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Auditor: University of Missouri-Kansas City Faculty Diversity Is ‘Worst’ He’s Seen

Auditor: University of Missouri-Kansas City Faculty Diversity Is ‘Worst’ He’s Seen
Minority students say low faculty expectations are part of problem

The University of Missouri-Kansas City has a serious problem with its racial climate and a serious lack of diversity in its faculty, according to an audit commissioned by the school.

The audit, conducted by an assistant professor at Pennsylvania State University, also says classrooms are the most racially inhospitable places on the campus and that Black and Hispanic students felt isolated on campus. Students of both races told auditors they often felt offended by faculty’s seemingly low expectations of them.

UMKC Provost Bruce Bubacz says he was startled when he saw the results of the report.

“I know my colleagues. If there are things interpreted as racist, I don’t believe they are deliberate,” he says. “Still, this has to be communicated to the faculty. Whether or not it is true, it obviously is the perception of students.”

Dr. Shaun R. Harper, a research associate at the Center for the Study of Higher Education at Penn State, conducted the audit.

He says when it comes to faculty diversity, “UMKC is the worst compared with any other school I have visited in the country.”

Of the 115 full professors at UMKC, only three are Black and one is Latino, according to the audit. The university employs a total of 20 Black and four Hispanic professors, including associate and assistant professors. The school has 408 faculty members.

“We are at a crisis when it comes to the African-American community at UMKC,” Dr. Donald Matthews, director of African-American studies, told the students attending a recent rally on the campus.

“The attrition rate among Black students is awful,” he says. “There are only four African-American and Latino full professors here … That needs to change. Challenge the system to do what is right.”

Robert Herron III, a Black, 20-year-old student, considered leaving UMKC this year.

“When I came here it felt like culture shock to me,” says Herron. “I found that odd because I was born and raised in Kansas City. It is not a sensitive community for Black students. If I stay, the only reason will be to help affect change.”

The audit suggested hiring more Black and Hispanic faculty, as well as a chief diversity officer. It also suggested improving academic advising and mentoring efforts for minority students, and investing in a Hispanic culture center.

“This is something that does have to be addressed,” says Bubacz, adding that the university will begin training recruiters this summer in how to find faculty candidates from under-represented groups.
The audit showed Hispanic and Black students felt no sense of community on campus, causing those students, especially males, to leave the school or to struggle to graduate.

Harper found only 17.2 percent of Black males graduating within six years compared with 56.4 percent of their female counterparts. A similar disparity exists among Hispanics, with 33.3 percent of Hispanic women graduating in six years and only 12.5 percent of Hispanic men. 

Associated Press



Depression Rate Holds Steady for Black Women

Depression rates among White girls drop as they age, but remain steady among Black girls, according to a new study by Northeastern University professor Dr. Debra L. Franko.

Franko and her colleagues examined self-reported symptoms of depression and analyzed the differences between more than 2,000 Black and White females between the ages of 16 and 23. The study was published in a recent issue of Journal of Adolescent Health.

Researchers say the differences occur because of known racial and ethnic health disparities.

“We believe that issues like access to proper care, the stigma of mental health problems and insurance status may be contributing factors to African-American girls suffering from depression being less likely to receive the necessary treatment,” says Franko, a professor of counseling and applied psychology. “This is clearly an area that needs to be investigated further.”

Franko and her colleagues also theorize that the different ways Black and White girls view their bodies may contribute to the difference in depression rates between the two groups. Young White teenagers tend to be unhappy with their bodies, leading many to show symptoms of depression early on. As they get older and become more satisfied with their shapes, their level of depression decreases.

Conversely, most Black girls accept their bodies in their early teens and early adulthood. Because there is no drop off in depression levels as their bodies change, the depression rate among Black women remains steady.

The sample of Franko’s study looked at 1,146 Black and 1,075 White girls. The girls were participants in the decade-long National Growth and Health Study, conducted between 1987 and 1998.

— Diverse staff reports

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