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Encouraging diversity in new staff selection

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by Megan Fromm

For most publications staffs around the country, the post-spring-break season is officially new staff recruitment time—the chance to build the ideal team for next school year.  Applications start rolling in, would-be editors wait anxiously for their new assignments and advisers endure the emotional rollercoaster of deciding who belongs where and why.

Typically, requirements such as editing skills, leadership potential, design ability and time commitments take precedence when selecting a new staff. But what about ideology? What about personal perspectives or cultural understandings?  Building the right publications team demands a deep understanding not only of your students technical skills, but also of their personalities, dispositions and background.

Advocating for diversity among your staff members is not just the politically correct thing to do—it should be an ethical imperative. When your staffers’ family background, religious ideologies or cultural upbringing reflect a range of experiences, your publication is more likely to exhibit that same diversity.

If you haven’t yet considered how diversity plays a part in your staff-building process, consider taking a survey of your current students and potential staffers or making a diversity reflection part of your application requirement. The point is not to force students to answer questions about politics or religion or race, but rather to encourage them to open up about personal perspectives that demonstrate and celebrate their own uniqueness.

Ask questions like:

  • What is most important to you outside school?
  • What cliques or stereotypes do you feel you most relate to? Which ones least define you? Why?
  • What are you doing (or where are you physically) when you feel most “yourself?”
  • Where (or to whom) do you go for inspiration?

If all the responses sound eerily similar, you might want to rethink your recruitment strategies or the students you target for your publications programs. On the other hand, if the reflections show a range of distinct answers, consider how those students might help encourage the same diversity in coverage by being a part of your publication.

Be sure you give students a chance to authorize your “release” of this information to returning staff members who might be helping in the recruitment/selection process. And, when your staff is finally complete, encourage members to share these reflections during team-building.

 

 

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