Professors of color make up small percent of Rutgers faculty

Once again, Rutgers was named the country's most diverse college by U.S. News.

But according to recent data reports released by the National Center for Education Statistics, diversity for faculty members is lacking.

Data shows that Rutgers' faculty is 62 percent white, 14.3 percent Asian-American, 4.2 percent black, 2.5 percent Hispanic, 5.9 percent foreign and 11.1 percent other, Mother Jones reported.

At a time in history when race has been reintroduced as a problem in the public sphere, demands made by student activists across the country have included hiring more diverse and representative faculties, according to Mother Jones.

Yolanda Martinez-San Miguel, a professor in the Department of Latino and Hispanic Caribbean Studies, said she has not seen a positive change in faculty diversity in the past five years.

“We have lost several important faculty members to better offers in other institutions,” she said.

This fall, Martinez-San Miguel said President Robert L. Barchi announced a diversity-hiring program. Previous programs did not work, and faculty diversity numbers are down from the levels in the 1970s levels, she said.

“This initiative ... does not compare with other more robust efforts that are being spearheaded by several campuses nationwide,” she said. “We know that cluster hires of diverse faculty members work better because (they create) a critical mass of people who could then implement long term changes in institutions.”

Rutgers does not have any University-wide active diversity-hiring initiatives that could increase faculty diversity, she said. Previously held cluster hiring programs were cancelled by the new administration, Martinez-San Miguel said.

Daphney Noel, president of the Rutgers—New Brunswick Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said she was not surprised to learn that 4.2 percent of Rutgers faculty was black.

“I would have been (surprised) if the amount of black faculty at Rutgers was above 10 percent,” the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior said. “Four to 5 percent is more like the norm, rather than some shocking news. It isn't right, but it is how primarily white institutions work.”

Having a mostly white faculty and staff makes it more difficult for people of color to learn, she said. This applies even more in the humanities, where professors and teaching assistants may not be aware of the micro-aggressions that students of color face. 

Students of color may have difficulty expressing their thoughts without sounding prejudiced against white students, she said. If a professor does not understand what the students are going through, their response may be offensive.

Dionne Higginbotham, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and president of the Rutgers Black Student Union, said she also did not find the low percentage of black faculty members surprising.

Higginbotham said she has not had many professors of color and finds it quite discouraging.

“In the different classes that I’ve taken here at Rutgers, the majority of my professors have been white, and the times that I have had black professors, they were usually in classes taken in the Africana Studies Department, or classes that were specifically about black studies,” Higginbotham said.

Professors of color can share common experiences with black students, which allows them to support students on a personal or emotional level in a way that white professors may not be able to do, she said.

Many students of color feel more comfortable around familiar faces, Higginbotham said. When students look around the University and see few people who look like them, it makes adjusting to college more difficult. 

Diverse professors broaden the transfer of information, since everyone receives and distributes knowledge differently, Noel said. Hiring diverse educators allows diverse interpretations and a wide range of perspectives in the classroom, she said.

“We as students can raise awareness about the low percentage of black faculty and the resulting consequences,” she said. “It is our duty to advocate for issues such as these in order to make the University a better place for everyone.”

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