November 2000 aaUPBEAT
Issues Pertaining to Faculty Diversity
Affirmative Action & Faculty Diversity
Twenty-two years ago, Justice Powell wrote the Supreme Court opinion in the Regents of the University of California v. Bakke case. The court's finding was that, for the purpose of promoting diversity, race was one of the factors the university could consider when making decisions about student admissions. This decision had a ripple effect, promoting the use of affirmative action programs not only in the area of student admissions, but also in related areas like financial aid and faculty hiring.
Not surprisingly, given America's history of racial tensions, this ripple effect eventually produced a backlash, as evidence by, among other cases, Coalition for Economic Equity, et al. v. Wilson. In this case, the mentioned coalition challenged California's Proposition 209, a state constitutional amendment which denies state agencies the right to use race or gender as a determining factor in hiring and other matters. With regard to public colleges and universities, Proposition 209 has the effect of eliminating race/gender preferences in student admissions and faculty hiring. When an appeals court rejected the coalition's challenge and upheld Proposition 209, the coalition attempted a Supreme Court appeal, but the nation's highest court declined to consider the case, thereby contributing to the ongoing confusion regarding affirmative action's future.
As the affirmative action debate continues, a recent joint publication by the AAUP and the American Council on Education (ACE) makes the case, through the use of empirical evidence, that affirmative action works. The report, "Does Diversity Make a Difference? Three Research Studies on Diversity in College Classrooms," suggests that promoting diversity not only rectifies past imbalances but also strengthens higher education discourse by broadening the number of perspectives available to faculty and students in pursuit of their academic goals. What gives the report weight is that it is based, among other findings, on the first comprehensive study of the attitudes toward, and the experience with, racial and ethnic diversity of faculty members at the country's leading research universities. The report warns that too often affirmative action's critics have "ignored the educational value of a diverse learning environment to all students."
Be that as it may, there still remains much dispute, even among affirmative action's supporters, regarding who actually benefits from affirmative action. Take, for instance, political scientist Kul B. Rai's findings in his book, Affirmative Action and the University: Race, Gender and Ethnicity in Higher Education Employment (University of Nebraska Press). Kul's numbers show that in 1970 white faculty members constituted 91% of the professoriate and that this number, broken down along gender lines, revealed that white males held 68% and white females held 23% of faculty positions. Interestingly, during the period 1970-1991, whereas white men's hold on faculty positions at all institutions of higher education shrank 9% to 59%, white women's share of faculty positions expanded from 23% to 28.5%. This gain on the part of white women partially offset the decrease in white male faculty, so that, at the very height of affirmative action programs, whites' hold on faculty positions only slipped 3%, from 91% to 88%, while faculty positions held by people of color rose from 9% to 12%. This is not a very big change when we consider the outcry that anti-affirmative action crusaders have made regarding the supposedly radical alterations that affirmative action has brought to the academy. This is especially interesting when we realize that almost none of this outcry has had to do with women, but instead with the so-called lower standards brought to higher education by "unqualified" people of color.
Not only do no such numbers exist to substantiate this slur against faculty of color, but the real issue regarding low standards pertains to the low standards of many of those higher education committees, task forces and commissions across the nation that have managed to achieve so little with regard to faculty diversity in such a long period of time. It is this fact that motivates the AAUP, both nationally and locally, to recognize that the struggle for affirmative action and diversity will be key faculty issues over the coming years.
How important these issues are can be seen by taking a quick look at the history of UD's recent efforts to foster racial and cultural diversity. For more than a decade, and in spite of a lot of Administration promises to the contrary, the Administration's failure to achieve significant gains in hiring minority faculty has typified the very essence of the diversity problem: nice-sounding reports and public statements are no substitute for action. The Administration long ago passed that point in time when they can gain a reprieve by claiming "we're trying." We believe they have tried. Unfortunately, they've failed.
The UD Commission to Promote Racial and Cultural Diversity was convened in 1988 as part of a University attempt to resolve ongoing concerns about lack of campus diversity. That there was a diversity problem was no surprise to anyone at the time, since in 1981 the U.S. Department of Education had cited Delaware's higher educational system for having retained 'the vestiges of unconstitutional segregation." In the years following the Department of Education's pronouncement, it became clear that UD's diversity dilemma was not only evidenced in the University's predominantly white student population, but also in the faculty's demographics. Those demographics were sufficiently lacking in variety that there was no hope of the faculty becoming a magnet for attracting a wider range of students to the school.
One of the diversity commission's goals was to improve this situation. The mandate to do this was included in its 1988 founding document, which stated that the commission's mission was to create "an educational community that is intellectually, culturally and socially diverse, enriched by the contributions and full participation of people from different backgrounds." As the facts show, the Administration's refusal to adopt a targeted hiring approach in order to realize this goal resulted in the commission falling dramatically short of accomplishing its stated purposes with regard to faculty diversity.
In 1983, five years before the commission's formation and two years after the U.S. Department of Labor's warned that the state's higher educational system was flawed by a lack of racial balance, African-Americans made up 1.7% of the UD faculty: 13 faculty members out of a total of 767. By 1987, the year prior to the commission's creation, the percentage of African-American faculty members had increased to 3.2%: 27 black faculty out of a total of 855 faculty. By 1996, the year that concluded the first eight years of the commission's existence, the percentage of African-American faculty at UD declined from 1987's 3.2% to 3%, although the total number of black faculty members increased by one to 28 (out of a total faculty of 920). Now, four years later, there has been, once again, a marginal decline in the percent of African-American faculty. As of, Oct. 1, 2000, black faculty constituted 2.8% (38) of the total faculty (998).
One cannot study these numbers without acknowledging the obvious: the commission's goal of rectifying the faculty's black-white racial imbalance has literally accomplished nothing over a twelve-year period. Due to the constraints placed on its work by the Administration, no improvement has occurred since the commission's inception. This is traceable to the Administration's attempt to solve racial imbalances without the one thing that is needed: a well-thought-out affirmative action plan that is willing to take risks. As a result, the Administration pursued a series of approaches that, even if well-intended, didn't possess the rigor needed to aggressively go out and solve the problem at hand. Neither the Administration's use of enhanced hiring practices nor its utilization of the visiting faculty designation to attract notable minority faculty to the campus can be described accurately as affirmative action strategies; they are more akin to gestures that, for whatever reason, lack the substance of a full-fledged commitment to create racial change. This lack of commitment affects not only faculty, but also students, which is why UD continues to be plagued by a student black-white racial imbalance. Without either a significant number of African-American faculty or an institutional reputation for racial understanding to attract them, black students haven't been attracted to the University. Currently, only 5.8 % of our undergraduates and 3.6% of our graduate students are African-American
After years of falling short of its faculty diversity goals, the time has come for the University to adopt an affirmative action plan with some bite. Targeted hiring is that plan. Simply put, targeted hiring means this: if a department finds a qualified minority who fits into that department's needs, the Administration will create a position for that person.
It is the absence of such a commitment both at UD and at other institutions of higher learning that make the following comment of Cary Nelson and Stephen Watt, in their book Academic Key Words: A Devil's Dictionary for Higher Education, so chilling:
"Of course, meaningful affirmative action for black faculty is largely moot; there are hardly any in existence."
Although the Administration and Board of Trustees run UD and must take responsibility for not initiating a targeted hiring policy, the faculty diversity problem is not theirs alone. It is an issue white faculty must also take seriously. We can't afford to view the minority hiring issue narrowly, only rousing ourselves to support it if it helps us create new positions in our departments. The diversity principle must be championed on its own merits, without subordinating it to other issues.
We also must remember that there are practical reasons for getting behind the diversity struggle. Faculty would be naive to think we can win broad public support for some of our needs - e.g., competitive salaries, fair workloads, adequate time for research and scholarship, etc. - if we remain a white enclave only twelve miles from a city that is 52% African-American, and in a state that is 18% black and more than 20% people of color. Our competence as academics and intellectuals is questionable if we can't see that faculty diversity is not just a campus issue, but is an issue of our relationship to the communities we are mandated to serve. It is also an issue of equity. Here as elsewhere, the impediments to a more diverse faculty have nothing to do with most minority applicants' qualifications, but rather with deeply rooted institutional and social/cultural biases.
Almost one hundred years ago, in 1903, W. E. B. Dubois wrote in his "Forethought" to The Souls of Black Folk, "Herein lie many things which if read with patience may show the strange meaning of being black here at the dawn of the twentieth century."
Now we're at the dawn of the twenty-first century and it isn't certain that Dubois, if he were a scholar today, could secure a faculty job.
We have a problem. We should solve it.
Domestic Partner Benefits: Another Diversity Issue
The AAUP is considering once again bringing the domestic partner benefits issue to the bargaining table. In the mid-1990s, after introducing the issue at the bargaining table and failing to win it, the AAUP co-launched a domestic partners benefits committee with the Administration. Although this joint committee recommended the inauguration of such benefits to the Board of Trustees, the board rejected the proposal, thereby violating the spirit of the board's supposed commitment to developing a discrimination-free campus environment.
The board's behavior in that situation was disturbing. For the trustees to arbitrarily crush a proposal that was jointly presented to them by the union and Administration, signaled the board's disregard for campus input into University polity, when such input does not suit their purposes, even when those purposes are rooted in a past that is rapidly changing as its restrictions on who is and who isn't allowed access to democracy's rights and privilege are rethought.
In spite of this, however, the AAUP's commitment to domestic partner benefits has not been dampened. In fact, we recently have been cheered to see that the nation's autoworkers, unlike our Board of Trustees, have displayed a democratic and moral vision on this very issue. They demanded, and won, domestic partner benefits as part of their last contract negotiations. So much for the so-called inferior intellectual status of blue-collar workers when it comes to matters that require a well-rounded view of the world. Both the Chrysler and General Motors assembly plants in Delaware have domestic partner benefits. Why doesn't the University of Delaware?
Given the growing number of institutions that give domestic partner benefits to employees, and given the fair treatment ethic dictated by the diversity principle, the AAUP proposes the following with regard to domestic partner benefits:
All benefits that the current contract gives to the spouses and dependents of faculty members, should also be given to domestic partners and the children of domestic partners. A domestic partner is defined as the same-sex partner of a UD faculty member. To be eligible for domestic partner benefits, the faculty member and his/her partner must meet criteria that are spelled out in the administration-AAUP committee's report to the President.
Long-Term Health Care
We received the following letter from a faculty member in response to our request for member input into possible bargaining issues for the next contract negotiations. We are considering his proposal.
"The note in the aaUPBEAT indicated that if we had a special issues we'd like to see included in collective bargaining, to let you know.
"Well, I think it would be terrific if the University offered employees an option for Long Term Health Care for themselves and their families.
"TIAA has such a policy (which looks pretty good) but it is very expensive. I don't mean the U of D should pay the full tab, but even if it provided us with some reasonable coverage, then left it up to the employee to add (and pay for) the extra buzzes and whistles, that would be good. Even the benefit of just having a group plan with no university financial involvement would lower costs considerably.
"I called the Benefits Office about this and they indicated, 'Yes, we have been thinking about this.'" Well, there's a time to think, and a time to act!
"Thanks for considering this suggestion."
AAUP's Relationship to the United Way
In the past, the AAUP has always endorsed the United Way's annual fund-raising campaign. However, such yearly endorsements now will be withheld unless the United Way reevaluates its financial contributions to the Boy Scouts of America, which discriminates against openly gay scout leaders and scouts.
Although technically no internal AAUP rule prohibits us from endorsing the United Way even if it supports an organization characterized by racial, ethnic, religious, or sexual preference discrimination, such an endorsement would violate the spirit of our collective bargaining agreement's anti-discrimination language.