What’s Merit Got to Do with It? Historicizing U.S Faculty Evaluations and Institutional Racism in the Elite U.S. Professoriate

prabhdeep s kehal, Brown University

How have faculty at elite research institutions managed a system of faculty evaluation? Sociological debates on merit within the professoriate often overlook the professoriate’s racially segregated history in relation to merit debates, while the cultural processes undergirding the use and persistence of merit criteria in faculty evaluations remains underexplored. Constructing an archive of historical, institutional, and faculty survey data since the late 1800s, I show how faculty evaluation processes facilitated racism-based status distinctions by evaluating accomplishment criteria based on racialized merit. Two dimensions of evaluating racialized merit—institutional relations and scholarly competence—are constructed through the discursive mechanism of segregating rationales. Contributing to the research on cultural processes and racialized organizations, I highlight how identification processes, such as racialization, can institutionalize historical inequalities within evaluation processes.

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 Presented in Session 223. Of Proletariats and Professors: Race, Labor, and Mobility