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Breakdown of tenured professors at Duke shows disparities in race, gender

Chronicle File Photo | Page Auditorium after it was renovated in 2015
Chronicle File Photo | Page Auditorium after it was renovated in 2015

In light of national discussions surrounding the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s decision to originally not offer tenure status to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, The Chronicle analyzed the demographic makeup of Duke’s faculty to see how the University compares to peer institutions.

Here are the results of the analysis, which comes from data collected by the United States Department of Education in 2019.

Tenure as a whole

Of the 4,059 full-time faculty members working at Duke in 2019, 1,353 were tenured, making up one-third of the University’s teaching staff. This figure is comparable to that of other private institutions: 27% of faculty members at Columbia University are tenured, while the University of Chicago sits at 34%. 

The percentage of tenured professors at Duke remained steady during the past few academic years prior to 2019. In 2017, 1,300 of 3,869 (34%) faculty members were tenured (34%) and 1,326 of 3,958 (34%) were tenured in 2018.

Tenure by gender

Of the 2,394 full-time male faculty members at Duke in 2019, 999 were tenured, or about 41%. Of the 1,665 female professors, however, just 354 were tenured, or 21%. 

These figures have also held form over time, as 42% of male professors and 22% of female professors in 2017 and 2018 were tenured.

Tenure by race

Racial disparities are also evident in the demographics of Duke’s tenured professors. Just 48 of the 197 (24%) Black and African American faculty members in 2019 were tenured, compared to 1,075 of Duke’s 3,022 (36%) white faculty members. 

Just 29% of Black male professors and 20% of Black female professors were tenured, compared to 44% of white male professors and 22% of white female professors. 

In 2019, nearly 36% of Asian male professors and 19% of Asian female professors were tenured, along with 34% of Hispanic male professors and 18% of Hispanic female professors. These figures are all lower than the tenure rates of the faculty members’ white counterparts and are very similar to the rates in the years prior to 2019. 

Duke is not alone in these stark differences in tenure numbers between men and women and white and Black professors—the Department of Education’s data show that similar breakdowns exist at many other private research institutions around the nation. For example, in 2019, 65% of white male professors at Harvard University were tenured, compared to 45% of Black male professors. A disparity of a similar magnitude occurred at Johns Hopkins University, where 44% of white male faculty members were on tenure in 2019, in comparison to 20% of Black male faculty members. 

University efforts and future action

Duke’s Academic Council met in April to discuss possible changes to the policies surrounding non-tenured professors. The committee’s discussion included talks of new avenues for regular-rank staff to become tenured and the establishment of larger contracts for non-tenured professors. 

Additionally, in October 2020, The University received a $16 million grant from The Duke Endowment for the purpose of “recruiting and retaining diverse faculty” as well as developing “programming that enhances an inclusive environment.” 

The UNC Board of Trustees will meet Wednesday and is expected to reconsider a vote for Hannah-Jones to receive tenure.


Gautam Sirdeshmukh

Gautam Sirdeshmukh is a Trinity sophomore and the health & science news editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.

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