VOLUME 33, NUMBER 20 THURSDAY, March 7, 2002

Retention of minority faculty urged

send this article to a friend

Reporter Assistant Editor

The university not only needs to hire more minority faculty members, it needs to figure out how to keep them once they're here, the co-chairs of the Faculty Senate Affirmative Action Committee told the senate's executive committee at its Feb. 27 meeting.

David Banks and Gerard Rosenfeld, both professors of anthropology and committee co-chairs, reported that their panel has been comparing UB's search procedures with other "benchmark" campuses, such as Stony Brook, in the hopes of improving the process at UB in order to gain more diverse applicant pools and to ensure that once minority faculty members are hired, they feel they are a part of the campus community.

"We've had long-term discussions about why minority faculty often leave after a short time at UB," Banks said. "They don't feel part of the scene and don't feel they pull their weight as faculty members."

The committee is finalizing a year-long study of the issue, and plans to make some recommendations by next year, Banks said, adding that committee members also are waiting for the report of the UB Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Diversity, which is due near the end of this semester.

Rosenfeld told his colleagues that one of the disappointments of his career "is that this issue is still here."

"We're having the same conversation we've had since the 1950s and 1960s. It's in the enactment and implementation of ideas that make them successful," Rosenfeld said, suggesting that the university include diversity as part of its mission statement.

"We have relatively few minorities across the disciplines, across the entire campus. It's not only important to see who's in what department, but what their experiences are," he said.

Rosenfeld added that there still is much work to be done, and that while people have been interested in this issue for years, "it's time we said to ourselves, 'we can't be that bad; we can't be that insufficient; we can't be that devoid of ideas and will that we can't solve this problem after 40 and 50 years.'"

"I'm insulted by having been here 29 years that I should be working at a place that has this terrible record on affirmative action and I don't want to retire until something is done on this issue," Rosenfeld continued, pointing out that there is no way to quantify statistically the racist attitudes that still exist within departments. Several senators agreed that when an institution has visible minorities, it's more likely that minority candidates will stay.

Loyce Stewart, director of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Affirmative Action Administration, said the Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Diversity is looking into the "environment and climate" at UB because it is an issue in faculty retention. She added that both the Affirmative Action Committee and the Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Diversity are looking into ways of assisting departments in retention and recruitment efforts.

Several senators disputed the contention that minority faculty "just don't exist" in many disciplines, such as philosophy and the hard sciences, and that the weather is a barrier to recruitment. "Boston had a terrible winter last year—they didn't leave Harvard in droves. It's such a ridiculous and absurd argument," Rosenfeld said.

Moreover, Stewart said that very few minority candidates reach the stage to apply for tenure. "We have very few in the pipeline. We usually lose our junior faculty prior to them even coming up for tenure—they don't get to the sixth-year," Stewart said, adding that minority faculty often receive better offers in a more supportive climate. "This is an issue that really needs to be addressed. We've had three promotions this year (of minority faculty) but we also lost five faculty members," she said, adding that there are departments on campus that vigorously recruit minority faculty, but have no intention of hiring them. "We have much more diversity in students, which is why our faculty needs to be more diverse," she said.

Lilliam Malave, associate professor of learning and instruction, and acting director of the Urban Education Institute, voiced the concern that minority faculty members often find that their research concerns are not as valued, understood or supported by other members of their department. "There is a lack of a scholarly community to share scholarly issues and concerns," she said. Furthermore, there is no mechanism in place to encourage departments to understand the issues minority faculty face, she said. "We don't have a plan that has resulted in success in the last so many years," she added.

Rosenfeld noted that the issue is not just a minority problem—"it's a problem for all of us who are sensitive to these issues whoever we are."

"This issue is so elusive that the best minds of our time have been unable to solve it," he said. "It's an embarrassment that we're still having the same discussions we were having in the '50s and '60s."


Front Page | Top Stories | Briefly | Electronic Highways
Kudos | Letters | Mail |
Obituaries | Q&A | Sports
Exhibits, Notices, Jobs
| Events | Current Issue | Comments? | Archives
Search | UB Home | UB News Services | UB Today