Membership Programs Meetings Publications Advocacy Press Room About AAC&U
Association of American Colleges and Universities
Search Web Site
Resources on:
Liberal Education
General Education
Institutional Change
Civic Engagement
Science & Health
Global Learning
AAC&U Publications

Diversifying The Faculty: A Guidebook For Search Committees (2002/56pp)
Caroline Sotello Viernes Turner

The following is an excerpt. To obtain the full publication, please use the fordering information provided at the bottom of the page.


America's colleges and universities are educating a larger and more diverse group of students than ever before. According to a recent study conducted by the Educational Testing Service, an even greater transformation in the student body will occur over the next decade. By 2015, for example, 80 percent of the anticipated 2.6 million new college students will be African American, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, or American Indian. Nationwide, the number of undergraduate minority students enrolled in colleges and universities will increase from 29.4 percent to 37.2 percent. The number of minority students in the District of Columbia, California, Hawaii, and New Mexico will exceed the number of white students. In Texas, the campus population of minorities will be nearly 50 percent, and in New York, Maryland, Florida, New Jersey, Louisiana, and Mississippi, minority student enrollment is expected to exceed 40 percent of the total undergraduate population (Carnavale and Fry 2000).

While we have witnessed steady growth in the racial and ethnic diversity of the student population, we have not seen similar diversification among college faculty. Despite the efforts of many colleges and universities, racial and ethnic minorities remain grossly underrepresented among the faculty; they make up only 13.8 percent of the total faculty nationwide. The latest annual status report, Minorities in Higher Education, indicates the proportion among full-time faculty: 5 percent African Americans (non-Hispanic), 2.7 percent Hispanics, 5.7 percent Asian Americans, and 0.4 percent American Indians (Harvey 2001).

Moreover, faculty of color1 are not evenly distributed across institutional types, disciplines, or academic ranks. For instance, larger numbers of Hispanic faculty are employed at two-year institutions. African Americans, American Indians, and Hispanics are most acutely underrepresented in the fields of science and engineering. Across ranks, Asian Americans comprise only 1.8 percent of academic administrators (Turner and Myers 2000; Harvey 2001).

The arguments for faculty diversity are as compelling as the arguments for student diversity, which also extend beyond the obvious reasons of equity. Faculty diversification contributes directly to educational quality. A diverse faculty means better educational outcomes for all students. To serve current and future student populations, multiple and diverse perspectives are needed at every level of college teaching and governance. The more diverse college and university faculty are, the more likely it is that all students will be exposed to a wider range of scholarly perspectives and to ideas drawn from a variety of life experiences. The emergence within the last thirty years of new bodies of knowledge can be attributed to the diverse backgrounds and interests of faculty of color. By bringing new research questions and fresh perspectives to the academic enterprise, these scholars create intellectual stimulation for both students and faculty alike (Turner 2000; Shattering the Silence 1997).

To better serve new students and to prepare all students for an increasingly diverse world, it is important that colleges and universities transform not only what they teach but also how they teach. Evidence suggests that exposure in college to a diverse faculty along with diversified curricula and teaching methods produces students who are more complex thinkers, more confident in traversing cultural differences, and more likely to seek to remedy inequities after graduation (Hurtado et al. 1999; Smith and Associates 1997). Since faculty of color are frequently those who take scholarship and teaching in new directions, their presence on campus makes this goal easier to attain. In fact, faculty of color surpass their white colleagues in the use of teaching techniques associated with student-centered pedagogy (antonio 1999). Furthermore, faculty of color provide students with diverse role models and help provide more effective mentoring to minority students.

The current professoriat, largely white and male, is now preparing to retire. The young professors hired in large numbers during the academic boom years of the 1960s are near the end of their careers. This pending wave of retirements will profoundly affect higher education in the coming years, and faculty and administrators at many institutions are hopeful that these anticipated vacancies will be filled with faculty of color.

Although the pool of minority faculty is underdeveloped, studies have shown that it is also underutilized (Turner and Myers 2000; Smith, Wolf, and Busenberg 1996). Moreover, within the higher education community, myths and misconceptions dominate the conversation about the recruitment of faculty of color. It is often asserted, for example, that potential applicants are unqualified, widely sought after, or unavailable. It is important that campuses move beyond such mistaken notions. These myths, stereotypes, and assumptions help maintain the status quo and create significant barriers to achieving a racially and ethnically diverse faculty.

Informed by the growing research literature on racial and ethnic diversity in the faculty, this guidebook offers specific recommendations to faculty search committees. Many of these recommendations are also based on first-hand observations, testimonials, and conversations with faculty of color2. The primary goal of this guidebook is to help structure and execute successful searches for faculty of color. Although focused on junior-level faculty searches, many of the recommendations also can be applied across ranks and disciplinary lines. Of course, the specific procedures for conducting the search process will vary from institution to institution, but the analyses and suggested actions presented here are widely applicable.

This guidebook is divided into three parts, mirroring the steps in the faculty hiring process. Part I: Before the Search Begins describes the necessary and ongoing campus processes that are crucial in creating a context within which search committees can successfully diversify the faculty. Part II: The Search Process details what should happen during the search to promote success in hiring faculty of color. Since recruiting faculty of color without retaining them is self-defeating, Part III: After the Search includes suggested actions to be taken after the search is concluded. Best and promising hiring practices from a variety of institutions are interspersed throughout the text, and an extensive annotated bibliography and several appendices are included to help search committees and institutional leaders in this important challenge: diversifying the racial and ethnic composition of the faculty. (2002/56pp)

Item Code: DIVFAC / Member Price: $15 / Non-Member Price: $20

For more information about AAC&U publications, or to place an order, email or call 800-297-3775 (202-387-3760).