Every year researchers spend countless hours — and dollars — trying to figure out barriers to diversity in a number of fields (as if we don’t already know what the deal is). But when it comes to education, one Ivy League professor said the answer is simple: “The reason we don’t have more faculty of color among college faculty is that we don’t want them.”
That’s the response Marybeth Gasman gave when asked about the lack of faculty of color at many majority institutions while giving a talk during a recent higher education forum, which she further expounded on in an essay titled, “The five things no one will tell you about why colleges don’t hire more faculty of color.”
“My response was frank,” the professor of higher education in the graduate school of education at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote. ‘The reason we don’t have more faculty of color among college faculty is that we don’t want them. We simply don’t want them.’ Those in the audience were surprised by my candor and gave me a round of applause for the honesty.”
In her essay, Gasman proceeded to outline the points to back up her statement, as learned over the course of 16 years as a faculty member doing research and putting forth recruitment efforts to diversify faculty across the nation.
- “First, the word ‘quality’ is used to dismiss people of color who are otherwise competitive for faculty positions. Even those people on search committees that appear to be dedicated to access and equity will point to ‘quality’ or lack of ‘quality’ as a reason for not hiring a person of color.
“Typically, ‘quality’ means that the person didn’t go to an elite institution for their Ph.D. or wasn’t mentored by a prominent person in the field. What people forget is that attending the elite institutions and being mentored by prominent people is linked to social capital and systemic racism ensures that people of color have less of it.”
- “Second, the most common excuse I hear is ‘there aren’t enough people of color in the faculty pipeline.’ It is accurate that there are fewer people of color in some disciplines such as engineering or physics. However, there are great numbers of Ph.D.’s of color in the humanities and education and we still don’t have great diversity on these faculties. When I hear someone say people of color aren’t in the pipeline, I respond with ‘Why don’t you create the pipeline?’”
- “Third, I have learned that faculty will bend rules, knock down walls, and build bridges to hire those they really want (often white colleagues) but when it comes to hiring faculty of color, they have to ‘play by the rules’ and get angry when any exceptions are made. Let me tell you a secret – exceptions are made for white people constantly in the academy; exceptions are the rule in academe.”
- “Fourth, faculty search committees are part of the problem. They are not trained in recruitment, are rarely diverse in makeup, and are often more interested in hiring people just like them rather than expanding the diversity of their department.”
- “Fifth, if majority colleges and universities are truly serious about increasing faculty diversity, why don’t they visit Minority Serving Institutions – institutions with great student and faculty diversity – and ask them how they recruit a diverse faculty. This isn’t hard. The answers are right in front of us. We need the will.”
And just in case some people still didn’t get the point, Gassman went ahead and laid out why diversity among college faculty is actually important.
“For those reading this essay, you might be wondering why faculty diversity is important. Your wondering is yet another reason why we don’t have a more diverse faculty. Having a diverse faculty – in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion – adds greatly to the experiences of students in the classroom. It challenges them – given that they are likely not to have had diversity in their K-12 classroom teachers – to think differently about who produces knowledge. It also challenges them to move away from a ‘white-centered’ approach to one that is inclusive of many different voices and perspectives.”