Faculty statistics question UH’s diverse reputation
The University has a reputation for being the second-most diverse college in the nation in accordance with its student body, but that reputation does not extend to the faculty.
According to Fall 2013 Institutional Research data, of the 967 ranked faculty members employed at the University, 652 are white, 62 are Hispanic and 33 are African-American. Center for Mexican American Studies Director Tatcho Mindiola said he would not be surprised if it had a negative effect on minority students’ graduation rates by having few professors from their background to identify with.
“I don’t think the University is engaged in an extensive outreach program to recruit more Blacks, Mexican-American or other Latino faculty here. They seem to do well with Asians and hiring a lot of Asian faculty here,” Mindiola said.
The 174 Asian-American professors represent the second-highest number of ethnically diverse faculty members at the University — a number that has nearly doubled since 2002, when 91 Asian-Americans, 46 Hispanics and 25 African-Americans were professors.
And while Hispanic faculty rank in third place, Mindiola said it is important to note that pool includes individuals from countries like Argentina and Brazil who may not have minority experience because they come from middle- and upper-middle-class families.
“Even though the University is putting them in account for (Hispanic faculty) because they’re trying to put their best foot forward, and I understand that, it’s a little deceiving because what we’re concerned about (in our Center) is Mexican-Americans, Puerto Ricans and now a growing number of Central Americans who were born here in this country, and their socioeconomic background are very similar to those of Mexican-Americans,” Mindiola said.
Mindiola was a student at the University when UH crowned its first African-American Homecoming queen, Lynn Eusan, and has witnessed the changes that have occurred throughout the years, like the start of the African-American Studies Department in 1969 and CMAS in 1972.
James Conyers, director of AAS, said that an ethnically diverse faculty can provide ethnically diverse students with an alternative analysis if they dispense a diverse, cultural world view.
“The alternative analysis provides a theory and lived-experience perspective,” Conyers said. “Perhaps this offers ethnically diverse students a holistic perspective in engaging differences between various ethnic and gender groups. In closing, faculty can be models and mentors for students to extract aspects of their attributes in developing their ideas, views and analysis.”
These models won’t be of much use, however, if the University’s Diversity Committee — which Conyers said has conducted research during the past two years concerning closing the gap and stretching the field for a more diverse faculty — does not begin hiring more Mexican-Americans and African-Americans.
“We always hear that the academic pool of faculty is small nationwide, which is true. But at the same time, not only UH, but many universities are not doing anything to increase the pool. There is no intensive outreach program, for example, to recruit Mexican-Americans, African-Americans and other minorities into graduate school. To me, it’s like they’re having it both ways,” Mindiola said.
“You’re not doing anything to increase the pool, but you’re using the limited pool to help justify why there is not more faculty on campus. They can’t have it both ways. They have to have an extensive outreach program to get more students, good students who have intellectual inclinations to become professors. It’s a great job.”
Mindiola was a member of a Hispanic Advisory Committee under former provost John Antel to advise him on their biggest concern: faculty hiring. A report was submitted to him, but it wasn’t until Fall 2013, when Mindiola and some other minority faculty had a meeting with President Renu Khator, that they discovered she’d never seen the report. Mindiola said Khator requested that an update be made to the report that initially proposed a comprehensive minority recruitment plan.
“The University is an attraction for both junior- and senior-level faculty alike nationally. Therefore, we will need to be assertive and aggressive in our pursuit to recruit and retain. Target opportunity hires is another method that can be employed to attract and recruit faculty,” Conyers said.
“Overall, this action will require an ongoing process of recruiting, much like the method employed in fundraising and development, meaning all year and constantly networking nationally with scholars in the various academic fields of research.”
This articles is the first part in a three-part series that will conclude in March. Read the second part here.