The numbers may look good, but… – University of New Mexico, decrease in Hispanic faculty

Data collected by the federal government on the diversity and
distribution of the nation’s academic labor force show that the
University of New Mexico (UNM) ranks near the top at recruiting and
retaining Latino/Hispanic faculty. In fact, when only tenured and
tenure-track faculty are considered (see table on page 31). UNM ranks
number one among Research I and II institutions (the ranking omits all
University of california schools, as well as four other institutions
for whom data were not available).

However, raw numbers don’t tell the whole story, say UNM professors and administrators.

While UNM Dr. President Richard Peck is proud of the university’s
ranking, he says the reality is that the numbers are eye-catching only
in relation to other campuses. When compared to the general population
of the state or the region, those numbers don’t seem as impressive.

Statistics reflecting the fail 1995 UNM faculty show Latnos
accounted for 8 percent — the highest percentage in the nation.
However, the state of New Mexico is 42 percent Latino. Additionally,
Latino undergraduates and graduates constitute 26 percent and 14
percent of UNM’s student population, respectively.

Nevertheless, there are close to 100 tenured or tenure-track Latino
faculty at UNM. And according to Peck, the reason that so many Latino
instructors are attracted to the university is that they are attracted
to the state of New Mexico.

“It’s the only state with two official languages, and most of the
Hispanic faculty are bilingual,” he says. “That’s part of it.”

When Latinos are recruited to UNM, they come to a campus with a large, supportive Latino community, says Peck.

“They don’t come here as a token,” he says. “It makes it easier.”

Peck says that UNM needs to recruit more Latino faculty and is currently hiring them at a rate of 12 percent each year.

“We need higher numbers,” he says. “But the real problem is that
not enough institutions are producing graduate students into the
faculty pipeline.”

As a member of the board of the Hispanic Association of Colleges
and Universities (HACU), Peck says the organization is keenly aware of
the pipeline issue. Although HACU functions as a referral network, the
organization is aware that ultimately, academia has to do more to
increase the number of Hispanic graduate students entering that
pipeline.

Of equal concern to Peck is the small percentage of Native American
students and faculty on campus. Although Native Americans account for
10 percent of the state’s population, they only make up 3 percent of
the university’s undergraduates. They may attend as freshmen, but they
don’t return for their sophomore year.

“If they come back and persist, they graduate,” notes Peck.

According to Peck, who will be leaving his post as president in the
near future, 40 percent of those who have been considered as his
replacement are either Hispanic or African American.

Targeted Recruiting

Dr. Jose Rivera, associate professor in public administration, says
that the reason UNM has had large numbers of tenured Hispanic faculty
is the aggressive recruitment efforts of the Southwest Hispanic
Research Institute (SHRI) — a unit be headed for twelve years. During
his tenure there, the UNM administration fully supported the efforts of
SHRI to bring Hispanic faculty into all the disciplines. Much of it was
done with the use of joint appointments. Prior to the SHRI effort,
there were no Hispanics in many of the disciplines — including
linguistics, anthropology, and economics.

“Today, the same support and the same administrators are no longer
there,” says Rivera, who believes that looking at the raw numbers is
not always the best measuring stick.

For example, according to Rivera, a campus like UNM should be not
be compared to ones in states such as North Dakota, Kansas, or Iowa.
One hundred faculty members sounds good, but it’s not so good
considering New Mexico’s population. If anything, UNM should be
compared to schools in California, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, and
possibly New York and Florida.

Also, he says that a problem with many surveys that count Latinos
is that many don’t differentiate betweeen those born or raised here and
those brought here as adults or as professionals. He says Latino
scholars support the hiring of Latin American faculty, but feel that
their numbers should not be used to show that schools are educating and
hiring the indigenous Latino population.

“Even if UNM aggressively pursued a policy recruiting Hispanic
faculty, it would take fifty years to achieve parity” according to his
guidelines, says Rivera.

The best that can be done is for government and foundations to
identify the top ten colleges and universities which are producing
Hispanic graduates, and concentrate on getting them into graduate
school and into the faculty pipeline, he says.

Dr. F. Chris Garcia, a long-time UNM political science professor,
says that the problem is that the numbers may have peaked and the
university may have already lost its top ranking. The problem isn’t so
much the ranking, because UNM will always be somewhere near the top.
Instead, the problem is that the university is losing many of its
senior faculty to other more aggressive institutions.

UNM has had a hiring freeze. Additionally, it is beset with
financial problems which prevent the university from offering
competitive salaries and raises.

“We’re losing people, and we will continue to do so,” laments Garcia.

And Rivera agrees with that assessment. Although he does not have
access to numbers more recent than 1995, he cites what he calls the
“knowledge count” as evidence that Latino faculty numbers are declining.

“We [Latino professors] know each other. The numbers are small
enough to know that many professors have left and have not been
replaced,” says Rivera.

Another reason for the decline, according to Garcia, is that
although UNM produces many Ph.D.s, the university has long held a
policy of not hiring their own.

“That restriction is now being lifted,” he says.

The fact that UNM achieved such a large number of Hispanic faculty
is partly attributable to political pressure from the Chicano movement
— on and off-campus — during the 1960s and 1970s, says Garcia. To
this day, Latino faculty do not hesitate to call for assistance from
influential people off-campus.

Another reason for the UNM numbers is the aggressive Latino
administrators who have fought for more faculty. And Garcia agrees
that, as Peck noted, UNM provides a relatively comfortable haven for
Hispanics.

“Despite better offers, many Hispanic faculty have stayed here
because they are rooted and have familial ties here. That’s not the
case elsewhere,” Garcia says.

Felipe Gonzales, the current director of SHRI, says that UNM has
been steadily losing senior Latino faculty for five year —
particularly the last three. The solution, he says is to emulate what
has happened at the University of Texas-Austin, where Latino faculty
have lobbied Latino legislators. The decline in Latino faculty may have
to be remedied by the state legislature in Santa Fe, he says.

COPYRIGHT 1998 Cox, Matthews & Associates



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