Students on Faculty Diversity
“No, No, No. There’s no one that looks like me,” Twanna Futrell, a senior at CUNY Baruch College states when asked whether her professors reflect her ethnic group. As a black woman, Futrell is sensitive to the lack of diverse faculty within her campus. After attending the same campus for four years, recent graduate Maleeka Holdson agreed that her professors did not reflect her identity as black woman: “My professors did not reflect the groups that I’m in.” Dr. Arthur Lewin, professor and lead faculty member at the CUNY Baruch Black and Latino Studies Department, agrees Baruch has very “few Black or Latino Professors.” Part of the Baruch family since 1979, Lewin is very knowledgeable about the changes that have occurred among not just faculty but also students. “Now, the number of Black and Latino Students is not half of what it used to be in the 1990s and the same is true of the faculty” Lewin responds when asked about the changes in regard to inclusion and diversity at Baruch.
What is the impact when one works at or attends a campus that does not resonate with them culturally? Lewin describes the significant impact as a lack of relatedness. “My colleagues, on the whole, have scant knowledge of the history, culture and issues facing African Americans and Latinos on the campus and in the nation.” The impact of this, for Lewin, is that though his colleagues are caring and thoughtful, few of them have the same cultural experiences.
A paper in Procedia Economics and Finance by Ankita Saxena argues that a diverse workplace increases productivity. It is evident that improvement on inclusion is necessary for safe workspaces. What does this mean for students? How has the lack of faculty diversity impacted their higher education experience? Dashawn Jones, a member of both the LGBTQ and black communities, states “I use it as a conversation piece to convey how I will not let this societal marginalization negatively impact my future.” Ceronne Mitchell, also an undergraduate student at Baruch College, adds, “I was forced to seek out a group of individuals on my college campus who I relate with, and who look like me. It improved my social life 100%.” Jesus Manuel a Latino student, said “It is hard for my professors to resonate with my everyday struggles and limitations.” Jessica Guerrero, a Latina student, agrees that “It makes me feel left out and like I don’t fit in. Other groups always have faculty/professors to represent them, but I don’t. It is evident this problem has created a domino effect from faculty to students. Arysta Gibson, an African American senior, said “I wanted to be a professor, or work on a campus but no one looks like me here; in four years, no one has taught me from my African American community, and I major in psychology, really?” Gibson’s statement confirms what Stroessner and Good have written in their work on stereotype threat. They point out that a lack of faculty role models can reduce students’ career options and limit the domains of study they wish to pursue.
Some students have started to wonder whether the lack of diversity is a result of hiring discrimination or a structural problem. Nordasia Hinds, a senior at Baruch, said, “It just makes me question whether or not these people are going for these jobs or are they going and being rejected.” The lack of faculty diversity is causing students to question the fairness of the hiring process. In a healthy system, students would not be asking these questions.