College faculties still deal with underrepresentation
College faculties still deal with underrepresentation Via Pexels

Even though the proportions of Black and Hispanic college faculty increased between 2003 and 2021,there are still concerning trends regarding underrepresentation of both minorities, according to a recent study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Among the main findings: there were lower proportions of Black and Hispanic college faculty compared to Black and Hispanic workers with advanced degrees (e.g., master's and doctorate) and professional workers (e.g., lawyers and engineers); Black and Hispanic individuals were also less represented among college faculty than among students.

In 2021, for example, 7% of faculty members were Hispanic compared to 19% of students, a similar disparity also being the case for Blacks (8% faculty, 12% students).

The study, which analyzed Department of Education and Census Bureau data, emphasized the importance of having college faculties that reflect the demographic changes in society.

"Addressing the underrepresentation of Black and Hispanic faculty is not only a matter of diversity but also impacts the overall quality of education and student outcomes," the study's authors wrote. "It's imperative that we hold institutions accountable for fostering inclusive environments that reflect the diversity of our society."

Among the main reasons for underrepresentation of Blacks and Hispanics in higher education, the study identified one significant barrier: the processing of employment discrimination complaints. Even though faculty members have a channel for filing complaints with either the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Department of Education, delays in the referral of those complaints have become a major hurdle.

In 2022, for example, the Department of Education referred 99 discrimination-related complaints. But event though the mandatory period for their resolution is 30 days, the average time was closer to 71, delaying the resolution process and perpetuating inequity, according to the study. It also uncovered deficiencies in the EEOC's tracking and processing of complaint referrals.

The study suggests a series of areas and measures which could positively impact diversity in colleges. They include enhancing mentorship, conducting retention studies and providing leadership opportunities.

"Our nation's colleges and universities must be bastions of diversity and inclusion, and addressing the underrepresentation of minority faculty is a critical step towards achieving that goal", the authors concluded.

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