University News

Brown’s proportion of minority professors consistent with national average

Faculty minority representation expected to grow as DIAP, diversity programs progress

By
Contributing Writer
Wednesday, September 28, 2016

As the University’s Pathways to Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan kicks into full gear, the diversity reflected in the faculty hovers just at the national average for most four-year colleges and universities.

According to last year’s data from the University’s Institutional Research Factbook, 133 professors identified themselves as Asian, an underrepresented minority or multi-racial, representing about 20 percent of the faculty. Ninety-two of those professors have tenure, meaning that around 18 percent of tenured professors identified as such.

A recent report by the Chronicle of Higher Education indicates that on average, 20 percent of professors at four-year colleges identify as Asian, black, Hispanic, American Indian or multi-racial, and the number decreases to 18 percent for those faculty members with tenure, putting Brown right in line with the national averages.

“The numbers might look a bit better next year,” said Associate Dean of the Faculty Joel Revill. While the official numbers will not be released until the faculty census is completed in October, he estimates that the percentage of faculty members of color represent between 26 and 31 percent of the new faculty hires for the 2016-17 academic year.

“Roughly, the number of chairs of departments and directors of major centers who are from historically underrepresented groups is proportionate to that of the faculty as a whole,” Revill wrote in an email to The Herald.

In 2013, the University’s Building on Distinction report noted that the University’s policies and programs for diversifying faculty “have only had modest success.”

The resulting effort to recruit faculty members of color spans a wide range of initiatives. “Approximately one-third of the 35 new faculty hires made in the 2016-17 academic year were faculty (members) from historically underrepresented groups,” the DIAP progress report states. It also outlines plans to have departments develop “a series of co-curricular activities, all aimed at enriching our understanding and engagement with issues of race, ethnicity and social justice.”

According to the same report, the University has introduced the Presidential Diversity Postdoctoral Fellowships program, which has thus far hired two cohorts of six postdoctoral fellows each, for a total of 12 fellows. Two of the 12 fellows are now on the tenure track.

Lina Fruzzetti, a tenured professor of anthropology, said she is frustrated with the slow progress of diversifying the faculty. The small number of minority faculty members increases the individual workload for each minority professor, as minority faculty members are frequently called upon to serve on committees, she said.

“As a minority faculty (member), you know you will be asked (of) more than regular faculty,” she said. “I know it’s important and one has to do it, … (but) it can be a bit much at times.”

Fruzzetti added that her job would be much easier if the presence of faculty members from underrepresented groups was more widespread. In addition to serving on committees, faculty members of color usually mentor minority students. “If some of us refuse to do it, it becomes difficult to expect the changes that we want to see or happen,” she said.

To Barrymore Bogues, a professor of Africana studies and director of the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, the question of diversity is “not so much an arithmetic equation.” The numbers are far less important than the distribution of diverse faculty members across departments, he added.

“What is the distribution?” and “What is it we need in the curriculum?” are both questions he said he would like to see answered. “Coming after the student protests of last year, it gives us an opportunity to answer some of these questions.”

Fruzetti hopes “there comes a time when we don’t even have to think about all of these issues,” she said. “There shouldn’t be a need for us to be talking about minority faculty.”

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Associate Dean of the Faculty Joel Revill said he estimated that next year, the proportion of faculty members of color would be between 26 and 31 percent. In fact, he said he estimates that the percentage of faculty members of color represent between 26 and 31 percent of the new faculty hires for the 2016-17 academic year. The Herald regrets the error. 

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