College Losing Faculty of Color to Peer Institutions

The number of faculty of color leaving Haverford for other institutions within the past five years is raising concerns among some faculty about the social and intellectual environment of the College and its commitment to diversity.

While peer colleges are steadily increasing the number of faculty of color at their institutions, Haverford has lost five prominent faculty members since 2008, dropping to 30 individuals in Fall 2012 or 22% of the total faculty.

Schools such as Swarthmore, Williams and Wesleyan have similar percentages of faculty of color (at 20%, 21%, and 21% respectively), but these numbers are part of a larger trend of growth.

Haverford was founded in 1833 as an all-male institution, with inclusion of female faculty and faculty of color starting with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Although Ira Reid, the College’s first African American professor, began teaching in 1947, it wasn’t until the College started using targeted hiring practices in the 1970s that other people of color were hired to teach at the College.

According to Professor of History Linda Gerstein, who was the second female professor when she was hired in 1965, by the 1980s targeted hiring effectively raised the number of African American and female Professors in tenure-track positions.

When asked about current policies for hiring and retaining faculty of color, Provost Kim Benston said the College uses targeted hiring practices to find candidates. Benston also pointed to the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, which selects undergraduate students with the potential for academic careers and gives them mentorship, funding, and research opportunities.

The MMUF program is “crucial for sustaining the ‘pipeline’ from excellent undergraduate to fine graduate programs through which faculty of color can continue to enrich the sphere of college-level education,” Benston wrote in an email.

But in the last three years, Haverford has lost three tenured professors to other institutions: Political Science Professor Cristina Beltran in 2011 to New York University, Physics Professor Stephon Alexander in 2012 to Dartmouth, and Biology Professor Andrea Morris in 2013 to Columbia.

Religion Professor Terrence Johnson is currently on leave and teaching at Georgetown, and it is unclear whether he will return to the college, according to a source. Johnson could not be reached for comment.

According to Gerstein, “it’s not through lack of effort” that Haverford has a small number of faculty of color, but instead because the college is drawing from a small pool of candidates.

According to the Department of Education, in 2009-2010, 75% of people in the United States who received doctorates were white, while only 20% were either Hispanic or African American, 12 % were Asian, and less than 1 % were Native American.

But Beltran, who left Haverford just after receiving tenure, disagrees, saying that Haverford simply has not made hiring faculty of color a priority. Beltran is a scholar of Latino politics and the immigrant experience.

“It is about being aggressive about the commitment,” Beltran said in an interview. “If leadership is committed to diversity as a goal, then it will happen.”

“Every faculty search is an opportunity, or missed opportunity, to diversify the faculty,” Beltran added.

Even if hired, faculty of color face obstacles on campus that make successful academic work challenging. According to one UCLA study, many faculty of color who specialize in minority issues feel that their work is discredited and viewed as secondary, and feel discounted by other faculty members who perceive them as affirmative action hires.

Economics Professor Indradeep Ghosh said that the College may fear the alternative perspectives introduced by faculty of color. Ghosh says his own attempts to teach classes that challenge conventional perspectives have been shut down by the department and administration. [My course on politics and economics] is not listed in economics even though five weeks of the course is economics. This is symptomatic of what needs to change,” Ghosh said.

“I have encountered a lot of resistance and a denial that the kind of economics I want to teach is economics… as a liberal arts college that puts a focus on creating a space for academic diversity, this should be at the top of the agenda,” Ghosh said.

Ghosh says that increasing the number of faculty of color is essential to Haverford’s success as an institution of thought and learning.

“Faculty of color view the curriculum from the voice of “the other”, the voice of the oppressed,” said Ghosh, viewpoints that he says challenge taken-for-granted ideas and to start productive academic dialogues.

Philosophy Professor Danielle Macbeth agrees that the different perspectives brought by faculty of color are necessary to the college’s success: “Diversity is important for getting to the heart of the matter… helping [one] see things that [one] can’t see alone.”

Further, faculty of color often feel pressure to act as mentors and committee members in order to support students of color who may be struggling. Beltran says that there is pressure on faculty of color to become “social supporters and not scholars,” a role that makes them “overburdened with service.”

Beltran served on a number of programs and committees at Haverford, acting as a faculty mentor, a faculty representative for the Multicultural Scholars Program, a member of the Diversity Initiatives Group, and as a representative to the Panel for Review of Cases of Sexual and Racial Harassment and Discrimination, among other positions.

Senior Lecturer Jeffrey Tecosky-Feldman, who leads the Multicultural Scholars Program and is currently co-teaching a course called “The Persistent Lack of Diversity in the Sciences,” agreed with Beltran, saying that professors can have difficulty balancing the need to publish with the demand to mentor students.

Faculty offered suggestions for both the hiring and retention practices of the college. MacBeth noted the importance of making search committees aware of the racial biases that cause negative assumptions about female candidates and candidates of color, and suggested telling hiring committees that “no one is to blame but we need to be aware” of the biased perceptions we have of underrepresented groups.

To counteract the obstacles that faculty face once hired, Ghosh recommended giving Faculty of Color space to have their perspectives “heard and honored.” The sentiment was echoed by Benston.

“In attracting and retaining faculty of color, it is obviously important beyond policies and procedures to cultivate a supportive community in which all people are welcomed, valued, and nurtured,” Benston wrote in an email.

Beltran agreed and added that supporting the ambitions of faculty of color once hired is important.

“The goal shouldn’t just be to get through tenure…faculty should be really supported in their research and teaching,” Beltran said. “There’s been a divide between excellence and diversity, as if excellence and diversity don’t co-exist. The college has to weld those two ideas together.”

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4 Responses

  1. Uvedale says:

    It would be better if The Clerk told its readers about the stark differences in faculty compensation between Haverford and institutions like NYU, Columbia, and Dartmouth before making these departures out to be at all surprising or supportive of the narrative you’ve wound. According to the most recent data from the American Association of University Professors, Columbia is #2 in average compensation at the associate professor rank, (at which the named faculty left,) Dartmouth #16, and NYU #24 across all of American higher ed. The data show that Haverford’s administration is working incredibly hard to punch above its weight and to retain talented tenured faculty, coming ahead of many peer institutions at #100. However, the difference in compensation between associate professors at Haverford and even Dartmouth, which takes cost of living differences out of the equation, is still on the order of $20,000. Pretty hard to put together enough goodwill and support structures to overcome a gap like that… This is a struggle that all small liberal arts colleges (SLACs) face. The story that deserved to be written is one of differences across sectors of higher ed. As Kim Benston stated, Haverford and peer institutions struggle to find talented young scholars of all backgrounds who really believe in the SLAC model and are not just eager to rush back to the kinds of big universities in which they received their doctoral training to work with grad students. Quality of life arguments are powerful, but often not powerful enough when the salary gap is so large. -Will Coleman ’07

    • Guest says:

      ^^ talking points of the administration and the board.

      why didn’t Cristina Beltran, one of Haverford’s only Latina/o professors, not receive tenure? why is Indradeep Ghosh being forced out of the Economics Department and Haverford?

    • disqus_ynMSKVSldn says:

      Hmm…

  2. Stephen Wheeler Handlon says:

    Great article Nora! Your article captured the lived experience of faculty of color at Haverford and should not be discounted. I feel the first commentator raises an interesting issue to explore but is discounting the direct quotes from professors of color.

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