GW looks to boost faculty diversity

GW officials plan to implement a number of new techniques to bring diverse faculty members to University classrooms, including adding a minority to the search committee and recruiting more Hispanic professors. Despite hiring 35 women and 28 minorities for professor positions this year, academic affairs officials said they are attempting to close the diversity gap between students and faculty.

GW hired nine fewer professors altogether this year compared with 2001-2002; it recruited a smaller percentage of women and the same percentage of minorities. The University also hired Native Americans for the first time, adding two new faculty members of Native American origin, according to the annual “Recruitment and Retention of Women Faculty and Faculty of Color” report released last month.

“Our goal is for our faculty structure to mirror the student body,” said Donald Lehman, executive vice president for Academic Affairs, who submitted the report to the Faculty Senate March 14.

Fourteen percent of the student body is Asian, 6 percent is black and 8 percent is Hispanic. Faculty numbers lag behind these ratios; 11 percent of the faculty is Asian, 5 percent is black and 2 percent is Hispanic.

Lehman said while the overall percentage of female professors hired has not increased, female junior-ranked faculty members already outnumber males. Junior-ranked faculty members, positions that include assistant professors and instructors, are 49 percent male and 51 percent female. Meanwhile, professors and associate professors, or senior-ranked faculty, are three-quarters men and one-quarter women.

“These numbers indicate a positive change for the future,” Lehman said.

Annie Wooldridge, assistant vice president for Faculty Recruitment and Personnel Relations, said the high percentage of male professors is characteristic of most colleges and universities.

She said she was impressed with the overall numbers.

“I am pleased with how far we’ve come,” she said. “The most disappointing thing is that we can’t seem to make any headway among the Hispanic faculty.”

Despite the increase in minority faculty, Hispanic professors continue to compose only 2 percent of the GW faculty population, a problem that has persisted for a decade.

Lehman addressed the lack of growth in the number of Hispanic faculty at a luncheon with Hispanic professors this semester.

Students agreed that the University should focus on recruiting more minority professors.

“It is alarming to see such a low number of Hispanic professors,” said freshman Vinicius Portugal, who is Hispanic.

Other students stressed the importance of a diverse faculty, especially in the foreign language department.

“Personally, I would like a Hispanic teacher who can teach me Spanish with inside knowledge about the culture and with a correct native accent,” sophomore Melissa Jenkins said.

Other students said diversity of faculty is not of major concern.

“I don’t really care what the professor’s ethnicity and background is, as long as he or she can teach the subject well,” junior Inna Rotenberg said.

In October, Lehman and University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg hosted a breakfast with black faculty to discuss the quality of their professional lives at the University and strategies for GW to improve the campus climate for minority faculty.

“We are trying to get the minority faculty involved in the recruitment process,” Wooldridge said.

In preparation for the next recruitment cycle, Lehman asked every department to include an outreach plan as part of its request to fill positions. Wooldridge, who determines whether the applicant pool is sufficiently diverse or if further outreach is necessary, will then approve the plans.

“The outreach plan should describe the special efforts (departments) will employ to reach qualified women and people of color and to encourage them to apply,” according to the Senate report.

Wooldridge said she was optimistic the outreach plan will help reach future goals for diversity.

“This way, we can identify the best practices (of finding diverse candidates) and share the ideas among campuses,” Wooldridge said.

Over the next few months, Wooldridge’s office will work with Lehman, the Deans’ Council and department chairs on a plan of action to increase outreach. The report noted a particular focus on black and Hispanic faculty.

“We feel a satisfied faculty is the best recruitment tool,” Wooldridge said. “We understand that salary and compensation packages are not all that is important to minorities and people of color.”

Wooldridge said the University is looking to add several measures, including conducting faculty climate surveys, interviewing faculty members who leave the University and other special outreach programs to improve faculty satisfaction and increase recruitment.

Although the University is not subject to quotas or hiring regulations, officials said diversity among students and faculty is essential.

“Diversity enriches everyone’s experience,” Wooldridge said. “Companies are interested in students who come into the workplace more equipped to deal with differences.”

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