Students divided on necessity of faculty diversity
It is not just the minority faculty of the University who are concerned with the demographics of its professors, but also its students, who feel underrepresented.
Public relations senior Isiah Gentry, president of the African American Student Honors Association, has attended the University since the start of his freshman year in Fall 2010, and in his four years he has had only three African-American professors, two of whom were a result of the courses’ heavy African-American foundation. Gentry said that while he has had a diverse number of professors, male and female and from different backgrounds, it was rare for him to have a black professor.
“It has affected me a little bit, because now when I go out and I try and say I went to UH and talk about my experience, in the back of my mind I’m going to think that they didn’t really have that many (African-Americans), at least in my major, in the faculty and staff that were leading the field or teaching the information,” Gentry said. “They have a lot of African-American students, but they don’t have the faculty. That kind of says something, that you don’t have people giving the information, you just have people who are coming to get the information.”
Gentry shares some of the same concerns as marketing junior Karla Perez, who is the president of the Mexican American Studies Student Organization. Perez said that the majority of Mexican-American professors she has had have been because of her minor in Mexican-American studies.
“It does disappoint me that there aren’t more Mexican-American professors at UH, because the professors that I have had have been really good. Aside from their merit as excellent educators, I felt that I could really connect with them based on our similar life experiences and interests in Mexican-American affairs,” Perez said. “In one of my Mexican-American professors, I have found a mentor and someone I can look to for support, as well as someone who has taught me to be proud of my Mexican-American heritage.”
MASSO was founded after the University recognized the need for an organization that caters to students minoring in Mexican-American studies, like Perez. Likewise, AASHA seeks to improve the retention rates of African-American students in The Honors College while providing unity and a voice for those students, according The Honors College website. As an honors student, Gentry said he’d never paid attention to the demographics of professors until now, but he did notice that few of his peers there are of African-American decent.
“I think the entire University should be on board with (recruiting more African-American professors), because it affects the entire University. If people look at the University and feel like it’s not supporting all of its students, regardless of their background, then of course it can easily lead to the perception that they don’t really care about these students, and if you don’t care, you don’t value them, and if you don’t value them, it’s a sense that they can’t contribute anything there,” Gentry said. “That’s what you can communicate.”
It is the students, the pride of UH, who help make the campus a unique college experience, but Perez said just as amazing as it is to be among classmates of all ethnicities and experiences, it is also exciting to interact with professors with these attributes.
“From my experience at UH, I have seen the kind of relationship Mexican-American professors build with their students and how students have benefited from being encouraged and understood by faculty sharing similar backgrounds … but more attention needs to be paid to engage and recruit Mexican-American and African-American students into graduate school, as well as other minorities,” Perez said. “These are the students who can become those professors that we are lacking.”
In an open poll conducted on thedailycougar.com, the site’s visitors were asked whether the University’s faculty should be as diverse as the University’s student body. Of 184 voters, 129 said no, the University shouldn’t consider race at all and should hire faculty solely based on skill and 42 said yes, we should be known for all-around diversity. Only seven voters said the University should hire faculty based on both their skill and their race and six voters said no, it’s hard to have both an equally diverse faculty and student body.
The poll’s results, in accordance with the views of Gentry and Perez, show that the student body is divided on the issue, leaving the administration to weigh in its initiatives to making the faculty as diverse as the staff.
This articles is the second part in a three-part series that will conclude in March. Read the first part here.