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Minority Junior Professors Less Satisfied With Campus Climate Than White Professors

Minority professors at both private and public institutions are not as satisfied as their White counterparts with their institutions. According to a report by the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education, or COACHE, campus climate plays a significant role in the satisfaction disparity.

As part of the study, COACHE asked faculty members how well they thought their individual institutions’ policies contributed to their success at the institution. Other questions revolved around the clarity of the tenure-track process and how welcoming the climate was to the professors. In the section that examined campus climate, culture and collegiality, minority junior faculty were not as satisfied with their institutions as White professors.

On the question that asked “how well you fit,” the average satisfaction rate for ethnic minority junior professors was 3.73, on a five-point scale. The mean satisfaction response from female faculty was 3.76, while the mean for White professors was 3.83.

Minority professors also were less likely than Whites to agree that their supervisors treated them fairly, and were less likely to say that they were satisfied with the level of interaction with senior faculty members.

Dr. Cathy Trower, the co-principal investigator of the report, says that areas that minority junior faculty members showed low satisfaction are related to their low numbers on campuses.

“We see female faculty and faculty of color expressing significantly less satisfaction in regards to how well they ‘fit,’” she says. “Issues of inequality, in regards to how junior faculty members are treated within each department and how immediate supervisors evaluate their work, seem to be contributing to this problem.

“Without changes aimed at correcting these feelings of dissatisfaction, it is likely that colleges will continue to struggle to retain men and women of color in all disciplines and White women in fields in which they have been historically underrepresented, like science and engineering,” Trower continues.

However, though the opinions of minority and White junior professors were slightly different, one thing that they agreed on was the effectiveness of informal mentoring. Both groups ranked informal mentoring as the most effective recruitment and retention practice, that include peer reviews of teaching and research and paid or unpaid personal leave time.

“Junior faculties of color often at times are in the minority and therefore may experience isolation and less of a sense of fit and value in their department,” says Trower. “Thus is the importance of informal mentoring of faculty of color … by senior faculty who take them under their wings.”

The Internet-based Tenure-Track Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey was completed by nearly 7,000 junior faculty of the 77 colleges and universities that are members of COACHE. Professors were surveyed about their experiences during the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 academic years.

The report, funded by member colleges and universities, the Ford Foundation and the Atlantic Philanthropies, is used to assist institutions in recruiting and retaining junior faculty.

In addition to the report, COACHE also hosts workshops, conferences and facilitates open dialogue on best practices for recruiting and retaining faculties.

COACHE member institutions include Harvard, Stanford University, Northeastern University, Virginia Commonwealth University and Winston-Salem State University.

–Margaret Kamara


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