The benefits of having a diverse faculty are abundantly clear. Professors of color can offer a safe space for students who identify with them, and they provide essential perspectives to counteract the traditionally whitewashed intellectual landscape of higher education.
To have these faculty become tenured in proportionate numbers is even more critical to ensure the longevity of these diverse viewpoints.
In terms of tenured faculty, Ithaca College seems to be heading in a positive direction. Though just 11.7 percent of tenured faculty are minorities, about a quarter of tenure-eligible faculty are minorities, indicating that the percentage of minority tenured faculty may increase in the coming years.
But this judgment is only based on our own data. The problem is there are so few data available to judge whether the college is doing well compared to nationwide trends.
The best solid data set regarding the breakdown of full-time tenured faculty at higher education institutions can be found in a National Center for Education Statistics report from 2000 called “Salary, Promotion, and Tenure Status of Minority and Women Faculty in U.S. Colleges and Universities.” This report was a statistical analysis of a 1993 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty, which found that in 1992, minorities made up 10.6 percent of all tenured faculty. In 2002, the NCES published a follow-up called “Gender and Racial/Ethnic Differences in Salary and Other Characteristics of Postsecondary Faculty: Fall 1998,” but this includes figures on the proportion of minorities who are tenured, not the other way around.
The most recent figures on tenured minorities were highlighted by the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education in 2007, when 4.6 percent of tenured faculty were black. But this does not account for other minorities.
The lack of data supporting such an important issue is shocking. As Cynthia Henderson, associate professor in the Department of Theatre Arts, pointed out, there needs to be a change in the attitude toward professors of color so they “are viewed as colleagues” and “intellectual equals.”
Colleges nationwide need to be more forthcoming with data on their tenured faculty to ensure that we prioritize maintaining a diverse professional environment. It is crucial to the health and intellectual well-being of not only the faculty, but also the student body.