Liz was interviewing for a tenure-track, entry-level law faculty position at Law School X, “ranked” (in that year) around 100. She had heard a rumor that the law school was determined to hire a person who would add to the diversity of the faculty, which was both White- and male-dominated.
Liz’s “job talk,” a presentation on a current article that she was writing, used Liz’s own multiracial identification to illustrate a point relevant to her research, which utilized both critical race theory and feminist legal theory. In the course of explaining her illustration, Liz mentioned that she was often identified by others as Latina, but that her background (and her identification) was Asian Pacific American and White.
Several weeks after the interview, the chair of the search committee called to tell Liz that although the faculty “had not voted not to give her an offer,” other candidates would be offered the position before Liz was offered it, and the chair anticipated that another candidate or candidates would accept the position before it could be offered to Liz. When she asked the chair and, later, another faculty member, for feedback on areas in which she could improve, she was told that, although she had experience teaching Contracts, because she did not write scholarship on Contracts, she lacked credibility as someone who truly wanted to teach or would teach Contracts well.
A week or so later, without clarifying whether Liz might still get an offer to join the faculty, the chair called again, explaining that she needed to report demographic information about all of the candidates to the Association of American Law Schools, and asked what she should list as Liz’s race. Liz was taken aback and somewhat confused by the question because she thought that various indications on her CV of volunteer work with Asian Pacific American organizations, as well as her job talk illustration, made it unnecessary for the chair to ask this question. Nevertheless, not knowing whether her candidacy was still active, Liz did not refuse to answer the question. Instead, she explained the intricacies of answering such questions when one is multiracial, including that the answer often depends on the options provided: did the form provide racial categories and say “check all that apply”? Did it provide a single “multiracial” category? Or was there simply an “other” and did it provide a write-in space?
After Liz explained how she would fill out each kind of form, the chair ended the call, and Liz texted an account of the conversation to friends. She explained later that her purpose in the texts was in part to have a contemporaneous account of the conversation (in which she also described what happened at the interview, as background to the phone call with the chair), which had left her feeling troubled. However, she didn’t seriously consider legal action. She learned about nine months later that Law School X had hired two men of color and that one had been asked to teach Contracts, even though he had never taught Contracts and did not write on topics even remotely related to Contracts. A White woman professor at Law School X, whose research areas overlapped significantly with Liz’s, remarked to Liz, when discussing Liz’s candidacy, that she and other (unspecified) faculty members had struggled with the issue of hiring new colleagues “who looked just like” those already on the faculty.