Diversity in college—important for college students and college professors

As our population becomes more heterogeneous, U.S. college students are broadening the diversity in college. But that same varied representation of gender, races and cultures does not seem to be extending to college professors.

Learn what can be done to change diversity within the college environment. (Credit: MemeGenerator)

Learn what can be done to change diversity within the college environment. (Credit: MemeGenerator)

Not only is faculty diversity lacking in terms of race, but also academic jobs seem to be disproportionately going to the graduates of the same group of schools. Why is this bad, and what can be done to change things?

Changing demographics

The diversity problem is evident at all ages of education, from kindergarten through high school and on to college. Katherine Leal Unmuth posted “Faculty Diversity Lags Increasing Student Diversity on College Campuses” for the Education Writers Association on January 16, 2014, specifically about how the issue is affecting Latino students in higher education.

Leal Unmuth focused on California in particular, a state known for its large Latino population. She wrote, “At San Jose State University just 6 percent of the faculty is Latino; at the University of California, Berkeley, 5 percent are Latino; and at Stanford University the faculty is 4 percent Latino.” The problem of diversity in college affects not only the current college professors, but also the college students in the pipeline for grad school who will hopefully fill tomorrow’s academic jobs. She shared that only 8 percent of the current University of California system’s doctoral students are Latino. Without a push to increase those numbers, making future college professors more diverse simply won’t happen.

Faculty diversity

But the problem with diversity in college professors is an issue across the country, and it isn’t just an issue for America’s growing Latino community. It impacts African Americans and Asians as well. Dr. Matthew Lynch discussed this topic in “Diversity in College Faculty Just as Important as Student Body” on April 24, 2013, for diverseeducation.com. 

“While nearly 30 percent of undergraduate students around the nation are considered minorities, just over 12 percent of full-time faculty are minorities,” Dr. Lynch wrote. He explained that certainly demographic diversity in a university’s college student body is important, but it is the college professors who are able to affect long-term change on campuses, helping to keep them in line with the reality of the world outside their ivory towers.

Beyond race

However it isn’t just in matters of race where there is a problem with diversity in college. Many, too many, some would say, academic jobs are being awarded to college professors with degrees from a select pool of universities. Marcus Woo wrote “Infoporn: College Faculties Have a Serious Diversity Problem” for wired.com on February 19, 2015, with an explanation of why this is also harmful.

Woo wrote about Aaron Clauset, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who looked into which colleges are hiring (in the areas of computer science, business and history) which school’s graduates. What Clauset found was a definite bias. Woo shared, “71 to 86 percent of all faculty came from only a quarter of the institutions surveyed. In computer science, just 18 institutions produced half of all faculty jobs.”

By focusing on certain prestigious schools, the people who hire for academic jobs are automatically perpetuating a divide between the diversity of the college students attending their university and the college professors who teach them. These same practices also impact women, meaning that diversity in college is affected in terms of race, ethnicity and gender.

To truly affect change when it comes to diversity in college, the institutions obviously must be willing to attack the issue head on. Waiting for more races, ethnicities and genders to find their way into academic faculty naturally is not realistic.

How does your college stack up in terms of faculty diversity? Let us know in the comments.

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