Diversity’s Worst Failure–the Faculty

For the diversity engineers in higher education, life keeps yielding disappointments. A new study shows once again how far colleges and universities lag relative to their vocal pledges of equity and inclusion. The study draws on Federal data to determine how well those institutions have improved the demographic make-up of the faculty—improvement defined by the yardstick of proportionate representation.

It’s a numbers game, plain and simple. In this calculation, percentages are all we need, and they are assumed to possess profound moral meaning. Anything short of proportionate representation in the higher ed faculty ranks is taken to be a social failure. African Americans make up nearly 13 percent of the U.S. population. If they don’t make up 13 percent of the professoriate, something is wrong.

Something is wrong, yes, still, even after all the years of diversification. The study found that disturbing disproportions continue, and the five years covered by the study, 2013-2-17, show meager progress. As of 2017, men are the majority of the tenured faculty, 57.36 percent. Women are catching up, though—in fact, they exceed men in the tenure-track ranks, constituting 52.48 percent of the whole, which might be cause for optimism in the coming years. But the study doesn’t play up that progress very much. The entire tone of the project, which is run by enthusiastic diversiphiles, is one of dismay. After all, shouldn’t we have reached full parity at all ranks by now?

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When it comes to African Americans and Hispanics, things look much worse. Despite the pushing and proclaiming of diversity for several decades now, African Americans amount to only 5.21 percent of the tenured professors, 9.7 percent of the tenure-track professors, and 7.05 percent of the “Instructional Faculty” (presumably, lecturers, non-regular faculty, etc.). For Hispanics, who make up a larger portion of the U.S. population as a whole, the rates are even lower. They count as 6.6 percent of the tenured profs, 5.24 percent of the untenured profs, and 6.0 percent of the Instructional Faculty.

White teachers still outdo the general white portion of the population. They make up 78.9 percent of the tenured ones, 69.52 percent of the tenure-track profs, and 75.85 percent of the Instructional Faculty.

These are the last year’s tallies in the study. When we get to the changes over time, the dreams of diversity appear even more frustrated. From 2013 to 2017, as President Obama’s administration pressed ever harder on diversity-consciousness in both higher and lower education, and as Black Lives Matter protests were demanding more black professors and administrators, the African American share of the Instructional Faculty climbed a microscopic 0.12 percentage points. Their share of the tenure-track group climbed only 0.83 points, while the tenured group went up only 0.49 points.

Hispanic gains were 0.25 points for Instructional Faculty, 0.61 points for tenure-track, and 0.05 points for tenured. At this rate, it is going to be a very long time before we reach the desired proportions.

Put another way, those white slices of the piece must be reduced, and they’re not shrinking fast enough. We need fewer white people at the podium, period. We need fewer Asians, too. They constitute only 5.4 percent of the entire U.S. population, but they more than double their representation on the higher ed faculty. At doctoral institutions, they form 12.85 percent of the tenured professors, 14.12 percent of the tenure-track profs, and 12.08 percent of the Instructional Faculty. At those same doctoral institutions, the percentage of black tenured professors moved upward from 2013 to 2017 by only one-tenth of one percent.

[The Final Corruption of the SATs]

The authors draw the obvious conclusion that no matter how much colleges and universities have committed to the project of diversity, the results don’t match the intentions. In recent years, the authors show, the movement of faculty diversity in higher education has pretty much stalled. Indeed, as the lead author of the study stated to insidehighered.com, “Many institutions that are making the most noise—the brand-name institutions—have had some of the worst progress.”

Here is the final sentence of the study:

While diversity, equity, and inclusion are often widely promoted in the higher education discourse, there is much more institutional action necessary to improve the ethnoracial and gender demographics of the faculty in U.S. colleges’ and universities’ intellectual communities to positively impact educational practices and outcomes.

Note that we have here no recommendations, no practical suggestions. We need further “institutional action”—that’s as specific as the study gets. It sticks to statistical tallies; it wasn’t designed to do anything else. But we have been told this before, countless times: “We need more black and brown professors!”—and everyone has agreed. And everyone on search committees has given minority candidates special consideration . . . and the curriculum (and hence job openings) in the softer fields has been adjusted so that it represents minority cultures and histories more accurately . . . and diversity deans have proliferated and created more diversity programs for faculty.

After all that, the teaching personnel has barely budged in recent times. The study here, which bore the title, “Considering the Ethnoracial and Gender Diversity of Faculty in United States College and University Intellectual Communities,” attaches precise figures to the widespread sense that results haven’t followed the many and voluminous declarations of diversity plans issuing from the administrators and professors for decades. When Brown University declares that it will double minority representation on the faculty within ten years, it only sets itself up for a fall. We’ll check in with Brown in 2025 and see how it’s doing.

We are waiting for the magic method that will finally deliver the great leap forward. It’s as if the numbers people—those who keep pointing to lagging rates of black and brown personnel but have no answers themselves—expect institutions to solve the problem by some airy act of will: “Just do it!” And the institutions respond, “We’re trying, we’re trying!” The whole situation sounds more and more like a game. Nobody says or does anything unexpected.

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All the participants are diversiphiles. Some of them raise the evidence of failure; others hear it and re-pledge their commitment. Both parties, it should be said, continue to make a living. They are, by now, routine elements in the system. Next year, additional reports of failed diversity will appear, and so will additional programs and promises to continue the effort. At this point, it’s a sideshow, a diversion, a valve that releases pressure within the machine so that the workings may proceed.

Diversity isn’t essential to higher education, no matter how much the leaders talk about it. But they know that if they don’t maintain a diversity program, if they don’t speechify about diversity, tensions may build up, unpleasant episodes might unfold, and bad publicity will follow, jeopardizing all the other things college leaders need to do.

Diversity isn’t a significant mission in higher education. It’s just a cost of doing business.

Mark Bauerlein

Mark Bauerlein

Mark Bauerlein is a professor of English at Emory.

13 thoughts on “Diversity’s Worst Failure–the Faculty

  1. I hope that Mark Bauerlein doesn’t give the “diversiphiles” any more ideas than they already have.

    But — I don’t completely agree with the statement

    “Diversity isn’t essential to higher education, no matter how much the leaders talk about it.”

    The fact is, the racial and ethnic composition of American colleges inevitably is changing. Because of birth trends and immigration (legal and illegal). It is baked into the cake for years to come, if not decades.

    How to deal with historically underperforming minorities is not something that anyone has solved. To put it bluntly, unless something changes, they are going to fall hopelessly behind, with dire consequences for the whole country.

    For the colleges and universities too. Think an increasingly non-white public is going to support higher education, especially the public campuses, if they aren’t somehow assimilated into the mix?

    Or just think about enrollments. I work at one of the whiter major campuses in the country. And the pool of prospective white students is shrinking at an alarming rate. (And also, the pool of interested foreign Asian students willing to pay full out-of-state freight has shrunk, perhaps thanks to Trump).

    What is a poor VP for enrollment supposed to do? Well, an obvious hope is to recruit a more diverse student body, especially more Hispanic students.

    If that means paying obeisance to the “Diversity” ideology, that may not be such a bad price to pay.

    As they say, “It’s just a cost of doing business.”

    As for the makeup of the faculty — that’s a problem that can be kicked down the road a few years more.

  2. I’ve never seen empirical evidence demonstrating that diversity of skin color or race has any benefits. Higher education and public education have so many issues of greater importance than diversity.

    1. >I’ve never seen empirical evidence demonstrating that diversity of skin color or race has any benefits.

      Same here. It’s just a mantra that’s been bandied around long enough to not warrant any evidence. I wonder how many who say ” [ethnic] diversity is our strength” or that diversity is good are religious or believe in a divine. I’d argue not many. The irony.

  3. We should treat the endless pressure for diversifying the faculty as many urban businesses treat the Mafia: a necessary evil. Just hand over the cash-filled envelop and forget about it. In other words, create all the bogus departments and parasitic administrative departments as the price to be paid for competence elsewhere.

    In the long run nothing will happen until we bell the cat: not all demographic groups are equally talented in intellectual matters. Everybody knows this, including those plugging diversity, but until it is admitted in public, nothing will change. We are wimps and will continue to pay the price.

  4. Why so serious?
    Why so glum?

    “I know it is wet
    And the sun is not sunny.
    But we can have
    Lots of good fun that is funny!”

    If we have learned anything in recent years, we have learned absolutely that reality is only a matter of perception and intent. I feel myself a woman — whammo! — I am a woman. We have too many White Male Faculty — double whammo! — let’s make ourselves into Black/Hispanic Women!

    I mean, seriously, if a man can self-declare himself into a Women’s 400M Dash, setting new, never-to-be-broken records for female runners and winning gold medals in the process…it’s gotta be a whole lot less difficult to shift some melanin-ranges and hit those Diversity Hurdles!

    Whammo! Problem solved. Everyone’s happy!

    Wait. What? I can’t self-declare my racial make-up? Why not? It’s much, much, much more difficult to magic my way into ovaries, uterus, vagina, etc. than tweak some skin tones.

    What??? You say it’s scientifically & realistically impossible to become Black/Hispanic if I’m not born Black/Hispanic? C’mon now. What does science have to do with this? Why would reality matter?

    If reality mattered you’d think our colleges and universities would be singularly concerned with the scholastic quality of their faculty, wouldn’t you? You’d think that we’d be most focused on making sure we’re hiring and promoting the very best and brightest…if reality mattered, that is. And don’t we know — better than most — that you can’t tell a book by it’s cover??? Ever!

    C’mon now, if we were really concerned with what is and not possible IN REALITY…what is right & true… then we’d be laughing hysterically at any study which told us we didn’t have enough books with red covers in the library. We’d dismiss entirely any study which told us we didn’t have enough brown faces at the front of the classroom.

    I mean, really — how much more idiotic can we be…as though skin tone somehow affects how we understand Shakespeare, teach Quantum Physics or learn Beethoven.

    But given the crowds of idiots hurrying perpetually to rebalance our school’s cosmetics, clearly Truth & Reality don’t matter.

    So WHAMMO, I say — I’m a Black/Hispanic/LGBQT Female: HIRE ME!

  5. I agree that “Diversity isn’t a significant mission in higher education. It’s just a cost of doing business.” The reason why it is a cost of doing business is that college leaders think they must pose as diversity zealots in order to remain “progressives” in good standing.

  6. I’ll note that a simple solution would be for white faculty to give up their tenured position when a suitable ethnically diverse replacement becomes available. I don’t really expect that to happen, they’re well known for their “do as I say, not as I do” mentality, especially when it comes to self-immolation. The real intent has just been to keep hiring more and more faculty to achieve balance.

  7. As usual, Professor Bauerlein is right on the mark. I’ll just add that recruiting, hiring, and promoting in a way that discriminates on the basis of race, ethnicity, and sex is not just wrongheaded but also illegal. Some might think that, because the Supreme Court has (alas) allowed such preferential treatment when universities select students, it must be just as permissible for them to do so when they select faculty, but in fact the statutes and case law are quite different. See this link and the links therein: https://www.nas.org/articles/A_Half-Dozen_Push-Backs_for_Faculty_Hiring_Committee_Meetings. In my humble opinion, in 2019 no university can justify faculty discrimination.

    1. Wow — this would also apply to paid graduate teaching assistants, at least at universities where they are recognized as “employees.”

  8. Of course it’s a cost of doing business. Selecting new scholars is a cost of doing business; selecting scholars for anything but scholarship is an additional cost of doing business.

    We have reached the point that racial and sexual favoritism are just another cost of doing business, no worse than favoritism for a major donor’s child or protecting the football team. Such things are routine; no longer do we even call them corrupt. On the contrary: woe betide whoso does!

  9. The diversity enterprise is working wonderfully: its activists are increasing exponentially and their salary is stellar, while the alleged problem is carefully kept unchanged, in order to assure the future of the new bureaucracy.
    To be fair, it’s not true that these administrators do nothing: they are seriously engaged in finding new fields where non-existent discrimination has to be reinterpreted as systemic xxx-phobia and consequently added to the list of recriminations never to be solved.

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