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Friday, September 24, 2021

Faculty & Staff

Admins strive to diversify faculty


newbythenumbers 4 x5 04022014Whether UH will see a time when its faculty’s ethnicities will reflect those of the students is not the question; it’s when.

The Chronicle of Higher Education, which the University once heavily relied on to post available academia positions, is no longer a main resource in the recruitment of diverse faculty, but a tool that ­— in collaboration with Hispanic, Asian-American, African-American and Native American publications ­— will help diversify professors.

“But it’s not targeted. (The Chronicle of Higher Education) doesn’t target specific kinds of people … but you can target your recruitment by frankly linking up to some publications that are very specific and that are read by different kinds of people, and that is what we’re doing more and more,” said Rick Olenchak, associate provost for faculty development and faculty affairs.

An available employment opportunity, executive director for faculty engagement and development, is one that Olenchak said is being posted in six publications.

A new position he created within his office, an assistant provost for faculty recruitment, retention, equity and diversity, was approved by Provost Paula Short and President Renu Khator. It will also be posted in multiple locations.

“Do we have a foolproof plan? No. But I’m going to tell you that I think we’re engaging in a really strategic kind of way that we never have on campus, at least not since I’ve been here,” Olenchak said.

According to the job description, some of the tasks for the assistant provost for faculty recruitment will be to design and implement a needs assessment and then a multi-year strategic plan for addressing campus issues related to recruitment, retention, equity and faculty diversity and contribute to planning and action that will enable search committees to develop diverse pools of candidates for faculty positions.

To improve the ratio of minority professors, Richard Baker, the assistant vice chancellor and vice president of Equal Employment and Opportunity Services, said the University purchased a directory that includes the public information of all minority post-doctoral candidates in the U.S. to aid in its search, but he said he cannot speculate on why in 12 years the number of Asian-American faculty has nearly doubled to 174 from 91, while African-American and Mexican-American faculty has seen little to no change in that time frame.

“Our role is to basically make sure that departments are acting affirmatively. And I would tell you I think that we have done a job. I hope that with the moves that Olenchak and the provost are making, that we will be able to increase our numbers just by acting affirmatively,” Baker said.

But UH doesn’t have all the answers. Instead, it’s modeling after other colleges, such as the University of Michigan with its Strategies and Tactics to Improve Diversity program. The University is also trying to develop a system similar to one that the University of Alabama shares with the University of Georgia, through which each university cultivates future diverse faculty members for the other.

“We are trying really hard to make the faculty look like the students on campus, frankly. That’s the goal for me at least, and certainly Dr. Baker,” Olenchak said. “One of the things that I am working on is to try and find a partner to do that. I don’t know if it’s A&M, if it’s UT. It could be out-of-state like it was in that case. But I think it’s something that we need to think about doing.”

Students like public relations senior Isiah Gentry, president of the African American Student Honors Association, and marketing junior Karla Perez, president of the Mexican American Studies Student Organization, should challenge the administration by asking questions that hold the University accountable, Baker said.

“It’s absolutely imperative that we do as much as we can as an institution to not only recruit, so you have to have an environment that is welcoming of diversity, and I think we do have an environment that is welcoming of diversity. I think we live in an international city, and I think that’s appealing to anyone that wants to live in an international city or work with minority populations,” he said.

“We definitely have diverse students here, and I think it’s a wonderful opportunity, and I think that Dr. Khator has put us in a good position to say we’re a Tier One institution. We want to feel and look like a Tier One institution, and that includes diversity.”

As an African-American, Baker said it was important to him throughout his schooling to see someone who looked like him and understood his background and where he came from — someone he could talk to and trust. But he would not choose someone solely based on color, whereas 69 percent of voters in a poll on thedailycougar.com said the University shouldn’t consider race at all and should hire faculty solely based on skill.

“I absolutely know that (the faculty will) be more diverse (in 10 years). But how diverse, I don’t know. It depends on what you study as students and if you have an interest in going into higher ed. … I hope that the underrepresented groups that we have today — Hispanic, African-American, Native American and women ­— continue to choose whatever their field of study is, choose a faculty position, and I hope they choose UH when they do,” Baker said.

“I think diversity, without a shadow of a doubt, is something that we have to have as a core value at this institution, and I believe that we do. I definitely think that we’re taking steps.”

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