Diversity is still a pressing problem in the higher education workplace. Recently, it has become increasingly clear to me that we must engage majority members in this sometimes uphill battle if we are to succeed. When we invited Professor Joe Feagin to our campus to meet with our equity committee, he immediately noticed that we did not have majority group representation at the meeting. Similarly, in presenting a workshop at a national conference to an audience of minority and majority group members recently, I could feel the tension generated when I noted the contributions of white leaders to the civil rights movement.
In our recent book, “Bridging the Diversity Divide” my colleague Alvin Evans and I note that incorporating the leadership of majority group members to spearhead diversity efforts is an important tactical strategy. One of my favorite books is, in fact, Tim Wise’s “White Like Me” in which he serves as an eloquent spokesperson against racism and what he calls “institutionalized white supremacy.” As a majority group member, he probably has an even greater ability to challenge and critique the practices of white privilege in our institutions.
The evidence is strong that we must do a better job of retaining diverse members of our campus communities. For example, a survey of 8500 pretenure faculty members conducted by Coache (Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education) found that minority faculty members were less satisfied with campus climate than their white peers and 17 percent felt that climate was one of the two worst aspects about working for their institution, second only to compensation. And another study reveals that over a period of four years, three out of five minority faculty at 27 California colleges and universities were simply replacing other minority faculty who had left their institutions.
Cumulative, subtle and repetitive micro-incursions against women and minorities create stressful and unhealthful working environments. In “Are the Walls Really Down? Behavioral and Organizational Barriers to Faculty and Staff Diversity” we discuss the shape of new and evolving forms of discrimination: lack of support, differing expectations, failure to empower, stereotyping and organizational fit, that have replaced previous forms of egregious discrimination.
As a human resource practitioner in higher education with responsibility for diversity and affirmative action in a large multi-campus community college, the challenge of diversifying the faculty and higher level staff and administration sometimes seems elusive. Although we brief search committees on the importance of diversity and identify affirmative action goals by department, discipline and campus, when the search is completed the selection of the final candidate may fall into rather predictable patterns in certain areas. Developing an affirmative action practice that actually has clout takes time and great persistence. Although we have made much headway in informing departments of goals and tracking success records, overall statistics reveal that progress still needs to be made.
The greatest challenge ahead is in transforming our campus cultures so that we do not waste the vast resources of talent that women and underrepresented groups bring to our institutions. We believe that organizational learning—within institutions that are devoted to learning—will be one of the most powerful channels of change. We need to create new mental models and as psychologist Carol Dweck advises, grow the mindsets of our workplaces, rather than being limited by fixed mindsets that preclude inclusion of all members of our campus community.
Edna B. Chun, D.M. is Vice President for Human Resources and Equity at Broward College and a leader in efforts to diversify faculty, staff, and students in institutions of higher education.