A University of Oregon panel sent a recommendation to UO President Michael Schill on ways to hire and retain more black faculty.
The working group of three administrators, a faculty member and a graduate student is recommending Schill and Provost Scott Coltrane develop a predoctoral fellowship program that would inform students working for a doctorate about UO’s values and encourage black predoctoral students to apply to work at the university.
The recommendation stems from demands made by the UO Black Student Task Force following a rally in November 2015. One of task force’s demands was to increase the number of black faculty, who comprise one percent of UO faculty. Schill has since met seven demands and said that he is considering the rest, including ways to change faculty hiring.
The group has also recommended that members of faculty search committees take training on implicit bias — prejudiced attitudes which may unconsciously affect a person’s decisions. In the long term, the group would like each academic department’s search committees to have an expert in minority faculty recruitment and retention.
Another recommendation is for departments to submit a yearly plan on ways to recruit and retain African American faculty, along with an assessment of their efforts. This would be supported by a staff member of each department’s dean, who would oversee the program’s work to increase diversity.
According to a 2015 U.S. Census Bureau report, 8.2 percent of African Americans, age 25 and older, hold a Ph.D. or MBA, compared to 12.1 percent of white people in the U.S.
Retired UO English professor Edwin Coleman feels that the fact that there are fewer black Ph.D.s to recruit has impacted UO’s black faculty numbers.
“It’s like a funnel, and for [black Ph.Ds] who go into the various areas of study … they don’t necessarily want to get Ph.D.s, just like anybody else,” Coleman said.
“That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be committed to having African American faculty, or having the most diverse faculty that we possibly can,” said Doug Blandy, vice provost for UO Academic Affairs, who led the working group.
Only five states in the U.S. spent less money on public higher education than Oregon in 2015. Consequently, UO might not be able to offer competitive salaries. In fact, in a 2015-2016 salary survey Study, UO ranked lowest compared to similar universities.
But a 2000 study by a Claremont Graduate University professor found that faculty across the U.S. weren’t moving solely due to higher salary offers.
“Sometimes there are other universities which can offer better salaries, but that doesn’t seem to be the issue here,” said Blandy. “What hurts us sometimes is that people will come to Eugene and not see much diversity.”
In the next 10 years, UO will replace nearly one-third of its tenured faculty, mostly because of retirees. Administrators feel that this is an opportunity to diversify the next generation of faculty.
Blandy hopes that if his group’s recommendations are approved, it might strengthen UO’s work to hire minority faculty. The university uses what it calls “Active Recruitment” to build relationships with potential hires and cultivate an applicant pool with a strong representation of minority faculty. UO also ensures that there are funds to support not only the faculty member but also department-based diversity programs.
UO senior Andre Lightsey-Walker feels that it is important to have more black faculty on campus.
“We don’t see as many role models outside of basketball and rapping. We have this media-controlled identity of what we are capable of being,” he said. “So, I think that it is good to have teachers as role models who you can connect to.”