U struggles to recruit, retain minority professors

by Courtney Lewis

When David Taylor became dean of General College 14 years ago, 7 percent of University faculty were minorities. Although that number has risen to 12 percent, retention for minority faculty at universities nationwide has remained stagnant.

In 1975, blacks made up 4.4 percent of faculty nationally. By 1997, that figure rose to only 4.9 percent.

Taylor, who conducts an annual workshop on campus about retaining minority faculty, said the problem isn’t minority recruitment – the difficulty lies in keeping diverse faculty on staff.

“We can’t possibly pretend that we are an institution of excellence if we are exclusionary,” Taylor said.

In Taylor’s experience, office environment factors into faculty members’ job satisfaction, he said, and at times can be inhospitable to people of color.

“We expect everyone to come in and work together as if there are no differences,” Taylor said. “Psychologically and sociologically, that’s just not true.”

Lack of support and respect for research publication helps create an unsuitable environment, Taylor said, and minoirty faculty quit because of the unwelcome atmosphere.

“We need to create a workplace environment that is nurturing, supportive and equitable to faculty of color,” Taylor said.

Helena Boe, a CLA junior and Africana Student Cultural Center staff member, said in the three years she’s been at the University, she’s had few classes taught by black professors.

“I would love to be taught by an African-American faculty member, but there aren’t any in my major,” Boe said.

Boe, an economics and global studies major, said she feels black faculty are recruited only for classes with a more cultural focus.

“The University doesn’t seem to reach out to the African-American culture,” Boe said. “I would like to see more diversity in the recruitment.”

First hosted in 1998, the conference wrestled with retention data to discover what strategies could create improvement.

Taylor said the goal was to understand what the individual’s role is in the process of change.

Robert Jones, vice president for campus life and vice provost for faculty and academic personnel, said the event was one of the few forums of its kind to address faculty concerns.

“We want to find the best and brightest and reflect society,” Jones said. “We need to make sure women and people of color are represented in the faculty.”

Jones said the educational process is also about learning and understanding the real world.

“We live in a very diverse society. It’s important for students to experience that diversity,” Jones said.

Taylor said without recruitment of minority faculty, the University and its students could be missing out on some great minds. He said change is mandatory in order to keep some of the best professors on staff.

“The future will dictate that if we don’t (change), we will lose our competitive edge,” Taylor said. “It’s in our best interest.”

Taylor said he tries to add programs to further class education and information about issues facing minorities.

“I’ve seen a positive growth,” he said. “But there’s a lot more that needs to be done.”

Courtney Lewis welcomes comments at [email protected]