In the Name of Diversity: The Departure of a Popular Hispanic Professor at Stanford Spurs Debate on Whether Universities Should Offer Extra Incentives to Retain Minority Faculty

Article excerpt

PALO ALTO, Calif.

When word spread around campus that Dr. Luis R. Fraga, a 15-year associate professor in Stanford University's political science department, was considering a job offer at another university, students circulated a petition to retain the popular Hispanic professor. In December, students and alumni presented the "Keep Professor Fraga at Stanford" petition, with 1,000 signatures, to university administrators, urging them to offer him incentives to stay.

"It is important to have a Latino professor" says Stanford alum Lizet Ocampo. "When you see someone like you who has achieved so much, it does help students who are Latino."

An article in the school newspaper about the petition sparked debate about whether institutions should offer retention incentives to prominent minority faculty like Fraga. According to Stanford's Web site, approximately 3 percent of its faculty are Hispanic.

"It is both racist and insulting the way some people pushing the 'Keep Fraga' petition regularly cite the fact that Prof. Fraga is non-White as a primary reason why the university should do everything it can to make sure he stays at Stanford" wrote one student in an online forum.

Some students argued that offering incentives for Fraga was tantamount to providing him special treatment because of his minority status. The debate illustrates a dilemma facing higher education institutions: how to ensure faculty diversity without the types of race-conscious preferential treatment that have come under scrutiny in admissions policies.

Dr. William B. Harvey, vice president and chief officer for diversity and equity at the University of Virginia, says offering incentives to minority faculty is no different than offering extra incentives to any other valued faculty member.

"I would think they would want to keep him, not just because he is Latino, but because he is outstanding;' Harvey says of Fraga.

Outstanding is exactly how many of his current and former students describe Fraga. He encompasses everything a good professor should be, Ocampo says.

Despite the show of support from the Stanford students and alumni, Fraga recently accepted a job offer from the University of Washington, which doubled his salary. Retention efforts, Fraga says, often involve the university, in this case Stanford, matching or exceeding another institution's offer. He says he gave Stanford a copy of UW's five-page offer letter last summer; Stanford says it made Fraga a "competitive offer." This summer, however, Fraga begins his new position as associate vice provost for faculty advancement at UW, where he will also serve as director of the Diversity Research Institute and as a political science professor. …