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Too many ‘old, white male’ college presidents, American Council on Education says

Higher ed group urges campus leaders to hire based on ‘gender, race, ethnicity’

A progressive higher education group is facilitating strategies to replace “older, White and male” college presidents with women and people of color.

Within the next 10 years, American Council on Education leaders said they want to see schools implement new programs that promote race and gender “equity” among academic leaders, an Aug. 11 news release states.

During a two-day summit this month, the council brought together academics, administrators and education advocacy groups to brainstorm new ways to achieve that goal, the release states.

Attendees expressed concerns that college presidents generally are “still not representative of the students served,” it added.

The council, which openly supports several progressive causes on its website, such as college loan debt cancellation and gay marriage, represents more than 1,700 member organizations, including hundreds of accredited universities, and advocates for public policy.

Hollie Chessman, director of practice at the council, said a new study from her organization shows a “slow progression towards parity and equity by gender and race and ethnicity,” as more colleges hire presidents from these demographics.

However, Chessman said the American College President Study also found leaders still are predominantly “older, White and male.”

The study, which surveyed 1,000 U.S. college presidents, found the average age is 60, and men outnumber women two to one.

One in four college presidents are people of color, and about one in 10 are women of color, according to the research.

Meanwhile, a little less than half are white men, and about one quarter are white women.

“Men of color” hold 15 percent of college presidential roles and “women of color” hold 12.5 percent, the research found.

The study also found more than half of college presidents plan to retire within the next five years.

That presents an “extraordinary opportunity” for those roles to be filled with women and people of color, Andy Brantley, president of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, said in response to the study.

Brantley told Diverse: Issues in Higher Education he would like to see a more diverse representation among college presidents.

“With significant turnover, there’s extraordinary opportunity for us to create pathways for more women and people of color to move into those roles,” he said.

Felicia McGinty, who attended the summit with the HERS Network, said one idea would be for colleges to create “equity-minded transition plans” and onboarding support services to encourage “marginalized candidates,” according to the news release.

“This is an opportunity to ensure everyone is on board to support that person and talk openly and be an ally when there are microaggressions and how a leader might experience those,” McGinty said. HERS advocates for women leaders in higher education.

The council, which seeks to be a “unifying voice on key higher education issues,” stated that it plans to introduce a pilot college president hiring program by the end of the year.

The summit was held just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court decided that college admissions cannot be based on a student’s race.

In the majority ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts said many university leaders “have concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the color of their skin. Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.”

MORE: Supreme Court strikes down affirmative action in landmark decision

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About the Author
Micaiah Bilger is an assistant editor at The College Fix.