Higher education faculty lacks diversity

Guest Column 

In the past one hundred years, the face of the US universities has changed dramatically.

Where a college education was once reserved for the privileged few, there is now a plethora of opportunities for students of all backgrounds to enroll and attempt to earn a degree.

The goal to make universities a melting pot of students has succeeded, but that is only t
he first step.

The diversification of the student body requires a diversification of faculty as well, something that is not always seen in higher education.

Laura Gater in an article for the newsletter, University Business, writes, “I think having a diverse faculty is increasingly important today. We are in a global economy, an ever-shrinking world. It’s more important now to have faculty with a variety of experiences to engage students.”

Some university leaders have seen the need for a diverse faculty as well.

Although many universities are hesitant to post demographic statistics data on their faculty’ some have adopted official statements regarding their commitment to a diverse faculty.

The University of Illinois provides only the gender of their faculty members.

The most recent enrollment figures at the University of Illinois show a total student body of 42,061.

Of those students, 55 percent are male and 45 percent are female.

The faculty at the University of Illinois reports a significantly different ratio, with 65 percent of faculty members being male and only 35 percent reported as female.

This ratio holds true when looking at faculty separately as tenured and non-tenured, and when viewing the faculty as a whole.

While the University of Illinois should be given credit for being transparent with their faculty statistics, it is clear from the disparity between the male-to-female ratio of faculty and students there is room for improvement.

Stanford University provides a much more detailed look at the composition of their faculty and students, showing breakdowns by both gender and ethnicity.

Stanford’s faculty is 75 percent male and 25 percent female.

Similar to the University of Illinois, Stanford’s student population (15,700) is at odds with that of the faculty, with 58 percent identifying as male and 42 percent female.

Caucasian students make up 34 percent of the student population, however the faculty is 79 percent Caucasian.

African Americans make up six percent of the student body, but only three percent of the faculty identify as African American.

Asian American students were closest in relation to the faculty, with 18 percent of the student population being Asian American and 15 percent of the faculty being Asian American.

Even though significant disparities exist between Stanford’s population of faculty and students, Stanford is making efforts to correct the issue.

To quote one of the sections of Stanford’s commitment to faculty diversity, “we seek to increase the representation of women and minority faculty in leadership positions in departments, schools and the University administration.”

Stanford stated in the process of appointing faculty to leadership positions – such as department chair, associate dean or dean – they will consider the efforts and effectiveness of the candidates in promoting and enhancing faculty diversity and equal opportunity.”

It is time to push for greater diversity within faculty in higher education.

There is absolutely no excuse for institutions in this day and age to have a faculty that isn’t representative of the student body.

Without diversity, universities will stagnate and the already questionable educational system in the United States will become even worse.

History has shown how powerful it can be when students and faculty unite behind a cause. Now is the time for them to use their collective power to change the status quo.


Graduate student from Anna

studying higher education

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