Recruitment & Career Experiences Of Diverse Faculty Couples At Aau Universities
faculty of color
Higher Education Administration
Higher Education and Teaching
More than one third of faculty are married or partnered to another faculty member, leading academic administrators to leverage dual-career hiring to compete for the best scholars. Although institutions cite recruiting faculty of color as one of the primary reasons to have these policies, qualitative research on academic couples has rarely included scholars of color, whose perspectives can inform hiring practices and enhance efforts to create more inclusive academic climates that support faculty retention and success. Guided by Crenshaw’s (1989, 1991) intersectionality theory, this qualitative study investigates the recruitment and careers of racially/ethnically underrepresented faculty couples where both partners are employed at the same AAU university. AAU universities are impactful sites for reform because their faculties are generally less diverse than those of other universities despite institutional wealth that enables them to compete for scholars via strategies such as dual-career hiring. Through couple and follow-up individual semi-structured interviews, this study reveals critical factors guiding diverse faculty couples’ institutional choice and departure decision processes and sheds light on racialized and gendered forces shaping their experiences as they navigate hypercompetitive institutional contexts. Couples are sensitive to how both partners are treated during recruitment processes and the potential for their joint satisfaction weighs heavily in their decisions. Faculty couples of color reported that they are more visible targets of partner hiring-based scrutiny than White academic couples, and that they contend with racialized assumptions about their merit and deservingness for positions. Faculty couples described a stigma associated with their employment that manifested most strongly for women and was a barrier to their inclusion and engagement. Partners draw upon each other for support and benefit from having one another to interpret events within academic units and the broader university community. Faculty couples of color noted how students, especially students of color, welcome the family dynamic that they contribute to institutional contexts that often feel impersonal, and view them as role models. Based on the study’s findings, administrators are advised to affirm and interact with partners as individual scholars, and to implement transparent dual-career hiring policies that include faculty colleagues in vetting processes, among other suggestions.