Magazine Article

Diversity in the Professoriate
Aff irmative Action

By John Berteaux and Juanita Darling

In Roman mythology the god Janus is depicted as having two faces. Facing backward and forward, Janus presided over beginnings and endings of the days and of the year. It is our argument that the California State University system is in need of a Janus—someone to maintain a stable, strong appreciation for both the history of and current rationale for affirmative action among CSU faculty. While recognizing that considerable progress has been made to faculty diversity in the CSU system as a whole, we suggest that it is time to turn attention to diversity across the campus and within departments.

This is a crucial time to discuss this issue because while students of color are attending the CSU in greater number, the notion that the CSU system has already been transformed into a multicultural organization does not fit the facts. In the 21st century, the limited presence of faculty of color will become more apparent as the number of students of color on the system’s campuses increase.

Hence, the CSU must be clear about where the system stands today and about its goals. It must also explore barriers to reaching its goals. And faculty must be clear about their obligations and those actions that are
permissible as members of hiring committees. In addition, the negative impact of the state’s fiscal crisis has forced the CSU to furlough faculty, raise tuition, and trim services. It follows, then, the university must focus on and explore ways to maintain diversity among its faculty owing to increasing minority enrollment in spite of the current fiscal crisis.

We come to these concerns from two different fields of study where faculty of color are less represented, Philosophy and Mass Communication. In Philosophy, of the 10,000 North American Philosophers, Robin Wilson estimates that no more than 100 are African-American Philosophers. Charles Mills contends that the numbers are equally as dismal, if not worse, for Asian American, Latino, and Native American philosophers. Moreover, Wilson reports that there may be fewer than 20 female African American
Philosophers in the United States. In Mass Communication, which includes Journalism, the scarcity of faculty of color reflects concerns about under-representation of people of color in newsrooms and media in general. Mass Communication programs must attract and retain students from a broad range of racial and ethnic groups if they are to effectively support news organizations in their attempts to diversify their staffs. The presence of faculty of color could be a factor in student retention. Learning from faculty who represent a broad range of experiences could also help all students understand media and news events from more perspectives.

Concerns about our own fields of study shape our approach to the issues of faculty diversity and affirmative action. We are sensitive to the historic reasons that led to affirmative action policies. However, we are also aware of the implications of an increasingly diverse professoriate for the future, particularly for students and the communities to which they contribute after graduation. These concerns inform the questions that we ask about faculty diversity.

While recognizing that gender and sexual orientation are also important elements of diversity, this study does not purport to offer insights into those issues. Nor does this study examine the relationship between race, ethnicity and status by comparing tenured and tenure-track faculty to lecturers. These are all important issues that merit consideration, but they are beyond the scope of this study.

What this study does attempt to accomplish is a Janus-like approach that will improve the understanding of affirmative action in the context of the CSU faculty. First, it looks backward in an analysis of the affirmative action literature. Then, it draws on state government and California Faculty Association documents for a clear picture of the current situation to provide grounding for exploring future courses of action.

Historically, affirmative action was implemented to resolve race-based domestic problems in the United States—correcting for the under representation (or over representation) of minority groups in particular sectors of society. Conventional wisdom was, if there is a legacy and continuing pattern of racial and sexual discrimination not only is that unjust, not only does it create social and racial division but it means that there are institutions (universities, businesses, fire departments, etc.) where various groups are underrepresented. And that has been understood as a major social and political problem. It is a problem not only because it is unjust but also because once the major institutions are formed by racial and sexual discrimination, then there can be an automatic reproduction of racism unintentionally without anyone willing it or designing it. As a result, the idea of adopting policies that get increasing numbers of non whites and women into jobs has been irresistible and powerful. But it is also an idea that has created tremendous resentment and disagreement.

Whereas conventional wisdom may have it that affirmative action is dead, the California State Auditor Report insists that affirmative action plans are valuable as a means of familiarizing search committees to the availability of women and minorities. In addition, the auditor stated that there is little consistency among the campuses in meeting federal regulations that require employers consider both internal and external factors when estimating the percentage of qualified women and minorities available for the job market.

Admittedly, the scarcity of candidates of color for faculty positions in many disciplines creates challenges for hiring committees and we acknowledge the negative impact of recent economic and budgetary developments across the CSU, yet we still maintain that many of the resources needed to proceed are already available. Besides uncovering inconsistencies, the State Bureau
of Audits has discovered campuses and departments that have implemented successful practices for recruiting faculty of color. Their experiences should be shared throughout the system. Faculty members and administrators who have participated in several successful searches should be identified and encouraged to act as mentors and resources for other departments and campuses desiring to improve their recruitment of faculty of color. Success in recruiting diverse faculty should be recognized as a demonstration of leadership. Our hope is that our research will serve as a stimulus for collaborative research within the CSU for those seeking to meet the needs of people of color.

John Berteaux is Associate Professor of Philosophy at CSU Monterey Bay and Juanita Darling is Assistant Professor of International Relations at San Francisco State University.