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The question How to answer the diversity question during faculty interview has attracted a few answers, but one in particular stands out as being both rather non-politically correct and also quite accurate. I'm curious if/how the community wishes to deal with this particular. It's already had a few flags raised (rude/abusive, not an answer). I'll post my own thoughts in an answer below.

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  • Do we have any analysis of who upvoted the answer? – DJClayworth Jan 30 at 19:38
  • @DJClayworth - Nope. – eykanal Jan 30 at 20:12
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    "and also quite accurate" - clearly debatable. – aquirdturtle Jan 30 at 22:10
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    "Understand that the above question is to weed-out individuals who do not lean as those in power lean." That's certainly not accurate. – henning -- reinstate Monica Jan 31 at 10:24
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    @henning--reinstateMonica: That’s certainly not the intended or stated purpose by most of its proponents, but there’s a reasonable argument that that’s an ulterior social goal/effect. Compare an argument like “the purpose of the American two-party system is to block real change and maintain the dominance of the political elite”. I don’t agree with the answer’s argument, but I think it’s in the realm of “reasonable but debatable claim” rather than “outright falsehood”. – PLL Feb 1 at 8:30
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The OP's post talks about "how" questions posed in the interview. "How" do you support X. That implies that the decision is already been made that X should be supported.

In that sense, the controversial answer and eykanal's suggested version are both not really answers to the "how", or to the "what aspects" questions of the OP.

That doesn't make paulj's answer untrue; it is a political issue. Society put a political question to the university ("what are you going to do about diversity"). Whatever response the university gives is political. To do something about diversity is political; to not do something is also political.

I think that with cag51's edits that removed some incendiary language, the answer as it stands now represents a reasonable perspective. (Even if I don't really agree with the undertone.)

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    +1 The answer we are discussing doesn't actually provide any suggestions as to what to say in the interview, which was what the question asked. – DJClayworth Jan 30 at 14:16
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    Yeah I don't think it's a very helpful answer since it doesn't give advice on how to do well in the interview. But it succinctly informs on why you can't just stay quiet when asked those questions, and that questioning the premises of those questions is not going to work well. So it's not entirely without merit. – ObscureOwl Jan 30 at 14:19
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    I'm not disagreeing with you, but to be a decent answer there needs to be some actual suggestions of what to say in answer to the question. – DJClayworth Jan 30 at 14:28
  • What do you mean by "political," exactly? I don't see anything political about the question "what will faculty do about diversity"; it's not a question about policy or government. – Tanner Swett Jan 30 at 14:32
  • +1... I like the nuance here. That said, I'm not sure everyone reads this question the same way. I definitely read "how" as "what are my options in answers?" – eykanal Jan 30 at 14:42
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    @TannerSwett what universities should or shouldn't do about diversity is "political" because it's a political matter in society right now, and universities have a quite central position in public debate. – ObscureOwl Jan 30 at 15:02
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    The question is not political. But the answer we are discussing is unquestionably political. – DJClayworth Jan 30 at 15:18
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I think it's likely that the voting on this particular Q&A has been tilted by exposure to the Hot Network Questions, and the answer is by someone who hasn't participated on Academia.SE before. I have a bit of doubt that the answer is supported by any particular experience of the answerer, and instead is based on their biased view of what academia is and what academic hires involve.

It really seems like "HNQ bait" to me, rather than an answer meant to be helpful to the OP. I think it distracts from other answers that help OP to understand what is meant by these sorts of questions.

That said, I think it's difficult to moderate this sort of answer. I've downvoted it, and upvoted the other answers I think are actually helpful. I think that's all we can really do.

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    You're certainly right, but you wouldn't believe how many academics I met in my life who would give answers that look like "answers by someone who hasn't participated on Academia.SE" – Massimo Ortolano Jan 30 at 19:07
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    @MassimoOrtolano Oh I would believe it, just speaking about this particular answer and the information available around it. – Bryan Krause Jan 30 at 19:45
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    Didn't even realize that this was an HNQ. sigh That feature is one of the least useful and most damaging elements of the whole SE network. – eykanal Jan 30 at 20:14
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    @eykanal Eh, I don't know if I agree with "least useful" - it certainly helps people discover other parts of the network, and there was massive uproar when a certain site was excluded from the HNQ. But "most damaging" - yes, it certainly can be when the wrong questions get there. Might be worth another entry at academia.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4454/… – Bryan Krause Jan 30 at 20:18
  • @eykanal If you look at the HNQ chat feed, you can see that this particular question had a single vote when it hit HNQ. – Bryan Krause Jan 30 at 20:20
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    @BryanKrause Wow, really? How does the HNQ algorithm work? Can the mods tinker with it so that we don't have to wade through the same idiotic nonsense every time someone says "diversity"? – Elizabeth Henning Jan 31 at 19:20
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    @ElizabethHenning We can remove questions from the HNQ list, and that has been removed, and there's also a chat that list the HNQ questions from this site, but we cannot foresee whether a question will become really problematic or not. See also this post and this one. – Massimo Ortolano Jan 31 at 19:42
  • @ElizabethHenning There are probably some details on MSE somewhere you can dig up. The threshold is based on the level of activity on the site, so smaller sites can more easily hit the HNQ. Questions getting multiple answers shortly after being posted is one cause. – Bryan Krause Jan 31 at 19:46
  • @MassimoOrtolano and Bryan Krause: Thanks for the info. The HNQ chat feed is an excellent idea, this is the first I've heard of it. – Elizabeth Henning Jan 31 at 23:20
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    While I don't know anything about the poster of the answer, the question described is applicable to workplaces other than academia, so any of knowledge about academia shouldn't be seen as a disqualifying fault. – Andrew Grimm Feb 1 at 23:48
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At the moment I'm writing this, it is the highest voted answer. To me, that's the community's answer.

Deciding what to do about it in meta, is not what "the community wants" but rather what a the much smaller group who frequents meta wants.

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  • I'm not sure about it - several of the other answers have common ground, so votes may be split among similar answers. – ObscureOwl Jan 30 at 14:04
  • But people can upvote as many answers as they want, so I don't clearly see where the split would happen. – Martin Argerami Jan 30 at 14:11
  • They can, but we can't see if they do. For example if people voted only the first time they saw the issue and didn't come back to read newer answers. – ObscureOwl Jan 30 at 14:14
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    I disagree that it's necessarily the "community's answer" depending on the definition of community - this question has been on the HNQ which tends to bring in voters from around the network that might not have any involvement with academia. That outside community might upvote sentiments that reflect their assumptions about what academia is and enjoy a bit of a controversial answer. – Bryan Krause Jan 30 at 16:56
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    Well, the opposite could be true, right? Maybe all the downvotes come from those outside Academia. And in any case those outsiders still can vote here in meta. My point is that the meta question is choosing a subset of users to decide on the question, and it is not obvious to me why that would be fair. – Martin Argerami Jan 30 at 17:13
  • At least one downvote came from Academia. – Scott Seidman Jan 30 at 18:08
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    @MartinArgerami Users without rep on Academia can only upvote. Downvotes are gated by rep (and the 100 association bonus for rep on another site is not sufficient for downvoting privileges). – Bryan Krause Jan 30 at 18:17
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The answer is honestly quite accurate, but uses unnecessarily opinionated language. I would prefer if the answer would be simply factual, possibly as follows:

This question has only one correct answer, unfortunately. Providing anything other than a positive "I support diversity through <methods>" is likely to significantly harm your application.

The above says the same thing as the current answer but without the attitude.

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  • What evidence can you (or, more appropriately, the answerer) point to to confirm it's veracity. If that info were provided in the answer, it would be a valuable answer, and not a "look how PC the process is" rant. – Scott Seidman Jan 30 at 17:54
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    There's enough people in the US running around in red ball caps to convince me that sometimes what people believe to be true is not true. – Scott Seidman Jan 30 at 17:55
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    @ScottSeidman - addressed in my comment on your answer. – eykanal Jan 30 at 17:57
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    Are we so fragile that we cannot tolerate a bit of what you call “attitude” (and I’d call “personality”) in an answer? I’d argue that this so-called attitude is precisely the reason the answer got so many more upvotes than other answers that say similar things but in the kind of bland, boring language you are advocating for. So, respectfully, when you say “the above says the same thing as the current answer but without the attitude”, to me that comes across as saying something flattering about paulj’s answer and unflattering about your suggested language, rather than the other way around. – Dan Romik Jan 31 at 3:46
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    @DanRomik In the "analog" life, as everyone around me knows well, I'm the opposite of fragile. Whenever I speak in public or with some authority everyone is scared by what I can say (friends say that I suffer from "excess of personality"). But here, as a moderator, I find it difficult to deal with answers like that. Look at the timeline and see how many flags that answer already received; as a moderator, you can: i) continue to decline flags; ii) ignore the flags, but after 6 rude/abusive flags the answer gets deleted automatically; iii) try to edit the answer to make it less controversial. – Massimo Ortolano Jan 31 at 18:38
  • Not to mention the problem of moderating comments. There are clear limits in the SE platform that make it fragile with respect to certain questions or answers. – Massimo Ortolano Jan 31 at 18:40
  • @MassimoOrtolano thanks for interesting perspective re: moderation. Well, yeah, sure, if you need to moderate, give it your best shot and I appreciate your efforts and am fine with whatever decision you make. But if you declined the flags initially then it sounds like you agree the answer deserves to stay, so declining more flags seems like a reasonable solution. Anyway, FWIW, count me as one community member who thinks this answer is no worse than many others and should be left up for people to judge on its merits, or lack thereof. – Dan Romik Jan 31 at 20:07
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    @DanRomik - My take is somewhat different than Massimo's; you can have all the attitude you want, but don't bring it here. This is a forum strangers to talk to each other. No one knows each other. Bringing unnecessary attitude is a great way to tick off someone with little added benefit. On this site, I'm all about the boring. – eykanal Jan 31 at 20:25
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The answer is actually not an answer to the question. The question asks about what to say in response to the interview question. It specifically says "Which aspects [do] I need to cover to delivering a winning answer?"

The answer does not address that issue at all. It presumes the questioner is really asking about whether diversity is 'valid", and merely provides political commentary on whether they should go along with it or not.

We respond to this by downvoting. Also by upvoting the much better answers that there are to the question.

Let us also take not of the fact that writing this answer is the user's ONLY activity on Academia. It's a drive-by answer.

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  • And the reason for the downvote? – DJClayworth Jan 30 at 14:13
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    I didn't downvote, but I disagree with your take. "You should say what the interviewer wants to hear" seems to me an acceptable answer to the question. – eykanal Jan 30 at 14:44
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    Why do we all jump to the conclusion that the question is being asked because the OP has objections to the "diversity" issue? The question gives no indication that they know what a good answer sounds like, and every indication that is what they are asking. The answer to every question about interviews is "You should say what the interviewer wants to hear". – DJClayworth Jan 30 at 14:46
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    In the abstract, sure. The tough part is that usually you don't know what the interviewer wants to hear. In this case, though, the answer is known, and the penalty for answering wrong is the legal dept calling "risk!" and you not getting a job. – eykanal Jan 30 at 15:02
  • Why do you think the answer is known? I see people on this site jumping to the conclusion that the questioner is complaining about politics rather than actually wanting an answer to the question they asked. – DJClayworth Jan 30 at 15:16
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    @eykanal I would have no issue with the answer "You should say what the interviewer want's to hear." That's not how the answer is worded. – Scott Seidman Jan 30 at 17:50
  • @eykanal -- have you been involved in such decisions, and can say that you know this happens? Can you point us to Inside Higher Ed articles that say it happens? Can you point us to a candidate that feels this happened to them? – Scott Seidman Jan 30 at 17:52
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    @ScottSeidman - My comment on your answer addresses your points. – eykanal Jan 30 at 17:54
  • My take is that the implied undertone is "This is what you should say to get the job." (so it's an answer) followed by "You should consider whether you want the job when the question is asked". – MSalters Jan 31 at 12:05
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    Please upvote or downvote only on the merits of the answer itself, not on the credentials of its author. – shoover Feb 1 at 20:27
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Imagine an answer to an analogous question on Workplace SE saying that if you attack the hiring manager's priorities or you criticize the stated organizational goals, you won't get the job. Well, duh. Why should they hire someone contemptuous of what they're trying to accomplish?

I'm pretty sure such an answer wouldn't do very well on Workplace SE. The difference here is that a lot more people think their uninformed opinions about academia are worth something. Also, the answer score may have been affected by the users that drift in from the HNQ. Just downvote.

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    @Elizabeth You are disturbed a contributor dismisses one side of an issue. Yet you are guilty of the same, having written “The answer is a troll and a pander to the users that drift in from the HNQ. Just downvote”. This is dismissive, assumes bad faith, and contains language indicating ignorance (a term you use). This answer is not appropriate. You assume he is a troll for no other reason than because he has a different viewpoint from yourself. – Just Some Old Man Jan 31 at 22:16
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    Your first paragraph says "the controversial answer would be a correct answer on Workplace.SE". The second paragraph says "it would not do well on Workplace.SE". I am missing the logical connection. Also, unlike the the controversial answer, your answer actually attacks a SE user (calling them "ignorant", "a troll", and "a pander"), which is against the Code of Conduct. – wimi Feb 5 at 10:46
  • This answer has attracted a significant number of rude/abusive flags (ironically, a similar situation to the post this meta question is discussing!). I've taken a stab at editing the answer to remove some of controversial language while trying to keep the spirit of the answer intact. – cag51 Feb 15 at 1:37
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Why are you so sure it's correct? Does the answerer provide any data suggesting that people who have a poor answer to such questions don't get hired? Have they sat on a search committee that eliminated a candidate based on this factor? This is anecdotal at best, and wrong at worst.

Then again, I suppose "I have no commitment to promoting diversity, and my actions will be counter to such efforts" would be a fine reason to not hire someone onto a campus committed to a diverse student body. I'm curious about whether "I haven't considered diversity issues" would eliminate a candidate, but until the answerer can provide some background establishing credibility, I have no reason to believe that the answerer has any more insight that I might.

Note that in the sense that the answer does not answer the asker's question, it's not a real answer. It's a rant.

In any case, I suggest it doesn't meet the "be nice" standard, as there are much less offensive ways to say the same thing, and the answerer hasn't even tried to phrase this nicely. I don't care if I'm personally offended, but there is a community standard, in writing. I may or may not agree with it, but via my participation, I signed on to it, and if I didn't want to adhere to that standard, I would stop participating.

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    I'm sure for the same reason I'm willing to post answers to any question on this site... I've seen this same thing so many times that I'm comfortable stating it's a solid pattern by now. I have seen people get rejected for position on this basis, and I've seen people with comfortable jobs get fired for violating the spirit of the question. So yes... personally, I'm pretty confident that this "correct". – eykanal Jan 30 at 17:53
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    So, you've been in the room with a search committee, and you've heard "this is an absolutely outstanding candidate, except for that unfortunate answer to the diversity question, so we can't hire them"? If so, I stand corrected. I'm curious about the terminations you mention, and can sort of see that -- though usually as a result of public statements that counter a universities standards. I'm having a hard time figuring out if I put those in the same basket. – Scott Seidman Jan 30 at 18:02
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    Your claim of credibility by virtue of experience probably belongs in your answer. It makes it seem less anecdotal – Scott Seidman Jan 30 at 18:05

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