Miami: The Reconstruction

May 16, 2016 § Leave a comment

Otavio Bueno and Amie Thomasson write:

It’s not easy to be a department ‘in the news’, but it can lead to tangible improvements.

Thanks to wonderful advice from the APA Committee on the Status of Women and from external reviewers of our graduate program, and the support of our dean, chair and faculty, we here at the University of Miami have been able to put into place a number of changes to make us a better department. Here are some of the things we have done in the past two years:

  • Made three hires, two of whom are women, thereby tripling the number of (active) women faculty
  • To try to reduce the affects of implicit bias, we ran our most recent search in a partly anonymized way. That is, we started by reading anonymized writing samples, and evaluating those to get an initial list of candidates to look at more seriously, and reserved our comments and impressions from that initial phase for later consideration. This was a pretty time-consuming activity, as we had over 600 applicants! (Obviously this would be an easier procedure to follow if for those running a search in a particular area, rather than open/open.) We managed it by dividing into teams to look at the writing samples, and it turned out to be a very nice exercise in trying to get direct judgments of philosophical merit, without worry about various kinds of bias slipping in—the closest equivalent to the musician’s curtained auditions. We got a nice list out of it, of people who impressed us at the interview phase.
  • Conducted a climate survey of all graduate students twice (over four years) to assess our needs and progress. We are pleased to report that these gave us other great ideas for improving the department, and that the scores on the climate survey improved markedly in almost every category from the first to the second survey.
  • Hosted the first annual Inclusiveness Conference over two days in April, with speakers Jenny Saul, Shannon Dea, and Mary Anne Franks, to discuss issues of implicit bias, stereotype threat, inclusive pedagogy, and online bullying and discrimination. It was a full room with lively and helpful discussions, and closed with small group work to brainstorm more ways to improve our department and make it more inclusive.
  • Shifted colloquium times earlier, to ensure that those who need to pick up children from school or childcare can still attend without difficulty.
  • Instituted popular departmental ‘workshops’, to increase the informal philosophical interactions among faculty and graduate students
  • Instituted a ‘family friendly’ space in a conference room, where parents of young children can breastfeed, entertain children with a box of books and toys, have a space for children around the office.

Here’s to change! And we will continue to be looking for ways to keep improving, and making the department a more inclusive and friendly place. Stay tuned for information on our Second Annual Inclusiveness Conference!

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