Colleges struggle to fulfill promises to hire diverse faculty

Few minority students are in the doctoral pipeline

Many colleges are falling short of their goals to hire more diverse faculty, Matt Krupnick reports for The Hechinger Report

Colleges have been pushed to hire more minority instructors following last year's student protests, many of which demanded institutions create faculties that better reflect the diversity of today's students and the country's population.

However, many institutions have yet to fulfill these promises.

A recent study from the TIAA Institute found that faculty diversity has remained largely unchanged over the last 20 years, with few black, Hispanic, and Native American faculty on the tenure-track or working full-time.

Part of the problem is that there are few minorities on the path to doctoral degrees. According to the National Science Foundation, just 6.4% of U.S. citizen or permanent resident research doctoral recipients in 2014 were black, and only 6.5% were Hispanic. And a report from the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) found that blacks and Hispanics are less likely to earn degrees than other students who begin doctoral programs.

Even minorities who do receive doctorates often struggle to get hired by top institutions. For example, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology added 539 instructional staff members in 2014, according to the Education Department, but just six of those hires were black and 16 were Hispanic.  

Minority faculty who do get hired face other issues when arriving on campus. Minority faculty members often don't have role models to look up to, so they may feel out of place. Worse, the institution may treat them as "token hires." 

Measure the diversity climate at your institution

"When I talk to young faculty across the country, I'm surprised by the number of people who say it's not going well," says James Anderson head of University of Illinois' department of education policy, organization, and leadership. "It reminds us that we're still in a place where underrepresented minority faculty feel isolated."

Some universities have taken steps to build their pipeline of diverse faculty candidates by:

  • Adding diversity offices in doctoral programs;
  • Recruiting from historically black institutions; and
  • Offering minority students special programs and mentoring.

Both the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Maryland system have aggressively recruited minority graduate students in STEM disciplines. However, CGS also found that less than half of 21 major science, engineering, and math doctoral programs actively recruited non-white students.

 Minority students also need to see people like them in doctoral programs and faculty positions, or the cycle will continue.

"People don't understand what they're losing by not having faculty of color," says Marybeth Gasman, a higher education professor at the University of Pennsylvania. "And our institutions aren't remotely prepared for the influx of students of color they're going to see" (Krupnick, Hechinger Report, 9/12). 

Best practices for cultivating a diverse faculty

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