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Running head: FACULTY DIVERSITY DEMOGRAPHIC

Student Affairs Contested Issue: Faculty Demographic Within Higher Education


Samantha Sonkowsky
University of Wisconsin La Crosse

FACULTY DIVERSITY DEMOGRAPHIC

Student Affairs Contested Issue: Faculty Demographic Within Higher Education


Diversity in higher education has become more important than ever as our student
demographic and our definition of diversity is changing. In the past, most studies on student
demographic were restricted to investigation into racial/ethnic diversity among students (Hurtado
et al., 2008). Nowadays, the term diversity constitutes much more than racial/ethnic diversity,
from Arredondo (1996) perspective, diversity refers to a greater range of individual human
differences (p. 15) and can be understood across three dimensions of personal identity
(Arredondo & Perez, 2006). As institutions exhaust their recruitment and retention efforts, with
the common goal of a more multicultural student base, their attempts to create a mirrored diverse
faculty have faltered. Over time these efforts have matured, but even more so today, institutions
alike need to engage in more innovative and comprehensive measures to construct a more
diverse faculty.
First we can attempt to examine the campus climate in which faculty find themselves and
ask ourselves if this climate is proactive or reactive in fostering diversification. Peterson and
Spencer (1990) defined climate as "the current common patterns of important dimensions of
organizational life or its members' perceptions of and attitudes toward those dimensions" (p. 7).
From a students perspective, if a student feels that the faculty at their institution does not
accurately represent a diverse campus population, some students may be more affected than
others. Furthermore, non-dominant student groups on campus tend to be more sensitive to
diversity among authority figures within an institution (Lee, 2010). However, many researchers
(Ancis, Sedlacek, & Mohr, 2000; Helm, Sedlacek, Prieto, 1998; Worthington, Navarro, Loewy,
& Hart, 2008) would argue that, members of historically under-represented groups perceive
campus climate less favorably than Caucasians. Due to this, scholarship and studies

FACULTY DIVERSITY DEMOGRAPHIC

surrounding campus climate have often been neglected when examining faculty diversity,
leaving it to currently be neither proactive nor reactive.
Subsequently, by observing exemplars of past recruitment efforts of faculty diversity, the
positive and negative aspects can be brought into light. Foremost, most of the past efforts were
directly focused on ethnic/racial background but with the term of diversity expanding past race
and venturing into personal identities, a shift in recruitment will be seen now and into the future.
Certain faculty can attest to being recruited to work at an institution based on their ethnic/racial
background rather than their academic background. If the desire for diversity is the primary
motive for hiring, however well meaning it may be, minority faculty members should proceed
with extreme caution (Roy, 2013). With regard to minority faculty gaining tenure within an
institution Roy (2013) attests, I encountered administrators who admitted they had hired
members of minority groups because of incentives to do so, even though they believed that some
of those they hired were not prepared to compete for tenure. Conversely, negative experiences
such as these have opened doors into developing new administration positions, to meet the
needs of increasingly diverse campuses, many institutions have developed executive positions to
guide their diversity agendas (Williams & Wade-Golden, n.d.). A current trend in the higher
education job market is the growing position, Chief Diversity Officer (CDO). This position, as
described by Williams & Wade-Golden is responsible, for guiding efforts to conceptualize,
define, assess, nurture, and cultivate diversity as an institutional and educational resource.
Although duties may include affirmative action/equal employment opportunity, or the
constituent needs of minorities, women, and other bounded social identity groups, chief
diversity officers define their mission as providing point and coordinating leadership for
diversity issues institution-wide.

FACULTY DIVERSITY DEMOGRAPHIC

With the creation of positions like CDOs, institutions have started to recognize their
responsibility towards institutional diversity. In terms of faculty, one responsibility of the CDO
may be ensuring that recruitment is done fairly and based on merit for positions available
regardless of the individuals diversity make-up.
An additional aspect of faculty diversity to be explored could be the benefits and
challenges of multicultural restructuring. Pope, Reynolds, & Mueller contend that restructuring,
allows for a shared and mutually respected understanding of goals, roles, and procedures (2014,
p. 74). A product of a common understanding of the latter can then result in the group (faculty)
banning together when faced with new issues they can work on resolving together. Another
benefit of restructuring is that the group effectively incorporates and empowers the diversity
of group members (p. 74). Faculty will demonstrate a group development of standards, beliefs,
and values that will transform into fundamental aspects of the institutions mission. As a result,
effect group decisions will be made about budget, resource and issues. Although these benefits
may seem great in essence, they come with challenges; one of the biggest challenges being
conflict. Katz & Miller (1996) state, if this conflict if not handled appropriately, can cause a
group to revert back to the old ways of conducting business, discontinue the change process, or
avoid and move on to other priorities (as citied in Pope, Reynolds, & Mueller, 2014, p. 74).
Conflict even though it can be challenging to face, often creates evolution for the diversity
object. Another conflict institutions face is that even though they want to crush all
generalizations on campus, they may not know where to start. Concerning faculty diversity,
those in charge of recruitment, for example Human Resources, may be faced with this challenge
in not knowing how to appropriately and proactively hire multicultural faculty. A measure that
could be taken is for institutions to provide diversity recruitment workshops or other means of

FACULTY DIVERSITY DEMOGRAPHIC

professional development to raise awareness that surrounds what it exactly means to attain and
retain a diverse faculty.
By gaining exposure to different aspects surrounding the highly contested issue of faculty
diversity, an understanding of what may attribute as to why we have yet to achieve a mirrored
student-to-faculty diversity can develop. No one facet may attribute to not reaching the goal of
faculty diversity, as it is seen to hold many complexities. The solution, if one exists, will be
complex in itself. What institutions can learn is what has not worked in the past. Roy (2013)
offers some considerations that may prove helpful in achieving the goal of a diverse faculty: (1)
establishing a supportive climate before a new faculty member arrives goes a long way toward
increasing retention, (2) mentoring junior professors, (3) protecting junior professors must
always be a priority, particularly minority female faculty members, (4) developing so-called
pipeline initiatives, programs that nurture the development of minorities years before they enter
the job market, and (5) hiring in "clusters" provides new professors with a built-in support group.

FACULTY DIVERSITY DEMOGRAPHIC

References
Ancis, J., Sedlacek, W. E., & Mohr, J. J. (2000). Student perceptions of campus cultural climate
by race. Journal of Counseling and Development, 78, 180-185.
Arredondo, P. (1996). Successful diversity management initiatives: A blueprint for planning and
implementation (p. 15). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Arredondo, P., & Perez, P. (2006). Historical perspectives on the multicultural guidelines and
contemporary applications. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 37, 1-5.
Helm, E. G., Sedlacek, W. E., & Prieto, D.O. (1998). Journal of College Counseling, 7(2), 111120.
Hurtado, S., Griffin, K. A., Arellano, L., & Cuellar, M. (2008). Assessing the value of climate
assessments: Progress and future directions. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education,
7(4), 204-221.
Lee, J. A. (2010). Students' perceptions of and satisfaction with faculty diversity. College
Student Journal, 44(2), 400-412.
Peterson, M. W., & Spencer, M. G. (1990). Understanding academic culture and climate. W. G.
Tierney (Ed.), Assessing academic climates and cultures. New directions for institutional
research (No. 68, pp. 3-18). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Pope, R. L., Reynolds, A. L., & Mueller, J. A. (2014). Creating multicultural change on campus
(p. 74). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Roy, L. (2013). Faculty diversity: We still have a lot to learn. Chronicle Of Higher Education,
60(12), A72. Retrieved from LexisNexis Academic database
Williams, D., & Golden, K. (n.d.). The chief diversity officer: Strategy, structure, and change
management. Retrieved November 12, 2014, from

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https://www.uc.edu/content/dam/uc/diversity/docs/What_is_a_Chief_Diversity_Officer.p
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Worthington, R. L., Navarro, R. L., Loewy, M., & Hart, J. (2008). Color-blind racial attitudes,
social dominance orientation, racial-ethnic group membership and college students'
perceptions of campus climate. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 7(1), 8-19.