Diversifying the Faculty

Article excerpt

The diversity of college and university faculties has been a subject of discussion, debate, and priority for several decades - particularly since the 1960s, when equity in higher education became a national priority as a result of the civil rights movement. Despite these discussions and the subsequent launching of several local and national programs to advance faculty diversity, the national report card on accomplishments remains unacceptably poor.

Why care about faculty diversity? Some would answer this oftenasked question with a pragmatic justification. Since women constitute almost 60 percent of U.S. college students, and because minorities will exceed 50 percent of the U.S. population before 2050, we must do a better job of preparing and hiring more persons from these groups for faculty positions in order to provide diverse role models for the nation's changing demographics. More compelling, however, is the argument that all students are better educated and better prepared for leadership, citizenship, and professional competitiveness in multicultural America and the global community when they are exposed to diverse perspectives in their classrooms - a view that comprised a good portion of the social science foundation that undergirded the University of Michigan's argument in support of affirmative action before the U.S. Supreme Court (Bollinger 2007).

Faculty diversity has been negatively influenced by the economic downturn (Gose 2009). In earlier days, many institutions addressed the issue of faculty diversity by throwing money at the problem (e.g., salary incentives for minority appointees, additional slots for minority hires, etc.). While these financial interventions had some degree of success, they probably have had mixed results over the long haul inasmuch as they are not always sustainable and they do not guarantee retention, promotion, or tenure.

NATIONAL DATA ON FACULTY DIVERSITY

As mentioned in the previous article, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES 2008) reports that just under 20 percent ot the nation's professoriate consists of persons of color - blacks/ African Americans (5.6 percent), Hispanic/Latinos (3.5 percent), Asian Americans (9.1 percent), and American Indians (1.4 percent). However, data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that minority groups constitute roughly one-third of the U.S. population (Census Bureau 2009). Even more disturbing, the presence of underrepresented minorities (URMs) is less than 10 percent in certain disciplines. Donna Nelson (2007) at the University of Oklahoma has surveyed the number of URMs (both men and women) in science and engineering faculties at the top research universities. These schools produce the lion's share of the nation's PhD graduates, many of whom join the nation's professoriate. In many cases, an extremely low percentage of URMs populate the departmental faculties of the top fifty institutions. In some fields - mathematics, computer science, astronomy, and physics - URMs constitute a little above 2 percent of the professoriate in 2007. For certain disciplines (e.g., mathematics and electrical engineering), there has been a decline in URM representation on departmental faculties. Nelson's data suggest that faculty diversity is not solely a "pipeline" problem. Instead, faculty hiring of URMs has not kept pace with their PhD attainment.

Similar data are reported for women in the professoriate. While women have made significant advances on college and university faculties in recent years, their faculty presence in many disciplines lags far behind that of men, particularly in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (with the exception of the biological sciences). In some disciplines (e.g., electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and physics) they constitute fewer than 10 percent of the professoriate in the top fifty research universities. Women of color fare even worse on college and university faculties. …