m sorry you’re so unhappy. I don’t doubt that there are men who have been passed over in some cases who shouldn’t have been. (I’m pretty sure it has happened to me at least once–not for a job, but for a research fellowship.) But citing anecdotes of where a system might have failed is not the same as proving the system isn’t generally a good idea and doesn’t generally produce the intended results.

    Your mentioning “lots” of women at Regent breakfasts strikes me as particularly bad argumentation. For one thing, the M/F ratio at such events is nothing close to 50/50. Then if you know how the women have been and are employed compared to the men, as I generally do, the M/F gap widens in favour of the men.

    But, again, anecdotes aren’t the point, and since you simply dismiss the contention that having women and ethnic minorities on a theological school’s faculty is something important for teaching, research, and governance, then we’re at an impasse.

    Elderj’s comments strike me so far as unintelligible, particularly in the use of the extremely vague terms “liberal” and “left(ist).” I have no idea what you’re talking about, since the terms are not contextualized. (Theological liberalism? Political leftism? If so, of what sorts?)

    Furthermore, you seem to write as if to be “liberal” or “left” is simply a Bad Thing and that we all would be assuming that with you, but I can’t see why you’d think that!

    So even if it were true (and could be demonstrated) that female scholars were generally to the left of men on some ideological axis, how does that relate to any particular female candidate being considered for a particular job? To assume that she would necessarily be “to the left” of male candidates seems to me a particularly bizarre form of sexism. And why, for that matter, would having “liberal/leftist” views in a given department or school be a Bad Thing?

    As for J’s comment, yes, of course I agree with the implications of my argument for the opposite situation. Indeed, I already did, saying that gender studies should include men as well as women. (And whether women’s studies per se should include male professors is a legitimate question, likely to be resolved in the positive, in my view.)

    Again, however, the matter of diversity depends on the actual mission and the actual diversity that will help achieve that mission. A medical school faculty staffed entirely by women strikes me as deeply problematic, for the exact same reason that an all-male medical faculty does.

    • P. W. Dunn

      Brother Stackhouse:
      Thanks for your response. I think you should read that I am “unimpressed” or “critical”. But to conclude that I am “unhappy”–well you could say that I am disappointed with what the academy has become–and that I much prefer going to Europe for presenting my research and maintaining contacts with scholars. I am very “happy” to be able to maintain such contacts, but as consequence, I am relatively unknown here in North America. Nevertheless, your conclusion that I am “unhappy” shows that the system is incorrigible. Because I will now probably be on a secret blacklist because I am an uppity minority who has had the audacity to complain about how the system just simply transferred privilege indiscriminately from white men to white women. But I wasn’t passed over. I rejected what the system had become. Didn’t I say that? I said I rejected academics (in North America) because of affirmative action, I didn’t say academics had rejected me. I am doing an Atlas shrug. I saw and experienced the wholesale exploitation of male white labor (esp. white males) through adjunct sweatshops. I know white men who experienced adjunct hell for years. So you were passed over for a research grant … Pleeeease. You’ve had full time position since you broke into the market, n’est-ce pas? What do you have to complain about?

      “But, again, anecdotes aren’t the point, and since you simply dismiss the contention that having women and ethnic minorities on a theological school’s faculty is something important for teaching, research, and governance, then we’re at an impasse.” I cited an anecdote which was verified by a broad statistical base. It wasn’t just happening where I could see it, but just about everywhere in the ATS. Remember the line, “Women and minorities are encouraged to apply”? I saw it in every job posting–every single one. Thus, you make an error to suggest that the evidence I presented was merely anecdotal.

      Besides, I did not dismiss out of hand your point about diversity. Diversity is not the problem–it is diversity at the cost of affirmative action and the watering down of the academic standards that is the problem. It is diversity by choosing the best of five women instead of the best of 100 total applicants. It is diversity at the cost of correcting injustice by creating new forms of unfairness and injustice, such as the wholesale discrimination against Asians and Jews through the creation of quotas. It is diversity at the cost of pillaging talent from countries with poor churches (you have not addressed this particular critique, and I am indeed “unhappy” about this one).

      Rather than being on the cutting edge, you are fighting a battle from a generation ago. Today the problem isn’t promoting women in higher education, it is getting boys to do well in school at all. Our schools have been feminized, and affirmative action, the preferential treatment of women which has gone on for a generation or so, has contributed to the statistical lack of interest on the part of young men to go to college or university. That is the new problem. We’ve been encouraging girls and women so much, we’ve neglected the boys who would rather stay at home and play video games and let their girl friends go out and earn the bread. It has gone well past the time where we have to give special treatment to women; but if we don’t wake up and realize the damage that’s been done, then we really are middle-aged white men that are clueless.

  8. elderj

    My apologies for being “unintelligible.” I was mistaken in believing that my sentences were coherent and internally consistent. For my failure I apologize. I’m not certain that I can proceed without further damaging the English language. You will forgive me I hope as I make some feeble effort at clarification.

    I do not, for the sake of this conversation, particularly care whether any particular scholar is liberal/left (whether theologically or politically or otherwise). That is in fact a subsidiary point that I sought to broaden in response to a comment. I apparently failed. The point was that ethnic and “gender” diversity often occurs without any meaningful ideological diversity in which case it doesn’t really broaden the conversation at all. If the goal or aim is to have more voices in the conversation, what good is it if those voices are saying the same thing as what is already present? One could say that certain denominations are doing very well at bringing those voices into the conversation, and yet theologically speaking, they are fairly consistently liberal. Their liberality is not the issue, but rather the stunning lack of diversity of though that is masked by the external seeming diversity of skin color.

    I will end here, lest my unintelligible comments further sully the conversation. Perhaps someone more learned than myself can interpret my gibberish for the rest.

    • Wayne Park

      I think elderJ is talking about a hegemony of thought. What good is it if we have a diverse body of students if they are all taught to think from the same epistemological vantage point of the west; does it really help us all to learn how to look at Jerusalem through the telescope of Athens?

    • P. W. Dunn

      Elderj: Oh, please don’t leave. I think Prof. Stackhouse was wrong to say that your remarks are unintelligible. Higher learning is a bastion of monolithic thinking from the left, to be sure. The marginalization of conservative and right thinkers in academia is a good thing as far as Prof. Stackhouse is concerned, or? (I don’t expect that he’s going to recommend my name to teach in Regent Summer school any time soon). Besides I am learning that there is often continuity between left-leaning academics in theology and in other domains, such as politics (I can’t see too many of the Harvard Divinity School professors voting republican, e.g.)–but this is not to say at all that either Prof. Stackhouse or Regent is liberal theologically–or that women professors are necessarily liberal theologically. They could be orthodox theologically but liberals in the good sense of the term–being open to the people that the Holy Spirit would raise up to do the work of his Kingdom, as opposed to being rigid, closed-minded and Pharisaical about the roles that women should have. The Apostle Paul was such a liberal and so am I.

      I too see that there is an exclusion of conservative thinkers in the academy–less so in private Christian schools; though I am alarmed at the number of evangelicals who have begun to support statism and other discredited aspects of the leftest agenda, such as anthropogenic global warming.

  9. Wayne Park

    I’m going to take a stab at “concrete”, and for my purposes focus on the minority side.

    1. Hiring: as per the previous post I conceded that the academic landscape is only beginning to change in complexion and we are only now witnessing the fruits of it. So while there truthfully may have been a dearth of quality minority and women scholars in the past, I’m loath to think that trend still persists. People like Paul Lim @ Vanderbilt, representing the Korean-American community show that not all ethnic scholars have to be about social issues only but can do serious academic work as well.

    2. Diversifying Sessional Lecturers: This is one place I’ve felt Regent can definitely do better. Visiting lecturers for classes like CTC or the various other symposiums Regent hosts, e.g. summer session, chapel, seminars – these are fluid enough venues to bring on different viewpoints (w/o having to tenure or full-time payroll anyone) – at least we can start here I would think, and yet even in these spaces we often find more of the same… One African student asked a CTC panel why there weren’t more African theologians; the answer was Augustine was African! I think they missed the point.

    3. Start talking about it more. I took an audio class (Re-evangelization) where one student had the audacity to ask: “How can we reach them (minorities) when all they do is stick together?” Ringma gently and appropriately re-aligned the flawed perspective of that question. So pls; don’t talk about minorities in classes as if we’re lab rats. Nothing is more annoying. On that note, there are still pockets of ignorance on campus. Last semester someone showed up to a Regent party in blackface. They were completely unapologetic and quite cavalier about it.

    I can’t think of anymore right now, but I’m sure more thoughts will come up as the discussion unfolds.

  10. Dr. AL Felice

    Well thought-out, well articulated posture. I do not often see it, so I must acknowledge when I do.
    You will have to plant your own trees if you want particular fruit. (a) The students you have right now…guide them into the process of giving back (intra- and inter-national cross-cultural study and research). Make it a requirement of their program. (b) Create/establish an academic environment (high school – middle school) where you purposely select the type of cross-cultural mix you are hoping for. This way you are not sacrificing academic integrity while satisfying a need. It will take about 10 years, but relative to the country’s future – this is but the blink of an eye.

    • P. W. Dunn

      “Create/establish an academic environment (high school – middle school) where you purposely select the type of cross-cultural mix you are hoping for.” How do you do “select the type of cross-culturl mix you are hoping for” without establishing a quota system, that (1) leads to resentment on the part of those who unfairly are excluded because of the quotas; (2) ends up watering down academics altogether so that the lower-end people have an entry point? I completely agree with this much Dr. AL: the solution to the problem of diversity starts at those lower levels; I do not believe it will be achieved through preferential admissions and hiring of racial minorities and women at the university level.

  11. John Stackhouse

    This conversation has just gotten weird. Apparently, all women are liberal. And the academy is liberal, so making room for women will just make it more so. (Yeah, like Dallas Theological Seminary, or Wheaton College, or Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Who said Harvard Divinity School was typical of the whole academy?)

    And the way to make the system work better is not to change it, but to keep doing what we’re doing because we have always made hiring decisions on sheer merit–except that the academy is liberal, so that’s not good.

    And having an all-male faculty, as long as they are truly the “best” candidates according to “merit” (and don’t forget “fit”), will mean the best educational experience for everyone involved.

    And this all has somehow to do with “statism” (whatever that is), and human responsibility for global warming, and boys not being educated properly at primary and secondary levels and…

    Good grief, folks. I realize the blogosphere is not the Oxford Union, but let’s try to keep just a few issues in play at a time and maintain some focus.

    The question is whether women and ethnic minorities are underrepresented in the various sectors of the North American academy and whether such an underrepresentation is, in the case particularly of Christian higher education, a situation that needs the remedy of hiring practices that intentionally seek out candidates from such groups and take gender and ethnicity into account as important factors (not all-important factors, but important factors) in hiring decisions.

    So far, what I’ve heard from P. W. Dunn and elderj are sweeping generalizations or arguments from anecdote that fail to meet the point I’m trying to make–not to mention the occasional fit of pique, which does nothing to increase their persuasive power, I daresay. Guys, let’s argue about the main point, rather than indulging in subsidiary complaints or assertions that set more hares running to no profit.

    If you really think that academic hiring has been done in the past (when standards were at the height from which they, according to you, have declined), and should be done now, simply on “merit” and “fit” AND that an academy dominated by men, as most of it still is, and especially in orthodox Christian circles, will indeed make decisions strictly on the basis of academic ability AND that it doesn’t matter whether women and non-whites are part of the teaching and research team, since all that matters is generic human academic ability–well, go ahead and say so.

    I think that is indeed what you’re saying, and I think it is wildly, obviously wrong.

    Now, have worthy white men been passed over in some cases by institutions determined to hire women or members of ethnic minorities? I don’t doubt it. Was that always a good thing? I certainly doubt it.

    But is that sort of thing likely to happen as a gigantic social shift takes place that ought to have happened previously? Of course. What social change ever happens without some innocent victims?

    I feel badly for each and every one of those victims and, as I wrote before, I have myself been victimized by that process. (No, P. W. Dunn, I am not singing the blues, but you have no idea what it has been like for me as a privileged white male to make his way in the academy over the last three decades. So please stop assuming that it has been Easy Street just because I have managed to secure employment.) But no major social change occurs without problems. That’s what happens in the Real World.

    The question, therefore, is not whether everything that has happened has been good or not. The question is what ought to happen–at Regent College, in Christian higher education, and in the North American academy at large. Answering it requires a certain degree of specificity and precision, so let’s keep our sights trained on one or another of these targets and leave the shotguns and machine guns in the cupboard, okay?

    • P. W. Dunn

      Prof. Stackhouse: Thanks for this reply.

      You know I didn’t realize the degree to which full-time professors with tenure suffer because they are privileged white males. Please tell us more so that I might have some appropriate empathy for your situation. I think that you must obviously be a much bigger victim than I could ever be.

      As an insufficiently diverse person, I should just be happy that other people, who may be inferior scholars, will be given preference for academic jobs because they have the correct biological plumbing or skin colour. That’s like the story I heard when the full time faculty learned that the white male adjuncts had no real jobs–they said, well let them eat cake!

      To institute social change which makes victims is one thing: the ends justify the means, don’t they? But then do you expect the victims to go away quietly? What do you think is the appropriate response to people or from people who have become the victims? Your response is to say to them that they have no idea how much YOU have suffered and then expect them to play nice? But many of my people–young white male scholars are made to suffer silently because they have been the beneficiaries of many years, excuse me, centuries, of discrimination against our women? But I wonder, do you think that Asians who have been the victims of affirmative action should also shut up? How does that square with the notion of fairness towards minorities? One of my big problems with affirmative action as a means of ending discrimination is that it perpetuates unfairness. That’s why the Asians are the new Jews. It seems that the advocates of fairness weren’t upset that unfairness existed–they were upset because they weren’t benefiting from it.

      • John Stackhouse

        You certainly make it clear when dialogue is a waste of time. In my opinion, your rage and bitterness is rendering conversation impossible. I’m frankly glad you’re not in the academy where you can influence people. I hope you’re good at making people money as the “righteous investor” you advertise yourself to be, but I think we’re done listening to you on this subject.

  12. elderj

    Shotguns and machine guns indeed! It seems what you want is not discussion but agreement, but I may be wrong. And I will certainly admit to a “fit of pique” as you describe it, which should not be unexpectedly since you basically insulted me in a nice academic sounding way. I did not make “sweeping generalizations.” I did not say “all women are liberal.” What I said essentially is that it is pointless to talk about ethnic or gender diversity while maintaining an ideological monoculture, since that doesn’t actually add any distinct voices to the conversation; just the same voices in different clothing. Nevertheless, this is your blog and you set the parameters of discussion. As a guest I will endeavor to stay within them.

    Your question has two basic parts: Are ethnic minorities and women underrepresented in Christian academia? What should be done to remedy this?

    It seems from your statements that you believe the answer to the first question is yes. You also seem to believe that there is some social change that should have already taken place and therefore there will be innocent victims; the cost of progress, I suppose.

    Would you define “underrepresentation?”
    Would you clarify what is the social change you believe should have and is just now taking place and why you believe that?

  13. doradueck

    I appreciate your views on this subject, Prof. Stackhouse, going back to the post on International Women’s Day. What do women want? Hear, hear, indeed. I could add: not to be called “ladies” and gender inclusive language for humans in church, but perhaps those are just trivial beside safety from genital mutilation and rape, freedom of speech and dress, etc. Things we need to keep caring about for women around the world.

    You asked for concrete suggestions, for what ought to happen, and I understand the difficulties involved at an institution like yours. Comments from Al Felice and Wayne Park had some pretty concrete ideas already, so ditto to those. It’s not just the professor at the front of the class who contributes to the sense of diversity and fair representation, but how they treat the material, the sources they use, the assignments they give. If there’s a commitment to this being more visible “in the flesh” in the long term, professors can model this in the interim by intentionally engaging with a diversity of voices in their own reading and study. If they do so, those voices will be heard, not as tokens but by way of “natural inclusion,” an expression I just heard this morning in Martin E. Marty’s Sightings column, and which I hope I’m not mis-using!

  14. Rob Haskell

    Hi John – Your statement that the evangelical tradition is not producing very many women or ethnic scholars seems very problematic, just because there are different perceptions. What is the hard data? If we think about this globally there are many non-white or non-western quality scholars all around the world who are basically evangelical (just the ethnic category). Why are none of these invited to be Regent profs? Also, I am not sure how to take the idea that evangelicals have not produced or encouraged these categories of scholars. There are many Christian scholars who have not been educated in evangelical institutions, who nevertheless are completely qualified, for one. For another, does Regent share the fault in this situation by helping to create an environment in which women don’t see themselves well represented on the faculty and therefore do not have academic role models to follow? Finally, while your missional argument does make some sense to me, I think that it does not go far enough to explain the makeup of the current faculty. It seems incredible to me that there are not enough qualified evangelical women to fill a few spots on the Regent faculty. Maybe this has already been said in the other comments. I haven’t read them all… Blessings,

  15. John Stackhouse


    I don’t know who has “hard data” on this matter. All I am working from is my experience, my network of academic acquaintances in the USA, the UK, and Canada, and thirty years of reading publications like the Chronicle of Higher Education (US) and University Affairs (Canada).

    Regent has pretty good international connections, as you know, and we certainly have recruited far and wide. We do in fact have more than a half a dozen countries represented on our small faculty now (Canada, USA, England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Zimbabwe, China, and Australia). But Regent’s expectations for faculty members is quite extensive, and we have had very few people from beyond the Anglo-Canadian-American-Australian ambit apply who meet those expectations and who believe they are called to leave their current places to come to Canada (as P.W. Dunn rightly warned–we must be careful not to despoil other countries of their intellectual leaders).

    I simply have to say that I do not grant your several premises that together seem to amount to asserting that there are a whole lot of scholars out there we have somehow overlooked. I seriously doubt it, so just suggest half a dozen (better to do it by private e-mail if you want a response to particular nominations).

    So while it may seem incredible to you that Regent is not more diverse, take a quick Internet tour around the faculty of leading theological schools and count the women and the ethnic minorities: Yale Divinity School, U of Chicago Div School, Harvard Div School, Duke Div School, Princeton Sem, New College at Edinburgh, and the like, and then look at first-rank evangelical schools (I won’t name those because I don’t want to offend by omission)–but I do mean first-rank–and see what you see there….

  16. Laura Werezak

    This conversation did get weird pretty fast, but I really appreciate the careful distinctions in the original post.

    As a current student at Regent, I think one of the most practical solutions to this issue is to focus on maintaining a diversity in course offerings and in the subject areas covered, especially in core courses required for the basic degrees. While systematic and biblical theology and ordained ministry have been difficult fields for women to enter into, spiritual theology, literature, arts, history, medicine and other academic disciplines have been at least a little easier and there are more and more women in these disciplines who have interdisciplinary theological educations (as evidenced by the wealth of women who teach Regent summer courses).

    We must defend these other disciplines as vitally important to theological study and the life of the College and allow conversation with them to broaden the patterns within the Theologies that have possibly made them inhospitable to women. Don’t think for a minute that I belittle the key role of formal Theology, it’s vitally important. Just don’t underestimate the ability of a student of literature or art to exegete with excellence because they don’t have the traditional credentials. Fight the student perception that spiritual theology or INDS courses or IPIAT projects are somehow less rigorously academic. I personally think that this kind of interdiciplinarity has the potential to save the Academy from over-specialization and loss of meaning, though it does bring with it it’s own dangers.

    Regent is a place to foster these kinds of interdisciplinary interests in students, encouraging people from a variety of perspectives not to conform academically, but learn how to lend their disciplinary expertise to the conversation, as well as supporting and encouraging evangelical women students to enter into the more imposing Theologies as evangelicals. Never underestimate the power of a word of encouragement on term paper feedback and in personal meetings when you see genuine talent (however raw)!


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