Faculty at U predominantly white

The percentage of minority faculty members increased 90 percent from 1996 to 2006.

Justin Horwath

Full- and part-time faculty members at the University are overwhelmingly white – more so than at most Big Ten colleges and universities – and despite rising numbers of minorities teaching at the University, huge gaps persist between minorities and white faculty members.

The University sat in the lower half of the Big Ten in 2005, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education report, which tracked the race and ethnicity of faculty members at more than 2,700 colleges and universities in the United States for the fall of that year.

Six universities in the Big Ten had higher percentages of minority faculty members, while two had the same as the University, at 15 percent. The University of Michigan ranked highest in the Big Ten that year, with 20 percent of its faculty classified as minorities. Penn State University was at the bottom with 13 percent.

Rickey Hall, assistant vice president for the Office of Equity and Diversity, which heads system-wide diversity initiatives, said diversifying the faculty at the University is a necessary step to achieve the Strategic Positioning Plan that aims to put the University among the top three research institutions in the world.

Although the University is taking some steps to diversify, he said barriers abound in recruiting minority faculty members, such as location, retention and gauging personal opinions on the institution.

“We’ve got to have people that understand equity and diversity issues and have people talking about it in a way that is very useful,” Hall said. “For the most part folks are pretty committed; it’s just how you go about doing it.”

At the University, the percentage of minorities on its faculty increased 90 percent from 1996 to 2006, while the number of whites teaching increased 3 percent, according to University data. The population of faculty members at the University, meanwhile, rose 10 percent.

Still, a significant gap remains. Of the 2,405 faculty at the University in 2006, 329 of them were classified as minorities, according to University data.

Doug Hartmann, assistant professor of sociology, likened the gap’s existence to a larger, socioeconomic problem.

“The problem is though, all of us are doing these initiatives and we’re all competing for what is still a very small number of potential,” he said. “We’ve made good-faith efforts to try to recruit but not enough to change the overall pattern.”

For its part, the University maintains a number of initiatives to draw minority faculty. Catherine Squires was tenured last year under a College of Liberal Arts initiative, in which the School of Journalism and Mass Communication was awarded a proposal to recruit a professor with a journalism endowment.

“Part of the reason I came to the SJMC is that I was convinced that the college and SJMC were committed not only to getting ‘token’ people of color on the faculty,” Squires said in an e-mail. “But also to use resources to support those faculty in endeavors that will help increase diversity on campus on multiple fronts.”

Last year, there were roughly two minority students for every one minority faculty member. At the same time, there were about two white students for every white faculty member.

In total, the student-to-faculty ratio on campus hovered at about three students per faculty member last year.

Patrick Farrell, a sociology sophomore, is from Horicon, Wis., where the population is about 3,500. He said it’s to the University’s benefit to have a diverse faculty, being that many of its students are white, from the Midwest and have never been introduced to different cultures. He is a member of the Diversity, Ethics and Peace club.

“Cultural diversity is much along the lines of a broader education,” he said. “I think that it’s good to not just read about it in a textbook but to understand different cultures.”