Affirmative Action and Academic Employment: Differentiation of Campus Perceptions in the University of Missouri

Article excerpt

Background

The Civil Rights movement incited the impetus for equality of opportunity in employment, which derived its strength from racial groups that had been victims of discrimination for many years (Spring, 1994). The Civil Rights Movement was a compelling force that motivated the nation's political leaders to enact strong civil rights legislation. The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 constituted the first national policy to address racial discrimination in employment. This was followed by federal anti-discrimination legislation in 1972, designed specifically to address problems in higher education (Connor, 1985). Women benefited more from these laws than any other group.

Affirmative action is a social policy that was initiated to promote and achieve employment equity for minorities and women who had been historically oppressed. It emerged as a legal principle from a small list of court challenges to employment and education and served to rectify exclusionary practices and historical social injustices. It was instituted not as an end, but rather as a means of ensuring the ultimate goal of equality of employment opportunity (Combs & Gruhl, 1986).

Purpose of this Study

In recent years, the University of Missouri System and its four campuses have made reasonable efforts to recruit more minority faculty but have not been very successful. This study attempts to construct a picture of the current status of affirmative action and its impact on the employment of minority faculty in the four-campus system of the University of Missouri. This was achieved through the analysis of faculty perceptions of affirmative action and institutional data on faculty employment.

Statement of the Problem

A preliminary review of faculty employment data for the four campuses indicated that African American and other minority faculty members are disproportionately represented in the University of Missouri system. African American represent 12%; American Indian 1%; Hispanic, 1%; and Asian, 33% of the total full-time tenured/tenure-track faculty in the system across disciplines. Despite the implementation of affirmative action during the 1960s to promote an increase in the employment of minorities, the statistics have not indicated any marked difference in the number of minority faculty. Moreover, extra efforts have been made to recruit African American faculty in the state of Missouri because they are the largest minority group in the state and the group whose history of discrimination suggests a need for remediation efforts. It is not only a problem in local public higher education institutions, but it is also a national concern.

Studies have documented the disparities for faculty of color and women faculty in the areas of employment, rank, and tenure/promotion. The figures for African American faculty have remained relatively static. Nicholas and Oliver (1994) found that African American faculty comprised approximately 4.4% of all faculty in 1994. Cross et al. (1995) reported that the national average of African American faculty was at 4.5% in 1995 and increased slightly in 1996 to 4.7% (Cross et al., 1996). Fields (1997) reported data from the National Center for Education Statistics indicating that, in 1997, roughly 88% of the full-time faculty at the nation's colleges and universities were white, while African American faculty comprised approximately 5%, largely concentrated in historically black colleges and universities.

Wilson (1995) also reported that white males hold higher paying jobs at Research Universities, while women and minorities are relegated to the less prestigious ranks of less prestigious colleges. He indicated that 66.5% of white males held the majority of high-paying faculty positions as compared to 21% of women, 3.2% of African American men and women, and 1.9% of Hispanic men and women in 1995. He also reported that in low-paying two-year colleges (the only category where white men were not the majority of the faculty), 6. …