In my two and half years at Baylor, I have yet to take a class with a Hispanic professor and have only taken one from an African-American professor. While I have met some amazing faculty here at Baylor, the lack of diversity creates a distance between me and my professors.
It is important to walk into a classroom filled with diverse students, and it is just as important to have a faculty that reflects the diversity of its students. Baylor is currently expanding the multicultural affairs office in the Student Union Building in order to promote greater diversity on campus, and as of 2015, 34 percent of the Baylor student body identifies as a minority. However, actions to create a more diverse campus needs to extend to the faculty.
Having diversity within a school’s faculty provides students with different perspectives that are unique to the faculty members’ experience and culture. For instance, a Hispanic professor teaching a sociology class could share how their race has affected their social mobility in American society and the workplace. Professors from different cultures and ethnicities are able to apply their cultural knowledge to topics, which provides a more well-rounded learning experience. Also, students from diverse backgrounds often have a deeper connection and feel more comfortable with professors who share similar backgrounds that they otherwise would not have with white professors.
The diversity among students should be mirrored by the faculty who cultivate their learning. However, this is not always the case. According to Marybeth Gasman, a professor of education in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, there is not an established pipeline for professors of color in most universities. In Baylor’s case, professor diversity is disproportionately white in comparison to the student body.
Professors of color may encounter difficulties that their white counterparts may not. “The word ‘quality’ is used to dismiss people of color who are otherwise competitive for faculty positions,” according to Marybeth Gasman in her opinion column published in the Washington Post. In Baylor’s case, professor diversity is disproportionately white in comparison to the student body
Minority students are not the only ones who benefit from having professors of color and of different backgrounds. As diversity continues to increase in the United States as well as in larger cities, it becomes imperative for college students to know how to interact with all types of people. Other students who have not interacted with different minorities can further develop their skills of interaction in having professors that have different backgrounds.
It is imperative to have diverse faculty in all levels of education, but more so at the collegiate level where students are learning skills and gaining tools to prepare them for the real world. When there is a more diversified staff, a barrier is broken between minorities and their interaction with their professors. There is a level of understanding between students and professors with similar backgrounds because of their ability to connect over commonalities As a result, students are often more comfortable talking to certain professors.
A diverse faculty can also produce inspiration for students who come from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Seeing and being in an environment where the authority figure of the classroom looks like you or comes from the same culture as you can have a positive effect on student performance because their professors are evidence that it is not impossible to achieve one’s goals.
As Baylor moves to become more diverse in its student body, it should also move to create a more diverse faculty to broaden the perspectives of the classroom and to give students the opportunity to connect with professors who can resonate with students backgrounds.