Latino faculty numbers remain low, 10 years after Faculty Diversity Initiative
Although the Faculty Diversity Initiative has increased the numbers of black faculty and female faculty in the past 10 years, the percentage of Latino faculty remains low.
The Faculty Diversity Initiative was launched in 2003 to increase the number of black faculty, the number of women faculty in areas where they are underrepresented and to enhance the climate for all faculty members. Although strides have been made towards these goals, there remain areas in which diversity can be improved—including the number of Latino faculty members, administrators said. While the number of regular rank black faculty has more than tripled from 1993 to 2012, the number of Latino faculty has been stagnant.
“It has been understood since 2003 that Latino/Latina faculty is an important category that we pay attention to in addition to black, women and more recently, LGBT groups,”said Academic Council Chair Joshua Socolar, a physics professor. “But the total number [of Latino faculty] right now is not great.”
Among the 1,768 tenured faculty members, 2 percent are Hispanic compared to 80.3 percent white, 13.6 percent Asian and 3.9 percent black, based on data from the Faculty Diversity Initiative Biannual Report in 2013. No other categories were included.
“[The low percentage of Latinos] is not for lack of awareness of the issue or lack of interest in hiring them to improve our faculty. Attention is being paid, though we have not been very successful,” Socolar said. “One thing we see as a way to make our faculty better is to make it more diverse and representative of all the groups, and there have been efforts.”
Multiple factors contribute to the underrepresentation of Latino faculty at the University, including historical reasons and the location of the University, wrote Nancy Allen, vice provost of faculty diversity and faculty development, in an email Friday. She also noted that more focus has been placed on the hiring and retention of black and female faculty, as opposed to Latino faculty.
Allen said that a North Carolina location is a likely reason why the University has fewer Latino professors compared to research institutions in California, Texas, and Florida.
Inderdeep Chatrath, director of affirmative action and equal opportunity at the Office of Institutional Equity, noted that the low percentage of Latino faculty is tied to the availability of Latino candidates both in the area and across the nation.
“It is not uncommon among other peer institutions that there are fewer Latino professors,” Chatrath said. “That is not an excuse, but generally the availability of faculty who identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino is lower than that of other ethnic minority groups.”
A number of peer universities identify similarly low proportions of Hispanic and Latino faculty—recent reports list the University of Pennsylvania with 1.8 percent Hispanic/Latino faculty, Cornell University with 3.2 percent and Stanford University with 4 percent.
Chatrath added that representation of Latino faculty on campus also varies across disciplines.
“Some areas don’t have any faculty who identify themselves as Latino, and we have made progress in some areas more than others,” she said.
According to the Faculty Diversity Initiative Biannual Report in 2013, 75 percent of the regular rank Latino faculty in the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences are employed in humanities departments.
“We don’t want to say we are doing fine if all our Latino faculty are doing Latino studies,” Socolar said.
Laurie Patton, dean of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, wrote in an email Tuesday that in a slowed-down hiring environment, the college is not hiring as many professors as they would like. Trinity has hired four professors who self-reported their ethnicity as Hispanic/Latino in the last four years.
“This self-reported number likely slightly under represents the true number of Hispanic/Latino faculty we have hired. Regardless, we would like to hire even more,” Patton wrote. “The key will be both active recruitment and active retention. We see continued opportunity for growth in this area, and we need to be pro-active to the extent that we can, given our current overall hiring constraints.”
Luis Rosa, a Latino lecturer in the Thompson Writing Program, has been teaching at the University for three years. After his contract ends in May, he will have to apply for another job. Pulling from his experience working in a diversity office at Princeton University and on various committees at Duke, he noted that cultural idiosyncrasies are a significant reason behind the underrepresentation of minority faculty groups such as Latino faculty.
“The criteria some professors are using [when hiring new faculty] are not objective. They might think that this one candidate is too arrogant or that students would not like that candidate, but those are idiosyncratic arguments,” Rosa said. “If you are a male, white, upper middle-class bourgeois, your idiosyncrasies will make you like more somebody who is male, white, upper middle–class bourgeois.”
He added that affirmative action must be part of the criteria, and the University needs people with different worldviews.
“All objective values are tied to who we are," Rosa said. "If we don’t include the concrete criteria that we have to choose people who are different from us, people are going to keep choosing themselves."
Now that the 10-year diversity initiative is over, a new conversation in the Academic Council is under way to discuss what the next step should be to increase the presence of underrepresented minorities in faculty, Socolar said.
A pipeline program called the Provost’s Postdoctoral program was initiated in 2007 to enhance faculty diversity, and three of the 13 Provost’s postdoctoral researchers so far have been Latino, Allen said. The program provides opportunities for scholars with potential to become tenure track faculty, particularly in fields where there are fewer women and underrepresented minorities.
“The fact that there are meetings to talk about diversity and that the provost has many initiatives in place is a strong indication that diversity is a value that Duke is committed to,” Chatrath said. “It is not something that we can take care of in one year or even five years, but I am encouraged by the fact that we are doing something.”