Why Aren’t There More College Professors Of Color? One Ivy League Professor Says “We Don’t Want Them”

September 28, 2016  |  

Image Source: Shutterstock

Image Source: Shutterstock

It’s not rocket science.  Study after study has proven that diversity in college faculty is as important as having a diverse student body. Yet the number of faculty of color is still low on campuses nationwide. According to a report from the National Center for Education Statistics, full-time faculty on college campuses still strongly favors white candidates (there are more than one million) over Black (which hasn’t even reached 100,000), Asian (86,000), and Hispanic (under 60,000) faculty. “While nearly 30 percent of undergraduate students around the nation are considered minorities, just over 12 percent of full-time faculty are minorities. That number drops to around 9 percent for full-time professors of color. Though half of all undergraduate students are women, roughly one-third of full-time professors are women,” reported the Huffington Post.

And one Ivy League professor  is more than frustrated with this issue. At a recent higher education forum, Marybeth Gasman, who directs the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions , was asked a about the lack of faculty of color at many majority institutions. Here answer in short: “The reason we don’t have more faculty of color among college faculty is that we don’t want them. We simply don’t want them.”

And she had the reasoning to back up her stark statement. “First, the word quality’s used to dismiss people of color who are otherwise competitive for faculty positions. Even those people on search committees that appear to be dedicated to access and equity will point to ‘quality’ or lack of ‘quality’ as a reason for not hiring a person of color,” Gasman wrote in The Hechinger Report. “Typically, ‘quality’ means that the person didn’t go to an elite institution for their Ph.D. or wasn’t mentored by a prominent person in the field. What people forget is that attending the elite institutions and being mentored by prominent people is linked to social capital and systemic racism ensures that people of color have less of it.”

Colleges also claim they simply cannot find people in the faculty pipeline. Gasman says this is just an excuse. “It is accurate that there are fewer people of color in some disciplines such as engineering or physics. However, there are great numbers of Ph.D.’s of color in the humanities and education and we still don’t have great diversity on these faculties,” she wrote.

Yet, noted Gasman, schools will go to great lengths to add white faculty on the staff. “I have learned that faculty will bend rules, knock down walls, and build bridges to hire those they really want (often white colleagues) but when it comes to hiring faculty of color, they have to ‘play by the rules’ and get angry when any exceptions are made,” she said.

Search committees and head hunters don’t help either, as they tend not to even consider people of color for these positions. Yet, Gasman said this can all change if the institutions take real action. She summed up, “This isn’t hard. The answers are right in front of us. We need the will.”

Diverse faculty only adds to the student experience at a school–experiences they will carry out into the workforce. “Having a diverse faculty — in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion — adds greatly to the experiences of students in the classroom,” wrote Gasman. “It challenges them — given that they are likely not to have had diversity in their K-12 classroom teachers — to think differently about who produces knowledge. It also challenges them to move away from a ‘white-centered’ approach to one that is inclusive of many different voices and perspectives.”

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