August 18, 2019 | 74° F

EDITORIAL: Lack of faculty diversity needs mending

One of most diverse U. in one of most diverse states lacks inclusion

Institutions of learning are designed to be the grand guardians of democracy, wielding education as a great leveler of inequities, a ladder descending down to those born into circumstances beyond their control, ready for their ascension. Some professors and teachers collapse under the weight of their responsibility to place this ladder within reach.  

A Rutgers professor’s research on education systems found that white teachers were three times more negative with Black students than with white students, showing that critical phases of development for Black children could be hindered through daily interactions with their teachers, as reported by The Daily Targum.

Dan Battey, an associate professor in the Graduate School of Education, analyzed a data study of the interactions between teachers and students across racial lines and found white teachers “were more negative in handling student emotions. They are more negative in interacting with student ability and how they framed student ability than Black teachers on basically every dimension.” The teachers of the survey were equally positive, yet unequally negative. 

Representation in faculty is at the crux of any inclusive education. While Rutgers parades its badge of diversity, its faculty has become less representative since the 1970s. Forty years and only regression in the consistency of the educational leaders of the student body.

In 1976, “African Americans and Latinos constituted 6.8 percent and 2.1 percent of the faculty, respectively, but by 2004, these numbers had decreased to 4 percent and 2 percent," according to the Gender and Race Equity Report by Rutgers' American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT).

The 2000s would not spark the fulfillment of the promises of progress and inclusion, either, as the percent of Black tenured and tenure-track professors continued to fall, declining from “5.4 percent in 1997 to 4.2 percent in 2017 and that of Latino/a faculty rose only modestly from 2.4 percent in 1997 to 3.9 percent in 2017.” Representation among non-tenured-track professors is even worse.

Those who teach the student body of the State University of New Jersey do not reflect those who inhabit the state. New Jersey is 15 percent Black, 20.4 percent Latinx and 10 percent Asian. The lack of diversity is not going unnoticed. “In many of the forums organized by the Task Force, students raised the lack of diversity among faculty as a major area of concern," according to the 2017 New Brunswick Task Force on Inclusion and Community Values.

Rutgers is situated in one of the most diverse states in the nation with one of the most diverse student bodies in the country.  

One potential solution is investing in inclusive graduate programs that develop a diverse pool of future faculty members. A proposal to offer graduate students five-year funded packages, with an additional fellowship year comes after the President Robert L. Barchi era in which “diversity funding for graduate students has become scarcer.”

Funding allocations have been made to make Rutgers more competitive with its peers in the Big Ten. While much of this includes a focus on athletics, “Rutgers—New Brunswick ranks eighth among its peer institutions in the Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA) with respect to the overall percentage of African Americans on its tenured or tenure-track faculty.” 

When it comes to concentration of decision-making power in white hands, the Institute for Women's Leadership at Rutgers found that Rutgers and Ohio State are among the worst when it comes to gender and racial diversity in senior administrative officials.

Incentives to increase hiring pools can start at increasing the salaries of faculty members as Rutgers faculty have “some of the lowest salaries in the Big Ten Academic Alliance, once you factor in the high cost of living in the New York and Philadelphia metropolitan areas." Management salaries at Rutgers are four times the national average. 

This is a complex problem drenched in systematic inequities and cemented in historical precedence of exclusion and oppression. This does not mean we can neglect the realities of the University. Initiatives and programs will act as the chisel through which we can break the disproportionate mold that holds this unrepresentative reality in place.


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 151st editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff. 

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