Dear BI Career Consultants:
What kinds of initiatives do higher education institutions need to create supportive environments that facilitate minority faculty retention?
Dr. Caroline S. Turner
associate professor of educational policy and administration,
University of Minnesota
The recruitment and retention of faculty of color remains one of the most difficult challenges facing American higher education. Research findings — whether qualitative or quantitative, whether numerical or narrative — demonstrate that faculty members of color are, at most, 10 percent of the total faculty, and many describe experiences of racial and ethnic bias in the workplace.
In order to reverse this trend and to tenure faculty members of color, institutions must learn to conduct business as unusual. Changing an institutional outcome requires institutional change. In a book I co-authored with Dr. Samuel L. Myers Jr., titled Faculty of Color in Academe: Bittersweet Success, we found that there is a need to focus on changing the higher education workplace environment to further embrace the value of a racial and ethnically diverse professoriate.
One of the most prevalent barriers to progress toward a representative faculty is recognizing and getting beyond myths. Myths act as barriers to progress in hiring and promoting faculty of color.
Examples of such myths include labor-market myths. Institutions feel that they cannot compete for faculty members of color but studies show that few scholars of color are, in fact, sought after.
Another myth is the model-minority myth. This myth promotes the perception that certain populations are successful and do not experience discrimination.
A third myth is that diversity is only for minorities. However, all can benefit from exposure to diverse perspectives.
Finally, the level-playing-field myth would dismiss countless studies that document the added pressures placed on a faculty member of color in a predominantly White environment — such as biased student evaluations, differential role expectations, and the impact of value conflicts for faculty of color.
In addition, institutions can:
Incorporate diversity as a core value and stress the importance of commitment to diversity from all levels of the institution;
Broaden definitions of scholarship and restructure the faculty reward system;
Insure that all tasks undertaken by faculty are equally honored and recognized, rather than emphasizing one to the exclusion of others;
Dispel myths and develop systematic ways to address inequities in the hiring and promotion of faculty members of color;
Initiate institution-wide processes and practices that promote community and inclusion versus competition;
Develop ways to monitor progress;
Create institutional accountability so when a person is denied tenure, there is a recognition that the institution has failed the individual as well as the individual failed to gain tenure;
Encourage the development of cross-campus alliances that are devoted to thinking hard about how to promote institutional climates that support a racially diverse faculty;
Review hiring processes. Adopt fair and equal practices in faculty recruitment — such as search committees that are diverse in representation and informed of new scholarship — to ensure faculty of color, their concerns, and issues are included and respected;
Use legal theories of diversity to demonstrate that there is not a disconnect between legal standards and what you are doing on your campus. Race can be considered as one among a number of other factors that contribute to diversity, and diversity is a compelling interest in higher education.
Dr. Frank Hall,
professor of geoscience,
University of New Orleans
This is a question that is often missed in recruiting minority faculty. Many academic institutions voice a desire to have minority faculty but do not develop support structures for them. We are not hired as faculty solely because we are minorities, but because we have expertise and perspectives that are desirable to the department and university. However, for a faculty member to stay at that institution, it is important for this individual to receive support from fellow faculty. This will help create an environment in which she or he feels comfortable.
An important component of this issue is that other minority faculty members, especially those who are tenured or established, have to be there to provide support. Young professors need someone to guide them through the system because they are usually not aware of available resources, or where their emphasis should be so that they can attain tenure and do the best job possible. Therefore, it is very important to have someone there who will, essentially, serve as a mentor. Such support goes a long way in the growth of any new faculty hire.
I believe that this is also an institutional obligation. Administrators and other faculty members who are aware of a new minority hire should do whatever they can to help acquaint these newcomers with senior minority faculty. This can be very important — especially for individuals who are the first, and perhaps, only minorities hired within a department.
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