Resilience Post Tenure: The Experience of an African American Woman in a PWI

By Behar-Horenstein, Linda S.; West-Olatunji, Cirecie A. et al. | Florida Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

Resilience Post Tenure: The Experience of an African American Woman in a PWI


Behar-Horenstein, Linda S., West-Olatunji, Cirecie A., Moore, Thomas E., Houchen, Deidre F., Roberts, Kellie W., Florida Journal of Educational Administration and Policy


Educational institutions are believed to be places that practice the ideals of democracy. However, the Academy has often fallen short of providing equal treatment regarding career advancement and retention for culturally diverse faculty (West-Olatunji, 2005). An increasing body of educational literature focuses on the experiences of culturally diverse female faculty and presents a wealth evidence of the severe systemic disadvantages they face as a result of racism and sexism in gaining tenure and advancement in predominately White institutions (PWIs). Several factors adversely impact their career progression, such as: (a) isolation (McCray, 2011; Salazar, 2005), hidden rules, and supplemental but unspoken expectations during tenure review (Agathangelou & Ling, 2002), (b) less favorable judgments of their work compared to their White counterparts (Williams & Williams, 2006), (c) lack of or minimal opportunities for research collaboration (Patitu & Hinton, 2003), and (d) little or no mentoring (Alexander & Moore, 2008). Davies, Spencer, Quinn, and Gerhardstein (2002) presented evidence suggesting that the work of culturally diverse female faculty is more criticized than that of their White counterparts due to gender- and race-based stereotypes about their abilities. The threat of being personally reduced to a stereotype based on one's cultural affiliation can raise disruptive apprehensions among women who know they are being evaluated (Goff, Steele, & Davies 2008).

Such obstacles are often detrimental to the long-term success of culturally diverse faculty. Using positionality theory as a lens, this case study investigated the perspectives of a recently tenured African American female Counselor Educator. Positionality theory was employed because of its focus on power dynamics within relationships based upon social positioning (Cooks, 2003; Harley, Jolivette, McCormick, & Tice, 2002; West-Olatunji, Shure, Pringle, Adams, Lewis, & Cholewa, 2010). The outcomes of this study suggest that women and culturally diverse faculty may be targeted upon entrance into the Academy as unworthy of support by senior faculty due to misperceptions of their ability to contribute to the body of knowledge in their discipline. Suggestions for enhancing the mentoring experiences of culturally diverse faculty, especially women, are provided.

Background

The development of U. S. higher education parallels a social climate of race inferiority (Anderson, 2002). One leading factor that has contributed to the disenfranchisement of culturally diverse faculty has been their subjection to racist ideologies and racially discriminatory behaviors (Jayakumar, Howard, Allen, & Han, 2009). King and Watts (2004) posited that the Academy is a hostile institution exhibiting overt and covert racism. Frazier (2011) introduced the term, academic bullying, to describe the racial dynamics within the Academy. "Academic bullying is a concept ... that looks at systematic long-term interpersonal aggressive behavior as it occurs in the academic workplace ... in both covert and overt forms against faculty who are unable to defend themselves against the aggressive behavior committed by faculty in power ..." (p. 2).

The underrepresentation of culturally diverse faculty in PWIs can make junior faculty more vulnerable to isolation that threatens their personal and collective identities (Garrison-Wade, Diggs, Estrada, & Galindo, 2012). In response to institutional racism, culturally diverse faculty have reported lower levels of job satisfaction compared to their White counterparts (August & Waltman, 2004). Outcomes of prior studies have suggested that job satisfaction, including the sense of community, is strongly connected to retention (Johnsrud & Rosser, 2002). Therefore, for culturally diverse faculty, integration into the Academy continues to be one of the most relevant factors in successful career advancement. …

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