An Update on the Rooney Rule: The NFL, Facebook, and Universities

It’s been a busy week for the Rooney rule—the rule adopted by the National Football League (NFL) to help increase diversity at the senior level by requiring at least one minority candidate be interviewed for each senior position. Last week we published Warren Waren’s call to higher education to institute such a rule in America’s colleges and universities in order to address the consistent racial disproportions among faculty.

That same week, Facebook announced it would include a similar rule in an effort to increase its diversity. And this week, the NFL itself updated the rule to include consideration of female candidates.

However, the biggest news in the Rooney rule comes from the University of Texas. Last Thursday, the new chancellor of University of Texas system announced a broad application of the Rooney rule to all administrative positions at the dean level and above.

In a presentation accompanying the formal announcement, Chancellor McCraven said,

This slide [referring to the racial gap between students and administrators] makes it very clear that we are not doing the job we ought to be doing in driving equal opportunity and fairness in our hiring and promotion processes. This is particularly disappointing because education is all about opportunity. Making sure our faculty and staff reflect the changing look of Texas is not just about fairness. It’s also about effectiveness. We need faculty, administrators and campus leaders who understand the people they’re serving, who come from the same kinds of places.

Which other college or university would be ready to implement such a program? Some other large public university? Perhaps one of the Ivy League? An elite research institution? One of our many small private colleges or universities? One of our community college systems? I hope my university (Texas A&M University) is next.


    • wwaren

      I’m not sure how you see this as a failure. Granted, I’m sure it’s not a perfect system. And maybe academia could make some adjustments to the rule to fit the culture and mission of higher education. But this rule directly addresses the problem that many institutions have of overlooking qualified people at senior levels. There are probably multiple solutions to this challenge.

      Doing nothing is a failure. Institutionally, the status quo deprives the organization of the diverse leadership that is already apparent in the student body. Historically, the status quo never acknowledges the long history of discrimination and heartbreak minorities have truly suffered through for generations. Morally, the status quo does not attempt to take something that is wrong try to make it right. I am not satisfied with the status quo. Suggest anything but the status quo.

  1. Earl Smith

    I am not calling for status quo. What I am saying is that examining the Rooney Rule systematically as I have done my analysis is that it is a smokescreen:; has not worked. And gimmicks by college presidents will not work either. Give underrepresented minority professors equal access to tenure line jobs, let their record stand and be done with the tricks played in the hiring process–and the racism– it is then, only then, will you see progress in hiring and retention. What you described in another post about A&M not even getting minorities into the hiring pool is a darn disgrace — possibly a crime!

  2. wwaren

    I agree that we should give minority profs equal access and let their records stand as proof of their eligibility for promotion. And yeah, what happened here at A&M was ridiculous and embarrassing. My concern is that we’ve had equal access at the lower levels (number of students, number of PhDs) in some disciplines for a while, but we haven’t seen a change at the top. They seem immune to the changes going on at the student level. You are right, the Rooney rule is a gimmick–a short term tactic–and it hopefully shouldn’t be needed in perpetuity. But for now, I guess I am more comfortable with a gimmick to address this challenge at the higher levels than to just wait for change to blossom from within. Again, there may be other solutions.

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