Chambers academic building
Chambers academic building. Photo by Sydney Schertz ’24

Ellie Stevens ’25 (She/Her), ’25

The Student Initiative for Academic Diversity (SIAD) is a student-run organization that was founded in 2012 following the tenure deferral of Dr. Hun Lye, a former religious studies professor of color. This event sparked debate around the motivation behind this deferral, with many viewing it as racially motivated. Students began to explore ways to change the hiring process. Dr. Fuji Lozada, SIAD’s faculty advisor, recalls a group of students meeting at his house following the incident. “They were given a choice. Do we just protest? Or do we change it?” said Lozada. They chose change. Thus, SIAD was born. 

SIAD is involved in the interview process of prospective faculty, with the goal of hiring long-term professors that will provide allyship to students with marginalized identities. This interviewing process is very time consuming, and this year SIAD members are starting to be compensated for their labor. Although this is a recent shift, it is something SIAD has been fighting for since its inception and has been in conversation with several co-chairs in the past. What changed? 

“Conversations about paid labor when it comes to equity work have been increasingly pertinent and popular nationwide, but specifically at Davidson,” said SIAD co-chair Chineme Amechi ‘22. “My logic was: ‘y’all are talking all this stuff about anti-racism, equity, and inclusion, it’s time to put your actual money where your mouth is,’ which is why I think it worked.” 

In the hour-long interview with each potential faculty candidate, SIAD members ask questions that determine how committed potential faculty members will be to supporting students with marginalized identities. They ask questions such as “tell us about a time you failed someone as an ally,” in order to gauge the commitment to reflection and growth of these prospective professors. 

After the interviews comes the letter writing process. SIAD members collaborate to write an evaluation on each candidate’s response to their questions about inclusive pedagogy. “It’s not our job to recommend a single candidate for hiring; it’s more our job to give this search committee an even broader look at how the candidate has thought about some important identity based issues,” said Julia Bauer ‘23, a member of SIAD’s search committee. The members lay out the positives and negatives for each candidate through a lens of diversity and inclusion. 

However, the process is not always so linear. In addition to planning questions, drafting letters, and conducting interviews, SIAD members are constantly searching for ways to make the school more inclusive.

Compensation creates accessibility for many members. “A lot of the students who care about SIAD need to work. So if we aren’t compensating our students, and SIAD is a necessary time and labor intensive extracurricular, that means that we’re excluding people who might want to get involved, but simply cannot,” said Bauer. 

SIAD members, who are now called consultants, are currently being paid hourly wages. While they have expressed this is a good start, they hope to eventually be compensated in the form of stipends. The consultants described how SIAD is constantly on their minds. “I think about it often, so hourly, I would be on the clock the whole time,” said Nick Nguyen ‘22. 

Co-chair Maeve Arthur ‘22 agrees: “It’s kind of something that you’re always thinking about or you’re sending texts here and there,” she said.

Additionally, hourly wages mean not all students are able to be compensated. “ My one big thing with hourly wages is that undocumented students are barricaded,” said Amechi. 

The consultants of SIAD are hopeful that these hourly wages will open up other forms of compensation for the important work they do in making this college a more equitable and inclusive place. “For students who belong to one or several marginalized groups, having a professor who is empathetic to the struggles that that group faces can mean the world. It can mean the difference between a student continuing and graduating or dropping out,” said Bauer.

This article was edited on October 6th, 2021 to more accurately represent a quote from Maeve Arthur ’22.