Faculty diversity rates still stagnant

Media Credit: Sam Johnson | Hatchet Photographer

Provost Steven Lerman readies his report on faculty diversity and graduation rates to the Faculty Senate last Friday.

The number of minority professors has stayed mostly steady in the nearly three years since GW hired an Ivy League administrator to spearhead efforts to recruit more diverse faculty.

The percentage of Asian, black and Hispanic faculty has remained about 25 percent since Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Terri Harris Reed came on board in 2011. Reed said she had expected her work to take time because of the slow-changing faculty makeup, and that she’s keeping an eye on small successes, such as changing mindsets.

Reed said faculty diversity in higher education “is probably the toughest nut to crack” because many professors have earned tenure and could remain at GW for decades, compared to students, who naturally have a higher rate of turnover. Competitor universities, like New York University, face similar low faculty minority rates.

“The question is, can you move the needle in some substantive sort of way without waiting for time?” said Reed, who previously led the diversity office at Princeton University. “I feel that we’ve been successful in that we’ve begun to be very intentional about how we can find opportunities, and then take advantage of those opportunities.”

About 14 percent of professors are Asian and 9 percent are black or Hispanic, according to data from last academic year that GW released Friday.

The diversity of GW faculty has improved since 2008, when less than one-fifth of professors identified as non-white. The number of non-white faculty has risen by 7 percentage points since 2004.

Reed said she believes that number will tick up as GW hires 50 to 100 new professors over the next decade as part of the strategic plan – a move Reed called “a win” for the University.

Provost Steven Lerman, who announced the numbers at a Faculty Senate meeting last Friday, said hiring diverse faculty started with search committees housed in academic departments. He said he encouraged those committees to give more attention to professors from underrepresented backgrounds, particularly Hispanic professors, who make up about 3 percent of faculty.

This post was updated Feb. 21, 2014 to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Terri Harris Reed has been at GW for four years. In fact, she has served as the diversity vice provost for diversity for nearly three years.

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