Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Minority Scholars Share Strategies at 'Keeping Our Faculties' Conference

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Minority Scholars Share Strategies at 'Keeping Our Faculties' Conference

Article excerpt


When Dr. John Brooks Slaughter was being recruited as president of Occidental College, he asked one professor on the search committee how many African-Americans were on the faculty. He vividly recalls her answer: "You're looking at 50 percent of them."

Slaughter took the job and went to work building a more diverse faculty. The college sought out promising candidates and brought them to campus even before they had finished their doctorates. During his 11-year tenure, Occidental hired 74 tenure-track faculty--half of them minorities and half women. The lesson: diversity can happen with diligent effort and strong will.

"The truth of the matter is that the proverbial pipeline that many institutions say is the only thing keeping them from diversifying their faculty is much fuller than these institutions are willing to admit," says Slaughter, a former director of the National Science Foundation and now president and CEO of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering. "The only thing they need is the resolve to tap into it. Forming a diverse faculty will not happen by chance. It requires permanent and proactive measures."

About 350 people gathered last month to learn such lessons at the University of Minnesota's fourth Keeping Our Faculties conference. "It's a national problem that's been persistent for quite a long time--the under-representation of people of color in higher education, primarily in faculty positions," says Dr. Robert Jones, the senior vice president for system academic administration at the University of Minnesota and one of the founders of the event. "If you want to have a diverse student body on your campus, you need a diverse faculty as well. We just think it's absolutely critical to the future of higher education and the future of our national competitiveness."

Despite gains in recent years, the percentage of minority faculty still lags behind the overall population and the percentage of minority students. According to the American Council on Education, minorities account for less than 20 percent of full-time faculty at U.S. colleges.

"This is an issue that all higher education institutions face, regardless if you're a two-year community college, a state university, a private college or a big research university like Minnesota" says Jones. …

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