The Ohio State Reports: Racial Preferences

John D. Sailer

Two months after I requested copies of all of Ohio State’s diversity recruitment reports—though many months before my request was fulfilled—the university updated its hiring protocols. As their representative told me, the new hiring guidelines align with the “legal requirement to consider all qualified applicants without regard to” the broad gamut of identity categories like race, sex, and national origin.

At first glance, this is a somewhat odd clarification, implying that the previous guidelines might not have aligned perfectly with a “legal requirement.” In light of the records, the clarification makes sense.

The documents give an exclusive, deep, and exhaustive look at what DEI requirements look like in practice. They describe how job applicants were eliminated solely on the basis of their diversity statements. They describe how statements were evaluated using ideologically-charged rubrics. They show how candidates were praised for embracing boutique identity categories (“a first generation, fat, queer scholar of color”) and overt identity politics.

And ultimately, they show evidence of racial preferences in faculty hiring.

  • For a role in Medical Anthropology: 67 scholars applied. As I put it in the Wall Street Journal, “the four finalists include the only two black applicants and the only Native American applicant.”
  • For a role in Communications: 8.7% of the applicants were hispanic—four candidates total. Two of the three finalists were hispanic.
  • A search committee in Geometry and Topology noted that gender diversity was the “the most pressing” demographic need. Of the 451 applicants, 18% were women. Two of the three finalists were women.

Of course, this is not definitive proof of racial preferences. The reports, however, often made passing reference to such preferences.

  • For a role in Military History: “during the screening process, the search committee not only paid attention to the diverse backgrounds of the applicants but also screened the applicants' diversity statements as well as diversity-related topics in their research and teaching profile.”
  • For a role in Geodesy: “Diversity and inclusion featured prominently in all our discussions. Naturally, most weight was given to candidates from URM backgrounds, but we also gave considerable weight to the diversity statements that were provided by all candidates. Of the non-URM candidates, some were moved down in our rankings due to a perceived lack of commitment to diversity, while others received extra points for their thoughtful diversity statements.”

But one example stands out, worth quoting at length.

  • French and Francophone Studies with a specialization in Black France: “The Search committee members were keenly aware of the need to prioritize the hiring of a visible minority especially given the nature of the job description. We thus selected a pool of 12 candidates for initial Zoom interviews that reflected this exigency.”
  • The same report then adds: “In our deliberations to select finalists, the importance of bringing Black scholars to campus was deemed to be essential. We thus chose three Black candidates, two of who are of Caribbean descent and one from Senegal. We decided as a committee that diversity was just as important as perceived merit as we made our selections.”
  • Finally: “We actively sought to create a pool of 3 finalists who were of color. We agreed as a committee that diversity was a crucial factor alongside perceived merit as we made our selection.”

Photo by Steven Miller // Team Rushes the Field // Flickr CC BY 2.0 DEED

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