Minority Faculty, Diversity

Minority Faculty Diversity Lags Behind Student Diversity

As of fiscal year 2021, eight percent of faculty were Black, compared to 12 percent of students and the representation of Latinx faculty stood at 7 percent compared to 19 percent of students.

Black and Latinx professors are underrepresented in the disciplines they teach, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office. The numbers indicate that there is still more work to be done to increase faculty diversity on college campuses.

As of fiscal year 2021, 8% of faculty were Black, compared to 12% of students, and the representation of Latinx faculty stood at 7%, compared to 19% of students. 

As NBC News reported, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) requested the study from the federal government. The GAO report also lists Fredericka Wilson, a House of Representatives Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development member, as the other person who requested the study. 

Scott told NBC News that representation among college faculty still needs to improve. “The good news is that faculty diversity has improved over the last twenty years. The bad news is that faculty diversity is still not representative of the students they teach.”

Ahead of the release of the GAO study, Scott told The Hill his reasoning for requesting the study. “Research has shown that faculty diversity plays an important role in student completion and can have a major impact on students’ sense of belonging and retention rates,” Rep. Scott said. “That is why I asked the GAO to study the state of faculty diversity at institutions of higher and the hiring and retention policies to promote faculty diversity.”

According to Jinann Bitar, the director of higher education research and data analysis at the Education Trust, institutions that serve minorities, like HBCUs, have helped to bridge some gaps because their approach to educating students of color is reflected in their hiring of faculty. 

Bitar told NBC News, “The best efforts we’re seeing are when things are both intentional and longitudinal, programs where they’re starting to catch students earlier in what would be a faculty pipeline.”

According to the study, the EEOC is acting on the GAO’s recommendations. “One recommendation directs Education to track the timing of employment discrimination complaint referrals to EEOC. Education agreed. One recommendation directs EEOC to develop a protocol to ensure it receives and processes all complaint referrals from Education. EEOC neither agreed nor disagreed but acknowledged the importance of processing all referrals and is taking related action.”

The study acknowledges that in comparison to white professionals and professors, there is much less representation among minority groups. There are, however, several strategies being implemented to hire and retain faculty from marginalized racial backgrounds, including collaborations with minority-serving institutions to find new hires. 

The report indicated that investment in mentorship, leadership programs, and studying ways to help retain university professors could help retain faculty of color alongside a university climate that supports campus workers.

The report also found that the EEOC and the Department of Education are inefficient at responding to complaints of employment discrimination from university employees. Though the Department of Education is supposed to forward claims to the EEOC in 30 days, the actual time it took for the EEOC to receive the complaints averaged 71 days. 

Scott told The Hill that he was encouraged that the recommendations from the GAO are going to be implemented.

“Moreover, the GAO found that the process for faculty to file discrimination claims is not always straightforward or intuitive. And if a faculty member is able to file a claim, it is not always reviewed in a timely manner. I am encouraged that the Administration has agreed to implement the GAO’s recommendations to improve the claims process.”