Some faculty at the University of Arizona have said they believe there are not enough people of color employed as professors on campus and are clamoring for administrators to enforce a way to even out the numbers.
From 2009 to this year, 40 Asian, 3 black and 12 Latino educators were hired, in addition to two scholars who are “two or more races,” and 178 white educators, according to university figures recently reported on in the Daily Wildcat newspaper.
Apparently that is an outrage to some.
“They should be ordering every dean and not giving a raise to any dean, I would hope, until they do something about it … We’re not doing shit,” Andrew Silverman, a retired University of Arizona law professor, was quoted in the Wildcat as saying at a recent faculty senate meeting. “We’re not doing anything in this university. Look at these figures.”
However, the comments come on the heels of a new policy implemented in August that tasks campus hiring committees to have at least one person from outside its department on the panel. The policy also calls on committee members to attend a workshop that teaches about unconscious bias, the newspaper reports.
At the meeting, Silverman said administrators should order staff to increase diversity, as opposed to teaching it through workshops, but administrators voiced concerns about breaking the law, the Wildcat reports.
The figures in question did not include hires from the Strategic Priority Faculty Initiative, which Tom Miller, associate provost for faculty affairs, says would add 20 more minority hires to those numbers. Miller, who presented the data at the meeting, said the findings were still troubling: “We need to step up and take responsibility for hiring faculty who will help us meet the needs of our diverse students and constituents.”
Asked by The College Fix why the color of a potential or existing professor’s skin is important, and whether the university should place a hiring emphasis on racial or ethnic background instead of merit and qualifications, Miller said the campus wants to aim for “excellence through diversity, including all sorts of differences in background, experience, and perspective.”
“We value UA’s achievements as one of the most broadly accessible major research universities in the country, and we see engagements with the cultures, needs, and experiences of this region as a major part of our distinctive character,” Miller stated in an email to The Fix.
According to university officials, faculty diversity is an issue because more than 40 percent of incoming students have a minority background. At the faculty meeting, Miller said diversity could be achieved through more conscious hiring efforts and more inclusive hiring pools, the Wildcat reports.
Comments posted after the article offered a variety of perspectives on the issue. Some were supportive.
“Why is the assumption … that if minority then not qualified or meritorious?” posted a commenter named Prof. Martinez. “I’ve served on hiring committees and have seen both the CVs and other qualifications of these ‘minority’ candidates, and 9 times out of ten they are overly-qualified and overly-accomplished when compared to their white applicant counterparts. They have to be more meritorious just to be taken serious by these hiring committees, and still we see these disparities. It’s not about merit ya’ll, it’s about the institution reproducing sameness.”
Others were not so convinced.
“It is amazingly easy to divide commenters into two groups: white males, and all others,” posted Egalatarianist. “As a member of the former group, I would repudiate the nonsense assumption that the hiring of non-white or non-male lowers the quality of the hired employee. THAT, my friends, IS the racism and sexism inherent in the hiring process.”
Said another: “What does the color or the ethnicity of a professor have to do with the quality of education I receive? I would think the UA would hire based on merit and proven success. Not once have I had a class where I thought damn I wish this professor was a minority he would know so much more biochemistry.”
Fix contributor Katie Jones is a student at the University of Arizona.
IMAGE: Danny Fowler/Flickr