Number of Minority Hires Remains Low At UC Berkeley





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The number of minority faculty hired by UC Berkeley continues to remain low-a lingering effect of Proposition 209's passage in 1996, according to some professors.

Currently, minority ladder-rank faculty, who are either already tenured or on the tenure track, make up 16 percent of the university's overall faculty. Out of the 64 faculty hires in the 2001-02 academic year, 11 were Asian American and one was Latino.

Percentages of underrepresented minorities-blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans-show a steep drop in faculty hires. In the five years before Prop. 209, underrepresented minorities constituted 11 percent of faculty hires. Five years later, the figure decreased by 7 percent, according to a 2000 report of the chancellor's advisory committee on diversity.

"The numbers are terrible," said Charles Henry, former vice associate provost for faculty equity and chair of the African American studies department.

But Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Jan de Vries pointed to the low numbers as merely a continuation of the lack of minority faculty hires even before the passage of Prop. 209.

"It never was good, and it isn't good now," he said.

Statistics show UC Berkeley has hired an average of five underrepresented minority faculty members in ladder-rank positions per year in the past 10 years.

As the 2000 Census showed a significant increase in the state's minority population, many question the future of UC Berkeley's role as a public land-grant institution.

Non-Hispanic and non-Latino whites constitute 46.7 percent of the state and 81.25 percent of new faculty hires in the current academic year. On the other hand, Latinos constitute 32.4 percent of the state population and make up 1.6 percent of new faculty hires.

"As a state institution, we're supposed to be serving the needs of California," said Angelica Stacy, associate vice provost for faculty equity. "It's a no-brainer response from a practical viewpoint."

But for some, the increasing minority population of the state is not an adequate reason to diversify the faculty.

"We cannot socially engineer the campus to make it look like society," said John McWhorter, a UC Berkeley linguistics professor. "Trying to make campus look like society is simply unrealistic."

Although the Faculty Equity Assistance Office, which operates from the Chancellor's office, reviews faculty outreach and recruitment and recommends new programs to diversify faculty, the July 2000 report recommended departments be held principally accountable.

"No amount of energy at the campus level will be effective to promote diversity if changes are not felt directly at the 'local' level where key personnel decisions are made," according to the report.

Departments initiate the hiring process by requesting faculty positions from the division dean, and the request eventually makes its way to the academic senate.

"The decentralized nature of hiring in Berkeley through departments makes it difficult to do things from the chancellor's office," Henry said. "You really need advocates in each department that are going to monitor the search process and advocate for diversity."

As for the future of faculty diversity, Henry said he was "more optimistic about some departments than others."

Currently, several UC Berkeley departments, such as legal studies, have no ladder-rank minority faculty members.

De Vries attributed the low numbers of minority faculty hires to the competitive marketplace and low numbers of minority doctorates, rather than the lack of UC's commitment to diversity.

Oftentimes, he said, UC Berkeley must compete with other high-ranking universities for qualified minority candidates. While approximately 80 percent of the faculty offers made to nonminority candidates are accepted, only about 50 percent of offers to minority candidates are accepted, he said.

"If private schools are more attractive to some people because of the prestige, then there isn't much we can do about it," McWhorter said.

But others related the lower acceptance rate for minority candidates to whether UC Berkeley is an inviting place for minority faculty. They said the lack of numbers in minority faculty makes it difficult to develop a sense of community on campus.

"If the 'old boys network' don't feel comfortable with you, and you're giving off signs that you don't feel comfortable with them, then you get excluded," Stacy said.

De Vries also cited the lack of minorities earning doctorates nationwide as another barrier to finding qualified minority candidates.

"If the pipeline isn't filling up, who are we going to hire in 10 years," he questioned.

But according to an annual census of new doctorate recipients, percentages of doctorates awarded to minority groups are steadily rising. In 2000, racial and ethnic minority groups earned over 16 percent of all doctorates awarded to U.S. citizens, "the largest percentage ever."

The 4,389 doctorates awarded in 2000 to racial and ethnic minorities illustrate a 25.1 percent increase from 1995 and an 86 percent increase from 1990, according to the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center.

The numbers of minority faculty hires at UC Berkeley don't correlate with the numbers of qualified graduate students who are earning their doctorates, said ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President Catherine Ahn.

But the numbers of doctorates awarded to racial and ethnic minorities vary according to academic fields.

According to the National Science Foundation, the numbers of blacks and Latinos earning doctorates in science and engineering in 2000 equaled nearly half the number of whites earning doctorates in science and engineering that year.

Some faculty members point to improving outreach to diversify faculty applicant pools.

Because the administration selects from elite schools, the pool is very small, Stacy said. Expanding the applicant pool by looking in more places would help to diversify the existing faculty.

"There are some terrific candidates who don't have that pedigree," Stacy said.

But others remain skeptical of expanding the applicant pool with outreach.

"Outreach is good as long as we're finding equally qualified candidates," McWhorter said. "Too often, outreach is used as a euphemism for lowering standards."

While several reports, conferences and faculty retreats in recent years have attempted to open the discussion on diversifying the faculty, De Vries said the process may take many years because assessing accessibility is complicated.

"It's important that there not be any barriers," he said. "It's not easy to recognize those barriers and to put the right policies to do away with them."

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