Many years ago, when I was an assistant professor, I was offered a position at an Ivy League institution. This particular college had experienced an exodus of black professors and was in desperate need of an infusion of color. As a biracial woman, I fit the bill. But there was a problem. I was a creative writer, and the department already had more than enough of those. It was a stipulation, then, that I shift my focus to literary analysis and eschew creative writing altogether. I was advised that I would never again be able to teach creative writing, nor would my creative-writing publications count toward tenure.
I had sense enough not to accept the position. I was being asked to place my career in jeopardy to increase the racial diversity of the institution. The assumption of risk, therefore, was almost entirely mine. That episode taught me an important lesson early in my career: If the desire for diversity is the primary motive for hiring, however well meaning it may be, minority faculty members should proceed with extreme caution. <Read more.>