Pomona College Adds Diversity Requirement to Tenure-Review Process

Faculty at Pomona College, a private liberal arts school in California, voted overwhelmingly last week to change the institution’s criteria for tenure to require candidates to demonstrate “attention to diversity in the student body.”

This new diversity requirement represents a first in the college tenure process; while many schools have encouraged faculty to support diversity efforts and focus on diverse students’ needs, very few have advised tenure candidates to reference such efforts during reviews. At Pomona, this new stipulation applies to all faculty members who are up for tenure.

The new policy states that tenure candidates should “specifically address their efforts to create and maintain an inclusive classroom.”

“This may include describing classroom practices used to encourage the participation of a diverse student body or to cultivate an awareness of differing backgrounds, focuses, and needs among the student body and broader community,” the policy reads. “Techniques such as communities of learning and community partnerships are relevant here, as are the inclusion of scholarly and other works emerging from the perspectives of underrepresented groups, or any other classroom practices that support inclusivity and diversity.”

The changes reflect demands made by Pomona students during campus protests last fall. However, according to Associate Professor Eric Hurley, the idea for the requirement has been under consideration for several years, and new faculty candidates are routinely asked about their approaches to teaching a diverse student body — one reason faculty members began advocating for the new tenure policy.

“This is already part of our job,” Hurley said, “but as the student body has changed, what it means to do that job — with close mentoring as what we do — is also starting to change.”

Prior to the faculty vote, students circulated a petition — signed by hundreds — in support of the new criteria, which they brought to the recent faculty meeting. It stated that the new requirement is “a crucial step toward recognizing that an essential component of exceptional teaching and service is meeting the needs of a diverse student body.”

Because Pomona’s faculty controls tenure criteria, the vote is final. However, those who have already begun the tenure-review process are exempt from the new requirement.