Preparing African American Males for the Professoriate: Issues and Challenges

By Heggins, Willie J. | The Western Journal of Black Studies, Summer 2004 | Go to article overview

Preparing African American Males for the Professoriate: Issues and Challenges


Heggins, Willie J., The Western Journal of Black Studies


Introduction

Opportunity and access continue to be at the heart of the U.S. educational system. Presently, large numbers of faculty who began their careers during the post-World War II time period are approaching retirement. During this major period of transformation, it is critical as ever to examine current approaches to the preparation of new faculty that will meet the demands of the changing milieu in higher education (Austin, 2002; Keller, 2001; Rice et. al., 2000). Critics argue that during the commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, institutional reform efforts have failed to align policy with appropriate structures in preparing minority graduates students who aspire to the faculty. The demands, challenges, and expectations for academic life for prospective faculty will be quite different in the near future. Given this, the critical link in preparing and nurturing a new generation of scholars will be to place emphasis on building bridges among individuals with different experiences and perspectives (Antony and Taylor, 2001; Gaff et. al., 2000).

This study which employed a critical ethnographic approach, examined contextual issues and challenges that confront the production and successes of African American men within the professoriate. A key assumption is that lasting change requires cultural transformation. This study is important to practitioners within the university system who provide training and development programs that support or enhance faculty and teacher preparation. Further, from a theoretical perspective, this study expands the discussion about what constitutes success in academe. It is important to incorporate new insights in developing theories of success that are grounded in an Afrocentric perspective. A goal of this research is to provide guidelines for future investigators who wish to resolve issues about success of African American males preparing for the professoriate. This study highlights structural barriers that contribute to the lack of representation of African American men within the academy. It tries to raise continued awareness of how issues and challenges contribute to the lack of representation of African American men in the academy. A particular emphasis is the development of strategies from an Afrocentric perspective toward supporting the preparation process for the professoriate.

Literature Review

African American rates of participation and degree attainment in higher education have displayed varying trends since the mid-1960's. These rates now show alarming and disproportionately low representation at each stage of the educational process, from baccalaureate to doctorate, (Allen, 1992; Fleming, 1984; Harris, 1996). African American men are underrepresented in many higher education faculty, particularly within research institutions.

From a historical perspective, the increase in African American professors at Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) resulted from the emergence of Black Studies programs and the demand for a Black presence among the teaching personnel at institutions where the number of Black students was increasing (Franklin, 1994). By the early 1970s many colleges and universities were actively recruiting African American faculty in their efforts to meet demands of the new emergent student population, and to fulfill requirements of the federal government. Federal pressure in the form of affirmative action policies, compelled post-secondary institutions to increase minority representation (Franklin, 1994). The result of this policy decision was an increased number of African American students enrolled in post-secondary institutions throughout the 1970s and 1980s (Allen, 1992).

Legislation provided opportunities for a new body of highly trained African American men and women who were teachers and scholars. Prominent examples include George E. Hayes and E. Franklin Frazier in Sociology; Abram L. …

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