by James A. Bacon
Like employers around the country, the University of Virginia is experiencing major staff shortages. The problem is serious enough that it warranted a discussion during last week’s Board of Visitors meeting.
President Jim Ryan attributed the workforce challenges mainly to “the Great Resignation,” or the increasing willingness of employees during the wind-down of the COVID-19 epidemic to quit their jobs in search of better prospects elsewhere.
Looking ahead, UVa will pay greater attention to hiring, recruitment and retention, Ryan told the Board. He also made some useful suggestions. The university will review open positions to see if the listed educational credentials are truly necessary to perform the job. The university will increase its commitment to training so employees can rise within the organization — better to encourage people to move from one part of UVa to another than lose them altogether. An even more promising idea came from a Board member that if a position remains open for months and the place doesn’t fall apart, maybe it’s not really needed.
There’s one more thing, I humbly suggest, that UVa can do to expand the pool of potential applicants — eliminate mandatory diversity statements in job applications and employee reviews.
UVa routinely requires job applicants to submit statements describing their commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. What has the applicant done, and what could he or she do, to advance the goals of DEI? This requirement stacks the deck against the half or more of the population for whom DEI is not a burning personal priority. If these individuals exclude themselves from consideration — or are weeded from the prospect list by those doing the hiring — the list of candidates shrinks.
DEI might be a good way to ensure ideological conformity in the faculty and staff, but it’s a counter-productive strategy for filling unfilled positions.