Some colleagues and I recently undertook a national study of Christian faculty development programs at Christian colleges and universities. Although I will share a link to the academic publication containing the results when published, I want to share one of our conclusions. We realized in the end that Christian institutions need some fresh ideas in this area. One area where they could perhaps get some fresh ideas concerns diversity initiatives.
To illustrate my point, I am going to be a bit bold and offer a recent example from my own institution, since I think specifics examples are helpful. In particular, Baylor’s College of Arts and Science has issued detailed plans regarding two pillars of the institution’s strategic plan. One pillar relates to the Christian mission. When it comes to “Cultivation of a Community of Christian Scholars,” the document reads:
Formal and informal conversations, special lectures, fine arts productions, reading groups, learning groups, luncheons, workshops, retreats, and other gatherings sponsored by the departments and programs in A&S are intentionally designed to foster intellectual, moral, and spiritual formation. These intellectually rigorous and thoughtful conversations among faculty and staff draw from Jewish and Christian traditions, promote community, and facilitate understanding.
What is important to notice is the lack of specificity, incentives, and accountability regarding this development.
Last week Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences also released a strategic plan draft that discusses another pillar, how “to foster diversity, equity and inclusion [DEI] through teaching and student engagement, faculty and student research, and the hiring and retention of a diverse faculty and staff.” I want to be clear. I think every Christian should cheer and support such a goal if diversity is defined by the Christian narrative (in Baylor’s case there are some important unanswered questions but that’s another story1).
Theologically speaking, Christians should celebrate our unity as image bearers of God, the beautiful diversity of skin tones, genders, languages and cultures humans which make for the Body of Christ. Yet, we should also confess that the fallen South, in particular (including Baylor), inhibited the development of diversity and created significant inequities. We must repent and then seek to rectify this injustice.2 Christ’s example calls us to reverse the impact of such an expression of the fall, seeking redemption and reconciliation. The document’s recommendations could be a natural extension of those aims.
What I want to highlight is the specificity of the action steps, goals and associated methods for supporting DEI when it comes to faculty. Consider three of the four general action steps the document proposes:
- Create a standing Arts & Sciences Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Council to assist the Dean in implementing the vision…
- Each department will form a DEI Committee and the chair of that committee (or designee) will serve as the departmental representative to the A&S DEI Council.
- The department chairs and the Dean’s Office will foster an awareness within the A&S development team regarding fundraising initiatives related to DEI.
This kind of intentionality involves a comprehensive, albeit top-down, bureaucratic system of education and accountability.
When it comes to specific goals, the document sets forth three. First, the authors propose increasing DEI in the curriculum, “so that all six of the A&S common core courses contain DEI components.” They also establish that Baylor should seek, “Roughly half of the full-time faculty who teach the common core courses have attended a minimum of one conference or workshop to redesign their course(s) to incorporate more content regarding diversity, equity and inclusion.”
The second major goal involves increasing DEI in faculty and staff hiring. Again, the proposals are thorough and all-encompassing. These goals will be sought through initiatives such as “department and College-level training designed to cultivate inclusivity,” dedicating “resources for recruitment of underrepresented faculty for replacement or new positions over a ten-year period,” having the Deans “solicit recommendations each year for the targeted hiring of selected underrepresented faculty,” creating “a committee to examine and propose modifications to tenure and promotion guidelines for all faculty ranks, including senior lecturers, in order to broaden DEI expectations,” and making sure “departments will implement strategies for appointing a greater number of underrepresented groups…” etc.
The third major goal is to increase DEI in research. To reach this goal, “The A&S DEI Council will consider the formation of a ‘Study of Social Inequality and Social Justice’ initiative that could eventually develop into an academic center. Other recommendations include housing “visiting scholars who could contribute research and teaching in various departments” regarding this topic, sponsoring “small research grants to investigators in A&S who conduct research on social inequities and social justice,” “extending the criteria for research grant proposals, publications and other academic contributions where underrepresented interests and research agendas have been marginalized in the past.” etc.
I believe the specificity of this diversity proposal could also be a model of how to invest in the Christian mission and identity (although top-down accountability structures, as opposed to incentives, always risk significant faculty resistance). Imagine if the same incentives and systems were built to foster the Christian identity of the institution. Imagine if just as this committee assumes that faculty/staff will need incentives, education and accountability to promote diversity, Baylor University made the same assumption with Christian identity.
Yet, the description of Pillar 1 regarding the Christian environment is not nearly as creative, specific or comprehensive in this area, particularly with regard to faculty development. Interestingly, I do not know of any unit (school or department) on campus that has a council or committee tasked with the promotion of Christian scholarship, teaching or service at Baylor. The Institute of Faith and Learning provides voluntary classes and faculty development options in this area, but there is no incentivized or mandated education for all departments or faculty regarding how Christ could animate teaching, scholarship and service, as in the diversity proposal.
With regard to the curriculum, we have a general education core that contains a strong focus on teaching/integrating virtue and there are specific goals in the Arts and Sciences for future Christian initiatives, but when it comes to faculty development across the university Baylor faculty are offered no incentives to attend conferences that might help them think about how to engage in faith-learning integration in courses, such as the Kuyers Institute conferences (there are funds for attending a conference to improve one’s teaching in general).
As for hiring initiatives, at one time, the Baylor administration dedicated resources to recruit promising Christian scholars and teachers, but there is currently no concerted or special administrative recruiting effort or incentives to identify and hire outstanding Christian faculty or staff. As someone who served on the tenure committee, I know there are no requirements related to faith-based scholarship, teaching or service for tenure (beyond the hope that the person claims to be a member of and involved in a church or synagogue).
As for research, there are also no internal grant funds that are specifically devoted to the advancement of the Christian mission or Christian scholarship. I’ve actually received more grant funding from Calvin University than Baylor University for the promotion of specifically Christian scholarship (again there are general funds, and I have received some of those for work on Christian scholarship). Furthermore, the chairs and deans are not provided with specific ways to reward overt engagement in the Christian mission in these areas, nor have they been educated to learn how to incentivize that work.
In this respect, Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences committee addressing diversity has thought more creatively and specifically about how to advance that issue than Baylor as a whole has about advancing the Christian mission through faculty development. Overall, Baylor is beginning to realize, understandably, that faculty need all kinds of incentives, education, and accountability with regard to advancing diversity, but when it comes to the Christian identity we lean toward the attitude if you hire Christians, have a Christian mission, and offer a smattering of various voluntary events and general resources, Christian faculty engaged in Christian scholarship, teaching and service will naturally develop.
Certainly, it does occur with some faculty. Yet, if we want more significant excellence in this area, similar to diversity, we must recognize that like athletes and musicians, Christian faculty and staff must be developed through hard work that includes specific incentives, skilled mentors, and thoughtful accountability structures. Very few Ph.D. programs from which junior faculty are hired offer such opportunities. As a result, Christian colleges and universities must make the resourcing of programs related to faith and learning a priority. Otherwise, such references run the risk of being hollow slogans utilized when recruiting students or soliciting funds.
I write this post with the hope that both Baylor and all other Christian colleges and universities will think deeply about their incentive systems in light of the priority they grant to their Christian identity in their mission statements. We secularize when we starve the Christian identity of incentives and accountability, particularly with regard to faculty development.
As a result, here is the practical step I would suggest every administrator and faculty member take. Always ask yourself with new accountability and incentive initiatives: is what is proposed already being done to promote Christianity on campus when it comes to incentives, education, and accountability structures? Furthermore, how might the new incentive or accountability initiative fit within, be shaped by, and enhanced by the Christian meta-narrative and meta-identity (e.g. diversity, academic honesty, etc.)?
Universities reward, assess and develop incentive and accountability systems for what is most important to them. To what degree is the Christian mission or identity part of your institution’s faculty reward, assessment, and accountability structures?
I am grateful for comments from our Provost Nancy Brickhouse, who read an earlier draft of this post and pointed out some areas where I was either misinformed or uninformed about Baylor policies, documents, etc. I appreciate her willingness to discuss those points, send the documents, and show respectful Christian disagreement on other points. She saved me from some egregious errors. I also benefitted from comments from Margaret Diddams, Todd Ream, and Todd Steen. Of course, the current post’s limitations are all mine.
- Interestingly, the diversity that this whole new incentive and accountability structure is supposed to support includes diversity in religion and sexual orientation. No mention is made of how this initiative will relate to Baylor’s current hiring requirements in these areas (faculty currently must be practicing Christians or Jews and practice sex only within a male-female marriage).
- Nathan F. Alleman and Perry L. Glanzer, “Creating Confessional Colleges and Universities that Confess,” in Christianity and the Secular Border Patrol: The Loss of Judeo-Christian Knowledge, eds. Barry Kanpol and Mary Poplin (New York: Peter Lang, 2017). [reprint of earlier International Journal of Christianity and Education article]
Well said, colleague.
Helpful reflection. Thank you.