Hollywood, the NFL, and the CCCU

Diversity in CCCUIn case you missed it, this is the first year since 1999 that no person of color was nominated in the acting categories (lead and supporting roles for both men and women) of the academy awards.  Although there is justifiable concern and even outrage at the shows lack of diversity, I think it misses the bigger picture and larger concern.  Outside of the movie Selma, what roles were worthy of consideration?

Ok, sure, any role is technically worthy of consideration, but seriously though, how many Oscar caliber roles were given to white actors and actresses compared to non-white actors and actresses?  You see, I don’t think the problem is solely one of who is nominated, I think the problem with really one of who is cast in these roles.

I went back and looked at all the actors and actresses nominated for any academy award since 1999.  Some movies, such as biographies, needed to have race-specific actors or actresses (for example, Abe Lincoln and Margaret Thatcher).  Other movies though, such as Silver Linings Playbook, could have chosen a non-white actor or actress because there was nothing specific about that role which demanded a white actor or actress play the part.  Unsurprisingly, I found that the non-race-specific roles were disproportionately given to white actors and actresses.  Instead of complaining about the lack of diversity in nominations, we should be complaining about the lack of diversity in non-race-specific roles.

Let’s look at the NFL for a second.  Only a few short years ago they had a severe lack of diversity at the head coach and general manager (GM) positions.  It’s not a perfect organization today, but it’s considerably better because of the Rooney Rule.  Basically, this rule dictates that no NFL team can hire a head coach or GM until they have interviewed a non-white candidate.  It doesn’t dictate hiring, just interviewing.  This rule accomplishes two things: it gives minority candidates experience in the process and exposure to the rest of the league.  So they may not be hired this time, but they become that much more qualified to be hired the next time they apply.

What if Hollywood did something similar?

What if no white actor or actress could be cast in a major non-race-specific role until a non-white actor or actress has read for it?  This doesn’t require studios to cast minorities, but it does make the studios consider them.  It also gives the actors and actresses experience and exposure which may make it much more likely that they get cast in those roles next time.

Now this may or may not sound interesting, but what does it have to do with higher education?

Much like the NFL complained about the lack of diversity among its top positions or Hollywood complained about how white the Oscars were this year, CCCU institutions constantly bemoan the lack of diversity among its staff, faculty, administrators, and trustees.  I simply propose that we too should think about this as a pipeline problem more than an output problem.  Our main problem isn’t the lack of diversity at CCCU institutions, it’s the lack of candidates to even choose from when hiring.  Reframing this problem makes me wonder though, do we lack the candidates because they don’t exist, or because we haven’t tried hard enough to find, interview, and consider them?

Here’s the bottom line.  March is the beginning of the busiest few months of the hiring season for Student Development at CCCU institutions.  What if we chose to adopt our own version of the Rooney Rule?  What if we committed to never hiring an RD or a Director until at least one minority candidate had applied and been interviewed?  This doesn’t dictate hiring, just the process of interviewing.

Of course, this would mean fundamentally changing most aspects of the hiring process at CCCU institutions.  The places we advertise would need to change.  The marketing would probably need to change too.  The expectations and process might even need to be updated as well.  And would we really delay a process and risk losing a great (white) candidate just because we couldn’t attract the interest of a minority candidate?

Now that I think about it, it’s probably easier to just forget the whole thing and go back to complaining about the lack of diversity among our staff and faculty.  At least we can say we thought about it for a second though, right?


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