Creating a More Just and Equitable Hiring Process for Higher Ed Staff

Equality written on a dry erase board
Member Exclusive

Eric Silva MSE
Assistant Director TRIO Student Support Services at Metropolitan State University of Denver

Ally Garcia EdD
Assistant Dean for the Center of Equity and Student Achievement and the Director of TRIO Student Support Services at Metropolitan State University of Denver


Higher education, since its inception, has been exclusive in who can pursue higher levels of learning and engagement. This oppressive truth not only has subjected students to pain and trauma, but also the faculty and staff who work within those ivory towers. In order to interrupt, and hopefully change these marginalizing spaces, it is paramount that institutions of higher learning acknowledge, assess, and devote resources and time to deconstructing practices, policies, and procedures which have been normed on the exclusionary nature of higher education. This position often toys with the theoretical question of the overall mission of higher education and its connection to serving the public good. The following work was our form of resistance to normative hiring structures within Student Affairs. Although not exhaustive, the work below may help guide you and your institution on its own journey of assessing and changing current hiring and promotion structures to truly serve the public good.

The process

In the fall of 2018, the Vice-President of Student Affairs tasked the Center for Equity and Student Achievement staff to develop processes that ensured the hiring practices of our division were equitable and valued the hiring of staff with experience doing equity and justice work. Having been on numerous committees attempting to tackle this challenge, we set out to try something new.

With the support of our Vice-President, we reached out to colleagues across campus with interest and experience in this task and sought to bring together folks who shared a commitment to the values of equity and justice. Though the emphasis of the materials we would be developing was on the hiring of Student Affairs staff, we included staff and faculty from outside of the division to contribute to the packet's development. We strategically included staff from Human Resources, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Career Services, Admissions, and faculty from a number of departments.

Rather than drag out the process over the course of a semester and compete with a number of other priorities and scheduling challenges, we invited committee members to join a full-day intensive retreat to begin developing the materials. We scheduled the retreat for two weeks prior to the start of the spring 2019 semester and gave committee members access to the research we had compiled based on the best practices of other institutions. We also set clear goals for the group to accomplish.

  1. For all applicants
    Develop a diversity statement to be placed at the top of every posting that spoke to our division’s values and the demographics of our campus.
  2. For qualified applicants
    Create a sampling of qualifications that could be applied to most SA positions that highlighted applicants need to demonstrate commitments to equity and justice.
  3. Demonstration of applicant values
    Create a basic set of interview guidelines that would help to mitigate bias and allow applicants to speak to their experiences.
  4. Attracting qualified candidates
    Identify where to post positions to reach a diverse audience.
  5. Identifying next steps
    Identify the pieces of the puzzle that were still missing at the end of this retreat.

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