Low Number of Black Faculty, Students Draws Concern
A climate of racial hostility and discrimination at the University of Tennessee has led to a disproportionately low number of minority faculty and students, claims a campus group.
Members of the recently rekindled Black Faculty and Staff Association say the situation is worsening.
“I have watched the numbers of African American faculty and staff fluctuate wildly,” says Dr. Cynthia Griggs Fleming, associate professor of history at UT for nearly 20 years. “The numbers have never been as low as they are right now.”
Fleming, the main speaker at a news conference on campus last month, said there are only 39 Blacks out of about 1,000 full-time tenured and tenure-tracked faculty; only one Black department head in 25 departments in the College of Arts and Sciences; and there have been only two other Black department heads in 20 years.
“The reason why is because there has been a systematic attempt in many instances to circumvent search procedures that are already in place to ensure fairness,” Fleming says.
Attendees at the news conference said the situation has become a vicious cycle with the shortage of minorities in all positions creating a campus atmosphere that makes it more difficult to recruit Black and minority faculty, students and staff.
“Obviously, if the university had solved its problems (in these areas), we wouldn’t be here today (at the news conference),” says Theotis Robinson, UT vice president for diversity and equity.
Robinson said an ad hoc committee — including representatives of the faculty, staff, students and community — exists to address some of the issues.
Fleming has filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over her own unsuccessful bid to become chairwoman of UT’s history department.
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