Epistemic Exclusion Initiative

MSU Spartan Head logIf we are going to truly create a culture in which scholars doing innovative interdisciplinary, and intersectional scholarship thrive, significant reform of the Reappointment, Promotion, and Tenure process will need to be undertaken. In July 2017, the Workgroup on Epistemic Exclusion (We2) came out with a Creating Inclusive Excellence Grant (CIEG) report (co-authors: Nicole T. Buchanan, Kristie Dotson, Michael O’Rourke, Marisa A. Rinkus, Isis H. Settles, and Stephanie E. Vasko) based on structured dialogues across Michigan State University that focused on issues of epistemic exclusion in the evaluation of scholarship through the reappointment, promotion, and tenure process.

The report articulates the meaning of epistemic exclusion this way:

In academia, EE arises when assessments aimed at producing better scholarship exclude certain types of research, where such devaluation can attach to the research conducted, the researcher, or both the research and the researcher. EE can operate formally through metrics used to evaluate scholarship and informally when the scholarship of certain social groups is not comprehended, appreciated, or recognized.

In order to put our commitments to equity, openness, and community into practice, the College of Arts & Letters intends to adopt the main recommendations of the We2 CIEG report, including their recommendation that the University undertake a reformation of the RPT process so that it “should be holistic and should emphasize faculty development; the process should begin with the offer letter and be reflected by consistent annual review processes that align well with the T&P process; among other specific elements, the value of service should be reconsidered, especially in light of the inequitable service burden that some faculty are expected to bear.”

The College is approaching these issues by developing a faculty development approach to RPT. To do this, we are working to create structures and practices that empower our faculty to chart their path of intellectual leadership as they undertake the RPT process. Over the course of a career, intellectual leaders share knowledge and expand opportunity, contributing to greater transparency and accelerating creativity. Intellectual leaders engage in mentorship of others, formally as instructors and informally. They also engage in stewardship of the institutional spaces for learning as a reciprocal dynamic, creating the conditions for greater equity.

Graphic relating values, mentorship, sharing knowledge and more in academia


The semi-transparent circles in the diagram are the things we should measure and reward. The solid ovals are the means by which we do these things, and they should not be confused with ends. Too often, these means are the only things we measure. A better measure of published scholarship, for instance, would look to evaluate the benefit of sharing the knowledge. This is a challenge CAL has taken up in conjunction with a group of other institutions and scholarly organizations in the HumetricsHSS project.

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