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Supporting a Diverse Faculty, Engaging Students: Guidelines from the MLA

Supporting junior faculty members of color and implementing a more diverse curriculum are the two core tenets of the Guidelines for Good Practice by the MLA’s Committee on the Literatures of People of Color in the United States and Canada (CLPC). The guidelines are meant to inform academic departments and guide them in supporting junior faculty members of color. First, consider methods of recruiting: departments should seek out scholars interested in diverse approaches to literature, culture, and language, and should make use of nontraditional channels, such as social media, to find potential applicants. The CLPC stresses the value of mentorship for junior faculty members of color, as well as the importance of creating opportunities for these instructors to teach upper-division and graduate courses in their fields.

Institutions can make specific changes to support these faculty members. The CLPC asks that institutions do not disproportionately overload faculty members of color. Faculty members of color are often asked to take on extra service commitments, such as serving on committees or having joint appointments, and this can impede their research. When evaluating faculty members of color, departments are encouraged to remember the biases that may be reflected in faculty member evaluations. The CLPC also notes that scholarship by faculty members of color may be published by presses that are unfamiliar to other faculty members. In such cases, departments should make an effort to understand the significance of the press and of the scholarship it publishes.

By supporting faculty members of color, institutions can actively work to eliminate biases in academia. Such choices also benefit students: offering students more courses on the languages, literatures, and cultures of people of color—and more courses taught by faculty members of color—gives students a more diverse understanding of the world around them.

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