Minority Professors Underrepresented

Sommer Ingram, The Lariat (Baylor University), October 25, 2007

Non-white Americans are still significantly underrepresented as recipients of Ph.D.s in the United States, according to the American Historical Association, and the Association aims to encourage administrators at universities across the country to change this precedent.

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According to faculty distribution statistics, Baylor has between 800-900 faculty members with only 15 African Americans and even fewer Hispanics.

“Baylor, like most private universities, always has room to grow in the area of diversifying and including more minorities in staff,” Jerry Park, assistant professor of sociology, said. “Compared to schools even five or six years ago, Baylor is still very traditional in figures with staff. In terms of gender, we are pretty well-proportioned, with the national average of about 35 percent women. But when it comes to race, it is a completely different story.”

Using resources from the National Study of Postsecondary Faculty, US News & World Report and Baylor Web site statistics, Park said that in the fall of 2006, 92 percent of the staff were white as opposed to the national average of 78 percent three years before.

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In its column, the American Historical Association intended to guide the practices of administrators in universities when dealing with minority faculty members in all departments, not just history.

The next generation of college students will increase significantly in minority ratio, while the number of non-white faculty is projected to shrink. The decreasing number makes the task of recruiting graduate students of color even trickier.

“There may be some important relationship that these statistics might suggest for Baylor,” Park said. “If the 8 percent of African-American students only see 2 percent of their faculty as the same race as they are, it may discourage them from going on to get their Ph.D.s in their chosen field of study.”

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Students agree that a small number of minority faculty members contributes to the reluctant attitude often associated with minority students and higher education.

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The problem of fewer and fewer minorities receiving Ph.D.s begins as early as the application process for undergraduate studies.

Many universities have Early Action decisions that allow prospective students to apply as early as the summer before their senior year. Park said that these decisions might be detrimental to minority students.

“Some of these kids may be coming from unprivileged backgrounds and are more reluctant to put their chips in at the beginning and say they definitely want to go to college,” he said. “They’ll be more likely to play it safe and wait until they know they can get financial aid. But if colleges have already made these Early Action decisions, they are leaving out a large chunk of the student population who are probably minorities.”

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