Virginia Tech to Reward Faculty For Promoting Diversity

By on September 4, 2006

The annual performance evaluations at Virginia Tech University will include a review of faculty members’ activities to promote diversity on campus.

Virginia Tech President Charles Steger outlined a plan Aug. 28 to add diversity to the criteria used in evaluating university instructors. Faculty will report any diversity-related activities, such as advising a minority student group or conducting community outreach programs, each spring on their annual activity report. Academic departments use these reports to provide merit pay increases.

In his memo, Stager noted that “creating a diverse and inclusive community is an important and long-standing priority for Virginia Tech.” The policy will begin this academic year, with teachers reporting on their 2006-’07 activities next spring.

In the past, faculty generally included only teaching, research and outreach on their annual activity report, said Dr. Mark McNamee, university provost.

“Virginia Tech is working hard on multiple fronts to increase the diversity of the campus,” he told Diverse. Two years ago, he said, the university developed the Principles of Community, a set of “core values” for the campus that included commitments to diversity and non-discrimination. An annual diversity summit and a commission on equal opportunity and diversity are other activities on the Blacksburg, Va., campus.

From such discussions came an idea to potentially reward faculty for their involvement in diversity.

“We want to give a real signal to the faculty,” McNamee said, describing the new policy as “a systematic way to document [diversity work] and to have it reviewed and rewarded.”

While faculty will self-report their own diversity activities, academic departments will review the information under stringent criteria. Mentoring one or two students of color is generally not enough to earn recommendations for a salary increase.

Examples of more acceptable activities may include: advising a minority student group; conducting community outreach programs; building relationships with Black colleges; or working to increase recruitment of minority faculty.

“Virginia Tech, like any university, has struggled with these issues,” McNamee said. The student body is about 30 percent minority, he said, though progress is uneven. African Americans represent about 4 percent of enrollment.

“We are working hard,” he said. “We have a long way to go, and this is a sign that we take this issue seriously.”

The annual faculty reports are critical for salary gains at Virginia Tech, since the university has no automatic cost-of-living increases. Academic departments recommend salary increases each summer based on the teacher reports.

Because of their inclusion on annual faculty reports, diversity activities also are likely to become a larger factor in applications for tenure, according to McNamee. “It will become part of their promotion files,” he added.

A copy of the memorandum is online at:

www.policies.vt.edu/policymemos/PPM%20239.pdf.

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Schools: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University