Questioning Our Questions About Faculty Diversity

Updated Jul 9, 2021

I was recently contacted by a news outlet to share thoughts about the lack of faculty diversity within the UC (University of California) system. This is the kind of opportunity I especially welcome because it allows me to discuss both my scholarly expertise and insights through experiences.

However, on this particular occasion my excitement was soon met with other sentiments.

Dr. Constance IlohDr. Constance Iloh

I read the questions from the journalist.

Uneasiness.

I read them again.

The uneasiness was then replaced with concern.

The first question inquired how students can benefit from diverse and minority faculty. It was at this point I paused and realized I had nothing to type. I thought to myself: “How often are these questions asked regarding white faculty?”

As I sat with my concern, what was clear was that white faculty are never asked to justify their existence in the collegiate ecosystem. Moreover, no one probes what benefits they bring to students in postsecondary education. I wondered why there is constantly a quest to rationalize the existence of a diverse professoriate. What more was needed to accept this and why is the converse never interrogated?

I thought about the choices I had. I understood that questions like the one I was asked are often read as harmless and answered without hesitation. Ultimately, the best I could do was not answer the question, but instead, question it.

In doing so, I thought about the questions that really need answers.

What is being done to cultivate campuses ready for racially minoritized faculty?

Why are non-white faculty often discussed and positioned as aberrations in higher education?

How are colleges and universities combatting the very ills that keep out and push-out racially minoritized faculty?

What is being done now to prevent my sentiments here from being the same state of affairs in twenty years?

Dr. Constance Iloh is an anthropologist and professor who explores institutional culture, access, and exclusion across the P-20 education pipeline and beyond. You can learn more about Dr. Iloh by visiting her website www.constanceiloh.com