Affirmative action: UC faculty diversity grows slowly amid state’s race neutral policies

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Editor’s note: This is the fourth installment in a four-part series on affirmative action at the University of California. The series was prompted by Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, a case challenging UT Austin’s race-conscious admissions policies, which was heard by the court last week.

In light of a ban prohibiting race-conscious admissions policies, UC administrators have been struggling to enroll an ethnically diverse student body for the past 15 years, raising concerns that in the long run, such a policy will also affect the diversity of the university’s faculty body.

Since 1998, when Proposition 209 – a voter-approved measure that prohibits California’s public institutions from considering race, sex and ethnicity in public contraction, employment and education – was first implemented, the representation of underrepresented minority students in UC Berkeley’s undergraduate student body has drastically declined. During this same period, the percent of underrepresented minority faculty members at the campus increased by about 2 percent.

In August, UC administrators raised concerns about the university’s success in building a diverse university community in the face of Prop. 209 in an amicus brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court for Fisher v. UT Austin. The case, which challenges the UT Austin’s race-conscious admissions policies, was debated in front of the court Oct. 10.“At present the compelling government interest in student body diversity cannot be fully realized at selective institutions without taking race into account,” the brief states.

Currently, underrepresented minority faculty members comprise about eight percent of the campus’s total faculty body, according to the campus’s Faculty Personnel Records.

Without the ability to search for specific ethnicities that may be lacking in the faculty body, it is more difficult to resolve gaps in the faculty’s demographic composition, said Angelica Stacy, the campus associate vice provost for the faculty.

“We can’t say, ‘We have no African American males, so we are going to hire someone who is,’” Stacy said. “Instead we look for those who have a track record of working in diverse communities. This could bring in someone from any ethnic background, but, more importantly, it brings in those who really care about equality and diversity.”

In 2007, a universitywide Study Group on University Diversity found that the number of underrepresented faculty on each campus “(is) low and (has) not improved since the late 1980s.”

The same year, the campus appointed Gibor Basri as the campus’s first vice chancellor for equity and inclusion. That same year, the campus Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, which researches policy related to “marginalized” groups, was launched.

Most recently, campus administrators initiated the UC Berkeley Strategic Plan for Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity in 2009 to change hiring, advancement and reward policies for faculty in order to create a “critical mass” of members in the campus community representative of California’s diversity.

However, even with such structural changes, growth remains slow. And campus administrators and university officials worry that this may deter underrepresented minority students from attending graduate school.

“It’s really the combination of a lot of barriers, educational attainment, opportunity, and, in that sense, these issues about undergraduate and graduate admissions are linked,” said William Kidder, assistant executive vice chancellor at UC Riverside.

UC officials say the lack of underrepresented minority faculty is a multilevel problem and stems from the lower rates of underrepresented minority students.

In 2011, only 8.6 percent of potential tenure-track faculty applicants, or those who received a doctoral degree between 1990 and 2004, were underrepresented minorities, according to data on faculty appointments from the UC Office of the President. That year, 10 percent of newly hired faculty members at UC Berkeley were from that applicant pool.

Professors from diverse backgrounds often reassure underrepresented students that they can succeed in graduate school, said Oscar Dubon, a Latino professor of materials science and engineering and the first associate dean of equity and inclusion for the College of Engineering at UC Berkeley. It was in large part due to the encouragement from a professor during his undergraduate work at UCLA that he pursued graduate work, he said.

“Students often identify with faculty whose background is similar to their own, because they are more likely to be addressing the questions and issues that are important to them,” said David Leonard, a former dean of international and area studies at UC Berkeley who left the campus after seeing what he said was the campus’s lack of initiative toward hiring underrepresented faculty members.

For some underrepresented minority students, taking classes from professors with a similar ethnic background is a source of inspiration.

“Our teachers represent who made it,” said Eniola Abioye, a black sophomore at UC Berkeley. “It was easier to imagine their journey and where they came from.”

contact Alex Berryhill at [email protected].

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  • Calipenguin

    “However, even with such structural changes, growth remains slow. And
    campus administrators and university officials worry that this may deter
    underrepresented minority students from attending graduate school.”

    I’m glad the author attributed this specific opinion to university officials rather than state it as fact, because if it were a fact then what does that say about the mental capacity of underrepresented minorities? Do they all need role models matching their own color in order to attend graduate school? They should have learned from their undergraduate years that people of any color can be great teachers. A Black man is President of the most powerful country in recorded history, and he attended graduate school. Isn’t that enough of a role model?

  • Arjun Chopra

    This is a shame , do we not have enough American professors ?

  • I_h8_disqus

    The chart seems to indicate around a 30% increase in non-white and non-Asian faculty since the end of affirmative action. Why doesn’t the article seem to give us the same story?

    • JJMMC

      Hard to tell because the chart is garbage– the y-axis should definitely be in terms of %, not absolute number.

      • libsrclowns

        That’s because some Ethnic/Race/Gender Studies quantitatively illiterate moron put the data together for the chart.

        • JJMMC

          Start asking Berkeley math and physics students about their political leanings. You’ll be disappointed to learn that the vast majority lean left :)

          • Stan De San Diego

            Many of the younger ones may still be to the left of center while in school, given that they have been wards of academia for 12-16 years of their life and have really never been exposed to any other point of view. However, you would be surprised to find out how many of the shift politically to the right once they have graduated, moved out into the real world, started working, and begin to see how much money is being taken out of their paychecks to support the nonproductive members of society. Most of the classmates that I have been in touch with from my Cal days advise me that they will be voting for Romney in November, which certainly wouldn’t make them “left-leaning” in your book, would it?

          • libsrclowns

            Libs love to placate the dead-enders with free stuff. It’s the basis of Obama’s Forward down the Shitter Strategy.

          • guest2

            Winston Churchill quote: “Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has no heart: and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains.”

          • libsrclowns

            So?

  • parent

    Perhaps Cal should hire the academically most qualified faculty independent of “underrepresented minority” status, however this may be defined. Otherwise, the academic quality of the university will suffer.

    • JJMMC

      The mission of the UC is not purely academic. It’s not about churning out the largest possible volume of research content, because that’s not the best way to serve the citizens of California. Creating a community, and fostering a sense of unity, direction, and inclusiveness are vital to ensuring the success of the UC.

      Building an effective research university is a lot more complicated than simply putting the smartest possible individuals together in a room. An institutions comprised of many individuals is a lot more (or if you’re not careful, a lot less) than simply the sum of its parts.

      Sure, whether or racial diversity is an important part of this equation is up for debate. But “Cal should hire the academically most qualified faculty” is an overly simplistic metric by which to criticize the UC’s affirmative action initiatives.

      • Stan De San Diego

        > “Creating a community, and fostering a sense of
        > unity, direction, and inclusiveness are vital to
        > ensuring the success of the UC.

        And who decided on that mission? The taxpayers?

        • JJMMC

          That’s not the mission, just general characteristics of successful large, heterogeneous organizations,

          • Stan De San Diego

            Oh, really? The general characteristics of most successful large organizations is actually getting something productive done, not emitting a bunch of touchie-feelie PC babble.

          • JJMMC

            That ” touchie-feelie PC babble” is what makes running a top-tier research university so difficult. It’s not as easy as hiring the most prolific possible academics. Maximizing “education” and “useful research” is non-trivial (there’s no right answer even when it comes to defining those words). A lot of the value of an educator and/or researcher is driven by their interpersonal relationships with students and colleagues.

          • Stan De San Diego

            Once again, you’re saying nothing. How does “diversity” improve education? You can’t answer that question.

      • Calipenguin

        UC is a school system, not an income redistribution bureaucracy of Comrade Big Brother. The mission is research and education. If its mission is only to serve the citizens of California, then it should accept no out of state students or international students, and it should only hire residents of California, but obviously that is not its mission. If less academically qualified students of any color wish to attend college, there are plenty of CSU campuses, community colleges, for-profit colleges, and free online college courses available for them. If UC’s mission is to provide financial success to a nontrivial proportion of Black, Hispanic, and Native American residents regardless of academic merit then it should be given taxation powers by the California legislature so that UC chancellors can tax local businesses and residents and provide that revenue to minorities.

        • libsrclowns

          What empirical evidence exists that shows education quality is correlated with the percentage of minority faculty or students?

          • Stan De San Diego

            Oh, absolutely none, just more excuses for certain academics to hire more of their buddies who find they couldn’t make it in the real world with a PhD from some racial/ethnic/gender studies program.

        • JJMMC

          “If its mission is only to serve the citizens of California, then it should accept no out of state students or international students”

          No, because admitting students from outside of California brings smart and passionate people into the state.

          • Stan De San Diego

            I see you had another one of your logic failures. Are you trying to tell us that you don’t know what “if” means?

  • Tim Rett

    Do we hear governments, the mass media, and academia calling for Japan to bring in millions of non-Japanese people and assimilate with them because they’re “not diverse enough”?

    Exactly — we ONLY hear this about White countries. Anti-Whites are calling for the genocide of White children.

    Anti-Racist is a codeword for Anti-White.

    • libsrclowns

      We need more Christians in Iran and Saudi Arabia. Lets organize a protest.

    • guest

      Do white people who immigrate to Japan face discrimination and accusations of being lazy / taking advantage of the system?

      • Stan De San Diego

        Actually, they do. Having spent plenty of time working in Japan, I can tell you that gaijins get no special breaks there, which is fair enough. The point being is that the bleeding hearts whining about “diversity” don’t ever seem to ask why other countries aren’t as enamored of it as they are.