This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

FSEC discusses value of greater diversity among students, faculty

Published: April 21, 2005

Contributing Editor

By the year 2015, half of all new college students will be from currently underrepresented populations, including African Americans, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans and Asians, according to a recent study of the Educational Training Service.

And, while it is estimated that students from these groups will make up 37.2 percent of all undergraduates by that time—up from 20.4 percent now—the rate of growth in diversity among faculty members lags far behind nationwide, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee heard yesterday.

Mattie L. Rhodes, clinical associate professor in the School of Nursing and chair of the senate's Affirmative Action Committee, reported that diversity of college faculty "has not nearly occurred at the same rate" as the steady growth in gender, racial and ethnic diversity in the student population.

U.S. Census Bureau data shows that in 2004, ethnic minorities made up 25 percent of the population, but "only 13.8 percent of nationwide college and university faculties," Rhodes said.

The American Association of University Professors found that the number of minorities who hold tenure-track faculty positions is "in many disciplines alarmingly low and in some cases, non-existent," Rhodes said.

The make-up of the UB faculty has remained nearly unchanged between 2002 and 2004, according to statistics from the Office of Equity, Diversity & Affirmative Action Administration. The statistics do not include EOC faculty members or positions in the Division of Athletics with faculty titles, according to Jessica Byerly, MIS manager for the office.

One area of concern, Rhodes said, is that the number of African-American tenure-track faculty decreased from 40 to 33 during the time period.

Of the 1,446 full-time faculty members at UB in 2002, 422 were female. Whites made up 80 percent of all full-time professors, African Americans 4 percent, Asians 14 percent, Hispanics 1 percent and Native Americans 0.6 percent.

In 2004, of 1,514 full-time faculty members, 450 were female, 78.9 percent were white, 3.4 percent were African American, 14.5 percent Asian, and 0.7 percent Native American.

"The rationale for diversification of faculty extends far beyond equal opportunity and equity," Rhodes said. "Faculty diversity contributes directly to educational quality. It assists in strengthening and contributing to better intercultural understanding; it offers exposure to all students to multiple and diverse scholarly perspectives drawn from a variety of life experiences.

"Evidence does suggest diverse faculty curricula and teaching methods produces students who are more complex and critical thinkers and more confident in traversing cultural differences," Rhodes said. "Diversity provides an opportunity to foster intercultural understanding and a strong community of inclusion."

The Affirmative Action Committee has several suggestions for increasing the diversity of the UB faculty, beginning with the recruitment of candidates from underrepresented populations.

"Don't assume there aren't any out there, they're unavailable or they're unqualified," Rhodes said.

Among the ways colleges and universities can increase their diversity are "grow your own" programs—which involve recruiting and hiring doctoral students from within the institution—and hiring senior faculty members who already have tenure at other institutions.

Rhodes also mentioned "block" hires, which involves hiring several women and/or minorities at one time, especially for departments that have not had such hires in a number of years, and offering employment opportunities to spouses of candidates as an effective way to secure a good hire.

Retaining a diverse faculty also requires efforts such as strong mentoring programs, Rhodes said. The UB Minority Faculty and Staff Association (MFSA) is one such program that makes itself available to candidates in order to introduce them to university life. The Affirmative Action Committee is working on writing a recruitment-and-retention guide to be available to all UB departments.

Samuel D. Schack, chair of the mathematics department, suggested offering a number of "interrupted career" positions to attract more women and minority candidates. He said he heard about the idea from a UB job candidate whose institution made such jobs available, promising those hired a "couple years to get back up to speed" in their research and teaching. As a result, Schack said, the institution was able to attract and hire several experienced instructors.

"As soon as you do that, you will have every department that wants to grow looking at the entire pool of applicants differently," Schack said.

Several senators discussed the difficulty of finding and securing qualified candidates from underrepresented populations.

"I don't think there will be perfect balance, but I think there are some areas where the numbers are low and there are things that could be done," Rhodes said.

In other business, Marilyn M. Kramer, head of the cataloging department of the University Libraries, reported on the SUNY Faculty Senate meeting held April 7-9 at the College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse. Carl Wiezalis of Upstate Medical University was elected senate president for 2005-07 at the meeting, which also was the last at which outgoing SUNY Chancellor Robert L. King presided.