Gate Keeping in the Halls of Science: The Continuing Significance of Race (Part 2)

[Prof. Smith continues his previous discussion]

There are three consequences that immediately appear as a result of this type of bias in academe:

(1) an applicant for a faculty position is likely to be asked if they have been the recipient of federal grant funds, as a initial condition of employment, which is ideal for both preparing a 5-year plan for scholarship as well as bringing the highly valuable “in-directs” ($$$) into the department; if not, they are less likely to be offered a job than a candidate who already has secured federal funding. If African Americans are less likely than their White counterparts to exit graduate school and/or a post-doc with grants, they will be less likely to be offered tenure line positions.

(2) often securing external funding is a condition for tenure and promotion to associate; thus discrimination at the level of funding agencies translates into lower rates of tenure and promotion for African American scholars, a fact that has been proven time and time again.

(3) simultaneously, with the majority of departments in all types of institutions from “research one” to “liberal arts colleges” require scholarly publications for tenure and promotion, especially promotion to full. Assistant professors without funded research projects will have a far more difficult time conducting the research and collecting the data that is a necessary precursor to scholarly publications. Thus, discrimination in the awarding of federal grants is most definitely a cause of the lower rates of promotion of faculty of color, especially African Americans, and women. Of course this only exacerbates the proverbial double standard: that minorities and women have to be “twice as good” which is also well documented.

(4) A fourth consequence can be added: the cycle continues: discrimination in awards to pre-docs, post-docs and assistant professors leaves African American scholars without a “track record” of previous awards that leaves them significantly disadvantaged in future competitions for funding awards.

Finally, this cited study allows me to note that the Color Line remains problematic in so called “post-racial” America.

Earl Smith, PhD
Professor of American Ethnic Studies
and Sociology
Wake Forest University