Faculty diversity grows, but still lagging

Diversity graphic CC
Source: Baylor Institutional Research and Testing

By Shannon Barbour

Almost 36 percent of undergraduate students at Baylor are minorities, while only 12.3 percent, or 122 out of 990, of faculty members are minorities, according to Baylor Institutional Research and Testing.

“We all have different filters through which we see the world,” said Macarena Hernandez, professor of journalism, public relations and new media. “We all benefit when we get to see the world through other people’s filters and if everyone around you sees the world through the same filter, you’re missing out.”

Despite this low percentage, the faculty minority rate is 4.7 percent, higher and has 61 more minority professors than 10 years ago according to past reports by Baylor.

“We have more diversity in students than we have in faculty members. But I know that all departments are working on recruiting professors of a diverse nature,” said Dr. Mia Moody-Ramirez, associate professor of journalism, public relations and new media. “It’s a process.”

According to Baylor Institutional Research and Testing, female faculty rates in fall 2014 were 38.9 percent, lower than the undergraduate female composition of 58 percent.

“You’re going to see increases in the hiring of women,” Moody- Ramirez said of faculty recruitment trends. “And then after that’s established, you’re going to see increased hiring in minorities. That’s usually how it trickles-down. It’s a trickle down effect. That’s traditionally how its been done.”

Compared to peer campuses such as Southern Methodist University in Dallas and The University of Texas at Austin, Baylor falls short in both female and minority faculty representation according to fall 2014 data gathered by SMU’s Office of Institutional Research and UTA’s Office of Institutional Reporting, Research and Information Systems.

In fall 2014, SMU’s faculty minority rate was 19 percent. Baylor’s was 12.3 percent.

In the same semester, SMU’s female faculty rate was 39.2 percent, 0.3 percent higher than Baylor.

Even though SMU’s student body is less gender and ethnically diverse than Baylor, with 50.5 percent female and 26.9 percent minority rates, its faculty is more diverse.

UTA also has a higher female faculty rate. Females make up 39.1 percent of UTA’s faculty while female students make up 50.7 percent of undergraduate students.

UTA’s minority faculty rates are higher than both Baylor and SMU at 22.2 percent, although not entirely representative of its 53.1 percent minority student body.

Moody-Ramirez lists negative perceptions of Waco and competing with areas such as Dallas and Austin as reasons for a lower diversity rate among faculty.

“There is still that perception that Waco is unsafe. So we have to work against that. We have to let people know that it’s a good place to live. Dallas doesn’t really have that negative connotation,” Moody-Ramirez said.

Dr. James Bennighof, vice provost for academic affairs and policy, said in addition to location concerns, the current faculty demographic may make it difficult to recruit more diverse faculty.

“If you don’t have as diverse a faculty as you would like, that can be a factor that works against you because diverse faculty will not find it to be as attractive of a place to be because there aren’t other diverse faculty there,” Bennighof said.

The Baylor administration and each academic department have developed ways to recruit more gender and ethnically diverse faculty.

“When assembling the pool, we can make every attempt that we might want to make to get as diverse a pool as possible, but when we are deciding about who moves on to different levels, those decisions always need to be based on ability to perform the job duties,” Bennighof said.

While attempts can be made to have diverse faculty, Bennighof said Baylor does not have any quotas in favor or against of diverse candidates.

Bennighof said search committees, department chairs and deans all go through training sessions each year to learn fair and effective ways to recruit and retain diverse faculty.

“At those meetings we talk about a lot of things that have to do with effective search techniques … how we can make for as diverse a pool as possible, in some cases how to avoid discriminating in favor of diverse populations, that’s something you can’t do either,” Bennighof said.

Among these search techniques is current faculty knowledge of diverse candidates at other institutions, in school or in academic and professional organizations, and eliminating unconscious biases that the committees may have.

“A diverse faculty increases the likelihood that University will recruit diverse students, particularly graduate students who are underrepresented minorities and/ or women, thus increasing the number of minorities and women in the pool for future faculty positions,” said Del Watson, director of faculty affairs at UTA.

In addition to preparing for more diverse faculty in the future, benefits of faculty diversity include eliminating ignorance and prejudice.

“When students are not exposed to people that don’t look like them, it might lead them to believe that they have bigger differences with those people than they actually do,” Hernandez said. “Its part of your education to be exposed to different kinds of people.”

Moody-Ramirez said she believes exposure to diversity prevents prejudice and ignorance.

“Being exposed to different perspectives and also that helps break the stereotypes if you can have a professor that’s a minority, maybe you’ve had these stereotypes in mind all your life and they can dispel those stereotypes,” Moody-Ramirez said.

While Baylor may not be as diverse as it would like, it is making progress towards a more inclusive future.

“Our goal is to increase our diversity, we do not feel as though we are where we need to be on the faculty end of things, it can be a difficult thing to accomplish. Partly because other institutions in many cases are attempting to do the same thing and so we’re competing with them for diverse faculty, which is a good thing for the situation overall,” Bennighof said.