University to Study Tenure Bias Against Female, Minority Professors
The Faculty Council at Oklahoma State University will study faculty promotion, tenure and salaries for evidence of bias against female and minority professors.
The council’s Faculty Committee is designing a study comparing the university’s archived promotion, tenure and salary data to diversity factors such as race, gender and age, committee chairman Cathy Sleezer said last week.
In addition, the committee will survey current faculty members about their perceptions of the university’s promotion and tenure system, Sleezer said.
The committee announced the study after a December article in the student newspaper, The Daily O’Collegian, quoted Faculty Council President Bob Darcy as saying Black faculty members have a harder time getting reappointed and tenured than their White colleagues.
Sleezer said the study was in the works before then because of Faculty Council concerns over minority representation on campus. In the fall semester, 20 of the 1,404 faculty members at OSU-Stillwater were Black, according to the university’s institutional research office.
“This is so important, we need facts,” she said.
A Black professor, Earl Mitchell, a professor of biochemistry, said the underlying problem is a shortage of Blacks with doctoral degrees — the usual prerequisite for a faculty job.
“This is a problem that exists at many major institutions, and OSU is no exception,” Mitchell said. “My solution is we need to start producing more” Black Ph.D.s, especially in the hard sciences, he said.
Darcy told The Oklahoman that OSU has used excuses like that for too long.
“For almost 50 years, it’s been someone else’s problem — they don’t want to come here to a rural university or they don’t want to study veterinary medicine or whatever,” Darcy said. “The truth is, this university has not been a resource for African-American Oklahomans the way it has been for others, and that’s got to change,” Darcy said.
The university welcomes any information the faculty study may produce, said Cornell Thomas, OSU’s vice president for institutional diversity.
“The information they pull together will be beneficial for us,” Thomas said. “We have the same goals. I don’t see any disagreement with it.”
OSU President David Schmidly hired Thomas last year out of concern with the university’s low minority numbers, said OSU spokesman Gary Shutt.
“We’re like the faculty. It’s definitely something we’re concerned about and that’s one of the reasons Cornell Thomas was hired,” Shutt said.
In the seven months Thomas has been on the job, he has led the development of a diversity plan that focuses on improving the numbers of minority faculty and students.
“The primary reason is that we want to provide all our students the opportunity to live and work in a more global society,” Thomas said.
— Associated Press
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