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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

UA student body increases in diversity as faculty inches behind

While the student body at the UA becomes more racially diverse each year, the faculty isn’t keeping up with the trend.

According to data compiled by University Analytics and Institutional Research, 37.5 percent of students enrolled in 2014 were minorities, which is a five percent increase over the past four years. Unfortunately the percentage of minority staff, in comparison, represents only 27 percent of all employees and only increased by a meager 2 percent during the same time period, from 2011 to 2014.

While the difference may seem slight, further examination of the UAIR’s diversity profile reveals that the increase in employee diversity doesn’t apply to all staff members. Broken down into subgroups, employees who fall under the categories of classified, appointed and graduate associates or assistants accounted for the slight improvement, whereas administrators and tenure-track faculty showed no statistically significant change.

Laura Hunter, the program and research manager at Inclusive Excellence, which serves as a focal point for diversity efforts at the UA, explained in an email interview that this discrepancy may be in part due to the fact that women and minorities are underrepresented in the candidate pool.

“Lack of mentors, unconscious bias and other factors can contribute to a ‘leaky pipeline’ in which women and minorities tend to ‘leak’ at every stage from graduate school to upper ranks of academia,” Hunter said.

Despite the slow changes in demographics taking place amongst the faculty, the UA is ahead of the national average in terms of race and ethnicity of college faculty.

In 2013, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that only 21 percent of all full-time faculty in degree-granting postsecondary institutions represented minorities. Conversely, the national average of minority students enrolled in postsecondary institutions was 39.7 percent, just above UA minority enrollment.

“There are many factors that contribute to differing levels of diversity across universities [including] differing outreach activities of the universities, the diversity of the larger community where the university is located and the political climate of the state,” Hunter said.

The UA will continue to strive to advance diversity through Inclusive Excellence, which focuses on using research, education and community engagement to anchor inclusion in the core of the university’s mission.

“Diversity is embedded in many different units across the [UA] as it is, but we’re seeking better coordination of diversity efforts to increase the impact these initiatives can have,” Hunter said.

These efforts include the creation of the Diversity Coordinating Council and replacing the chief diversity officer, who recently left the school.

The council, featuring its Never Settle strategic plan, strives to strengthen the diversity of the UA community at all levels, including race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, nationality, language, religion and socio-economic background.

Aaron Thompson, coauthor of “Diversity and the College Experience” and a professor of sociology for Eastern Kentucky University, discusses why it’s important to have diverse college campuses. Thompson wrote in a US News article that having a diverse campus is a necessity for social progress on school campuses, prepares students for working in a global society, expands worldliness and promotes open-minded thinking. He believes that being exposed to as many different cultures and walks of life during such a crucial developmental period can forever affect the manner in which students treat human dissimilarities for the rest of their lives.

Inclusive Excellence currently works to help recruit more diverse faculty members through several programs like the Diversity Coordinating Council.

“We are currently in a state of transition,” Hunter said. “We have exciting new plans that will be unveiled in the near future that I believe will be an innovative approach to diversity efforts.”


Follow Olivia Duffett on Twitter.


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