Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

The Numbers May Look Good, But

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

The Numbers May Look Good, But

Article excerpt

Data collected by the federal government on the diversity and distribution of the nation's academic labor force show that the University of New Mexico (UNM) ranks near the top at recruiting and retaining Latino/Hispanic faculty. In fact, when only tenured and tenure-track faculty are considered (see table on page 31). UNM ranks number one among Research I and II institutions (the ranking omits all University of california schools, as well as four other institutions for whom data were not available).

However, raw numbers don't tell the whole story, say UNM professors and administrators.

While UNM Dr. President Richard Peck is proud of the university's ranking, he says the reality is that the numbers are eye-catching only in relation to other campuses. When compared to the general population of the state or the region, those numbers don't seem as impressive.

Statistics reflecting the fail 1995 UNM faculty show Latnos accounted for 8 percent -- the highest percentage in the nation. However, the state of New Mexico is 42 percent Latino. Additionally, Latino undergraduates and graduates constitute 26 percent and 14 percent of UNM's student population, respectively.

Nevertheless, there are close to 100 tenured or tenure-track Latino faculty at UNM. And according to Peck, the reason that so many Latino instructors are attracted to the university is that they are attracted to the state of New Mexico.

"It's the only state with two official languages, and most of the Hispanic faculty are bilingual," he says. "That's part of it."

When Latinos are recruited to UNM, they come to a campus with a large, supportive Latino community, says Peck.

"They don't come here as a token," he says. "It makes it easier."

Peck says that UNM needs to recruit more Latino faculty and is currently hiring them at a rate of 12 percent each year.

"We need higher numbers," he says. "But the real problem is that not enough institutions are producing graduate students into the faculty pipeline."

As a member of the board of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), Peck says the organization is keenly aware of the pipeline issue. Although HACU functions as a referral network, the organization is aware that ultimately, academia has to do more to increase the number of Hispanic graduate students entering that pipeline.

Of equal concern to Peck is the small percentage of Native American students and faculty on campus. Although Native Americans account for 10 percent of the state's population, they only make up 3 percent of the university's undergraduates. They may attend as freshmen, but they don't return for their sophomore year.

"If they come back and persist, they graduate," notes Peck.

According to Peck, who will be leaving his post as president in the near future, 40 percent of those who have been considered as his replacement are either Hispanic or African American.

Targeted Recruiting

Dr. Jose Rivera, associate professor in public administration, says that the reason UNM has had large numbers of tenured Hispanic faculty is the aggressive recruitment efforts of the Southwest Hispanic Research Institute (SHRI) -- a unit be headed for twelve years. During his tenure there, the UNM administration fully supported the efforts of SHRI to bring Hispanic faculty into all the disciplines. Much of it was done with the use of joint appointments. Prior to the SHRI effort, there were no Hispanics in many of the disciplines -- including linguistics, anthropology, and economics.

"Today, the same support and the same administrators are no longer there," says Rivera, who believes that looking at the raw numbers is not always the best measuring stick. …

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