By Shannon Barbour
At 88 percent white faculty, Baylor is tied with Loyola University Chicago for having the highest percentage of white faculty among all universities that have 700 to 1,000 faculty members, according to data collected by the Chronicle for Higher Education.
The chronicle’s most recent report released in 2011, found Baylor was whitest in terms of percentage of Texas universities in the study, which included Southern Methodist University, Rice University, Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin. The percentages for these universities were 79 percent for both SMU and Rice, 75 percent for Texas A&M and 69 percent for UT.
“That is really sad to see, especially because we have faculty meetings once a year where they talk about our peer aspirant universities,” said Jerry Park, associate professor of sociology. “Compared to our peers, we’re still super white. It feels as if Baylor is about 30-something years behind its competitors.”
In fall 2014, the white faculty rate was 87.5 percent. In the same academic year, Rice had 79 percent white faculty while SMU had 78.14 percent and UT had 77.8 percent. In fall 2013, Texas A&M had a white faculty rate of 62.3 percent. These percentages are all according to reports released by each school.
Despite the fact that the university has a high percentage of white faculty, Dr. Mia Moody-Ramirez, associate professor of journalism, public relations and new media, said the university is working to increase the minority presence among faculty.
“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 Moody-Ramirez in a previous article published by the Lariat on faculty diversity. “It’s a process.”
Moody-Ramirez, a member of the committee who searches for diverse faculty, also said in a previous article that the university is working against negative perceptions of Waco in trying to recruit diverse 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.
Despite efforts to increase minority diversity, Park said the diversity issue is still present and isn’t only about full-time faculty, but diversity among tenured and tenure-track faculty as well.
“Not to disrespect or disregard the adjunct faculty, but much of the drama is about who’s going to have these sweet jobs, the tenure track and the tenure faculty,” Park said.
Tenure is achieved after a faculty member submits annual reports, receives peer reviews, gets evaluated by students and publishes research, according to Baylor policy.
Tenure can be a way to ensure diversity by allowing professors to express diverse, sometimes unpopular, opinions without the threat of losing their jobs, but Baylor’s administration must do something to promote diversity in addition to what individual departments are already doing, Park said.
When contacted by the Lariat for statistics on minority tenure, Baylor administration and the Baylor Institutional Research and Testing declined to release data on the diversity of tenure faculty because of its sensitive nature.
“In order to protect confidentiality, if we have data in which there are very small numbers of people in categories, then we could be breaking confidentiality for them if we release those data,” said Dr. James Bennighof, vice provost for academic affairs and policy.
“The purpose of tenure is to make sure that our higher education institutions are able to make opinions that run contrary to our political structure,” Park said. “Minority voices presumably would have voices that differ from the mainstream. So if we have minority faculty, we can generally expect some kind of diversity of opinion.”
Bennighof said someone who serves as a resource could be helpful to departments wanting to find ways to increase their faculty diversity.
“It could easily be the case that particular resource people could be helpful to department chairs in knowing how to find diverse candidates,” Bennighof said. “That’s one of many possibilities.”
However, Bennighof said there could be issues with hiring someone as a resource for diversity information because of department budgets.
“Departments and schools use their budgets in various ways to support their search processes, and that could include using advisers or other resources to enhance the diversity of their candidate pools,” Bennighof said.
Park said he feels welcome and accepted at Baylor, but has noticed this pattern and decided to gather data from the Chronicle for Higher Education and compare Baylor to other similar institutions to find that Baylor is behind its competitors.
Fontana, Calif., junior Dominique Houston said she’d like to see more diverse faculty, but the lack of diversity inspires her to do better.
“I’d love to see more [black] people wanting to teach higher education,” Houston said. “It makes me strive more. If my industry doesn’t have many people like me, I need to create a path to show others that it’s possible.”
In addition to hiring a diversity dean, Park said he suggests training older faculty to be mentors, recruiting professors from faith-based conferences and suggests Baylor think about its public image.
“In terms of general public image, I think we’d want Baylor to give off this impression that we are world class, and that means recognizing that we are part of a very diverse country,” Park said.