While college students need a diverse selection of faculty members to provide multiple perspectives and viewpoints in the educational environment, a recent survey from the Women in Science & Engineering Leadership Institute shows minority faculty members feel less satisfied with their departmental workplace environment, according to the Study on Faculty Worklife.
Until recently, faculty members have reported feeling satisfied within their departments, according to the triennial survey.
“In this last one, not only did minority faculty fill out the survey, it was a significant decrease in any climate-related findings from what I saw last time, and that decline was alarming,” said WISELI Executive and Research Director Jennifer Sheridan.
The decline in faculty satisfaction was concentrated in the survey responses from female faculty, faculty of color and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer faculty members. They reported colleagues and department chairs treating them with less respect, in addition to feeling isolated, according to the survey results.
“People feel very identifiable when they fill the survey out,” Sheridan said.
WISELI has been monitoring trends of minority faculty members in comparison to the white male majority on campus since 2003, and Sheridan said she has seen a downward trend in the overall response rate over the last 11 years. However, there was a 3 percent increase in minority faculty responses in 2012.
The feelings of isolation could stem from the fact that faculty of color represent 18.2 percent of the faculty on campus, according to the Office of the Provost 2012 Data Digest.
While the overall number of faculty members of color has increased over the last 10 years, the numbers of black and American Indian faculty members have decreased since 2004, according to the Data Digest.
To combat this, WISELI began offering programs in 2004 to members of faculty search committees to educate them on unconscious biases within the hiring process, according to Luis Piñero, assistant vice chancellor for Workforce Equity and Diversity.
“Different schools and colleges request that these presentations be brought to their unit,” Piñero said. “For example, in the College of Letters and Science, the largest college on our campus, Gary Sandefur, the former dean, required all search committees for faculty to have at least one member of the committee attend a WISELI session.”
Vice Provost for Faculty and Staff Steve Stern has presented at the WISELI workshops on how to combat unconscious bias in faculty hiring, helping the hiring committees build a diverse pool of applicants.
“It’s not like you’re living in the era of Jim Crow in the South. The discrimination is more subtle, it’s unconscious,” Stern said.
Representation of minorities is key within departments for faculty of color, LGBTQ faculty and female faculty, and increasing diversity within departments can be facilitated with a diverse pipeline of applicants, according to Stern.
The Office of the Provost now offers grants to help schools provide resources for bringing in more applicants, in an effort to create a more diverse option for hiring, according to the Office of the Provost’s website.
Piñero said the programs WISELI offers to combat potential unconscious bias have helped educate the majority faculty members on campus, and the programs have had an impact on the overall hiring process.