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Lack of Diversity in UNLV’s Faculty

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UNLV is the second most diverse campus in the U.S, yet the mirror in front of students does not provide the same reflection through their professors.

While 57 percent of UNLV’s undergraduate students are part of a racial or ethnic minority, only 10-11 percent of faculty are part of a minority group.

“It’s not productive for the institution as a whole nor productive for students to not see people like them. It also shows the lack of intellectual diversity,” says Ranita Ray, sociology professor at UNLV.

The institution’s efforts to recruit and hire minority faculty continues to fall short, with no hires in the last fiscal year and only two black hires, which accounts for 5.7 percent of all hires, according to the UNLV Fiscal Year 2015 Campus Report.

The domination of white male professors to instill an education to a large population of minority students without a sense of relatability affects students in their education, as Human Services student Jazz Sheffer explained.

“It’s the dominate narrative. It’s the thing that we’re always hearing all the time and it doesn’t get questioned when it’s always being heard all the time. In all aspects, I think, of society, whether it’s business or it’s school or it’s just social relationships, if you only have this one point of view, it narrows your thoughts on a sociological and biological level, so we need diversity,” Sheffer said.

In the article, “#SyllabiSoWhite,” by The Stanford Daily, Stanford student writer Madeleine Chang implies that the European baseline of our education is taught by white professors because they relate with them more.

“This creates the illusion of a white baseline and obscures the subjectivity behind our understanding of excellence. Learning texts that capture the breadth of human experience requires an equally broad range of professors equipped to teach beyond the traditional canon,” states Chang.

“Two decades ago, 26% of the teaching population was of color,” says Dilworth. “Today it’s 18%. That tells me that we have been losing ground.” states Mary Dilworth, the co-author of NEA Report: Lack of Teacher Diversity Jeopardizes Student Achievement.

With only a few minorities being hired at UNLV, Associate Vice President for the Office of Diversity Initiatives and Chief Diversity Officer Rainier Spencer explains that in order to hire a more diverse faculty, there have to be more minorities with Ph.Ds who want to be professors.

“People don’t see going into higher education as an economic choice they want to make in life. If you do get a Ph.D, do you go into teaching, or do you go into business and work for a company and make a ton of money?” states Spencer.

While the number of minority graduates with Ph.Ds that choose to teach is low compared to those with other careers with a doctorate degree, the process to become a professor if you are a minority has tougher battles to combat compared to white males.

“There are more hoops that they have to jump through. They are faced with barriers that other faculty aren’t and they’re not necessarily fair barriers. They are just barriers where the people who are in charge aren’t recognizing their work as legitimate,” says Spencer.

“Overqualified minority don’t get hired because of discrimination Univeristy have to have policies in place,” states Ray. “Also microaggression is a real thing and majority of minorities will experience this is Academia.”

The incline for minorities to study minority topics serves as a leeway for the dominative narrative to discount their expertise Spencer explained.  

Spencer states, “The problem is that sometimes no matter where they’re publishing, people are discounting it because they think and assume that because it deals with Hispanic studies then it’s not real history or real sociology.  So it is having to legitimize the work that they do to show that it’s as worthy as the work that has already been done.”

Not only is hiring minority faculty a problem UNLV and many colleges are facing, but maintaining them as well. While more Asian and women faculty were hired last year, the disproportionate number of women faculty tenured remains unbalanced with 236 women faculty tenured compared to 448 men, as reported in UNLV’s FY15 Campus Report.

“We have not done as well a job as we should have in retaining and tenuring minority faculty,” says Spencer.

Spencer states that although the competition to hire these professors is high due to the high demand of minority professors, the “unconscious bias” of many is a great factor regarding the acceptance and retainment of minority professors.

“There’s a lot of unconscious bias. But you can’t make everyone unbiased. You have to just live with it,” says Spencer.

Political science major Travis Barley states, “I think that all of our teachers should come from different backgrounds so we can learn from different aspects of life from the ground up because as a white male, I know the white male perspective but I need to know the other perspectives to be a total package.”

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