The United States is in the middle of a reckoning; It is being judged by its citizens for the world to see. Its institutions and organizations, which have been promoting their commitment to racial and ethnic diversity, have been openly confronted. Hollow statements, including long-missing representations, and failed inclusion attempts, are no longer believed or accepted.
People of all racial and ethnic backgrounds are challenging the efforts and commitments of those in power in corporations, the military, police, government, arts organizations, entertainment, the legal system, publishing, media, education and many other fields. They are demanding movement, action and evidence that our nation’s institutions are serious about embracing racial justice and ending systemic racism.
Higher education is not untouched by this criticism and call for action. In fact, like all of our institutions, colleges and universities are responsible for clinging to equality, and creating and maintaining systems that uphold the status quo and fail to promote equality. From my point of view, given their commitment to diversity and “academic excellence,” they should pave the way for racial justice and equality, rather than holding on tightly to the past and being dragged along by the screams.
Colleges and universities in the United States are admired around the world for their research, innovation, and academic excellence. In recent years, many institutions of higher education have also been praised for their increasing diversity in enrollment at the undergraduate level.
To the dismay of some, who believe that diversity undermines institutional quality and academic excellence, between 1975 and 2016, the population of college graduates changed significantly, with most racial and ethnic groups increasing. . Hispanic student enrollment increased from 4% to 18%, Black student enrollment from 10% to 14%, Asian American and Pacific Islander enrollment from 2% to 7%, and Native American enrollment from 0.7% to 0.8%.
At some of the nation’s most selective institutions, the percentage of graduate students of color has increased significantly and high standards of quality are maintained. For example, Columbia University, New York University and Stanford University have student bodies that include 66% of students of color. Even more impressive, UCLA and UC-Berkeley boast undergraduate populations that include 73% of students of color. And in the middle of the country, Northwestern University and the University of Chicago both have student bodies that comprise about 55% of students of color.
Racial and ethnic diversification has advanced in graduate student populations across the country and even at the country’s most prestigious institutions. Yet these colleges and universities – which declare their dedication to overall diversity and excellence in their public statements, strategic plans and on their websites – fail to achieve diversity (and thus excellence) among their faculty. In 2017 41% of all full-time, tenure-track and tenured faculty at degree-granting postsecondary institutions were white men; 35% were white women; 6% Asian/Pacific Islanders were male; 5% were Asian/Pacific Islander women; and 3% each were black men, black women, Hispanic men, and Hispanic women. Americans who were Indian/Alaska Natives and those of two or more races made up 1% or less of the full-time faculty.
While some colleges and universities are criticized for sacrificing excellence for the sake of diversity in various aspects of their institutions, they are not aggressively pursuing racial and ethnic diversity among their faculty, nor are these views on their are at the core of the definitions or understanding of excellence. , Yes, colleges and universities call for “inclusive excellence,” but the phrase is generally meant to reassure critics that the only way to pursue diversity is if diversity follows the norms and pedigree that power. considered acceptable by those in the U.S., namely the whites. Colleges and universities—as well as their faculty—that claim to be the best in the world brag about U.S. News and World Report Rankings, and those who are steadfast in the belief that they truly want racial and ethnic diversity in all aspects of the Academy, must keep their promises. To date, they have not been real in terms of diversifying the faculty and eliminating the idea that whiteness means excellence.
Let me provide an example to help you understand my reasoning.
A professor asked me the following question:
Architects are in the business of building buildings. Probably, what is most important is that we have the best producers of buildings, not that the builders are diverse. Admirably, professors are in the business of producing knowledge. Why not care about being the best producers of knowledge, and if they happen to be white, so be it?
I responded by saying, “I would argue that we will never know our ability to build the best buildings, the most beautiful and impressive buildings, until we are inclusive about who has the opportunity to build these buildings.” If we are more inclusive, we can also expand our definitions and understanding of the ‘best’, most beautiful and impressive buildings. Similarly, I would argue that we don’t really know who are the best producers of knowledge If we are not inclusive about who has the opportunity to produce knowledge. If we are more inclusive, we can also expand our definitions of ‘best’ in terms of knowledge production.
What if the definition of excellence was expanded to be more inclusive? What if universities gave meaning to their conceptions of academic excellence only when racial and ethnic diversity were concentrated in these definitions? What if the faculties used the power associated with their shared governance voice – their contribution to university decision-making – to promote justice and equality in relation to their ranks? What would be the outcome if the faculties felt that it was their responsibility to diversify their ranks and not doing so was evidence that they do not support and are intellectually lazy about issues of equity? And how will the Academy change if faculty are realized, accepted, and grapple with the role they play in perpetuating systemic racism in the Academy, and in particular within the faculty recruitment process?
These questions and many more are at the heart of my evidence and arguments. Doing the Right Thing: How to Undo Systemic Racism in Faculty HiringAnd I aim to convince readers that faculties have the power to change the system that privileges whiteness and rewards measures of excellence rooted in systemic racism.
marybeth gasman Samuel DeWitt is the Proctor Endowed Chair in Education and a Distinguished Professor at Rutgers University. His books include making black scientists And educating a diverse nation, She lives in Philadelphia. Twitter @marybethgasman Instagram @marybethgasman