Institute for Teaching & Learning

Mapping a strategy for faculty diversification

Janus CoinIn Roman mythology the god Janus is depicted as having two faces.  Facing backward and forward, Janus presided over beginnings and endings of the days and of the year.  We argue that the California State University system (CSU) needs a Janus – someone to maintain a stable, strong appreciation for both the history of and current rationale for affirmative action among CSU faculty.  While recognizing that considerable progress has been made to faculty diversity in the CSU system as a whole, we suggest that it is time to turn attention to diversity across the campus and within departments, encouraging the adaptation of initiatives that pioneering departments and campuses have undertaken.

Diversity among faculty in the CSU matters because as the largest university system in the United States it plays a significant social and economic impact state wide and nationally (Grey 2005). The system has the opportunity to pioneer solutions that other universities may adapt to help meet the challenge of diversity. Lack of faculty diversity could affect retention of students of color; incoming students of color who never see an African American or Latino professor may end up leaving the university.  It matters whether the lack of diversity among the professorate pushes students of color into programs like Africana or Ethnic Studies rather than mathematics, economics, or engineering.  It matters whether white students reinforce their misconceptions and stereotypes because they have limited opportunities to interact with faculty of color outside of ethnic studies courses.[1]  The upshot of all this is that it is critical the CSU increase racial, ethnic, and gender diversity among its faculty across departments. Otherwise, we are in danger of creating new stereotypes that will perpetuate under-representation.

This is a crucial time to discuss these issues because students of color are attending the CSU in greater numbers.  In addition, the negative impact of the state’s fiscal crisis has forced the CSU to furlough faculty, raise tuition, and trim services. The respite provided by passage of Proposition 30 allows the possibility of reconsidering how the CSU can best use its diminished resources to serve its changing student body. In 1997 there were 152,171 identified students of color attending the CSU; by 2009 that number had increased by 38 percent to 209,654 (Schreck 2010). This diversity in the student population presents an opportunity to prepare scholars and professionals who can help correct imbalances throughout society. However, to do so, students must be able to see themselves and their classmates in untraditional roles. A diverse faculty is one way to encourage students to explore different fields of study and disciplines.  It follows, then, the university must focus on and explore ways to maintain diversity among its faculty owing to increasing minority enrollment and in spite of the current fiscal crisis.

We come to these concerns from two different fields of study where faculty of color are less represented, Philosophy and Mass Communication. In Philosophy, of the 10,000 North American Philosophers Robin Wilson (2007) estimates that no more than 100 are African American.  Charles Mills (1997) contends that the numbers are equally as dismal, if not worse, for Asian American, Latino, and Native American philosophers.  Moreover, Wilson reports that there may be fewer than 20 female African American Philosophers in the United States.  In Mass Communication, which includes Journalism, the scarcity of faculty of color reflects concerns about under-representation of people of color in newsrooms and media in general. Mass Communication programs must attract and retain students from a broad range of racial and ethnic groups if they are to effectively support news organizations in their attempts to diversify their staffs. The presence of faculty of color could be a factor in student retention.[2]  Learning from faculty who represent a broad range of experiences could also help all students understand media and news events from more perspectives.[3]

Concerns about our own fields of study shape our approach to the issues of faculty diversity and affirmative action.  We are sensitive to the historic reasons that led to affirmative action policies. However, we are also aware of the implications of an increasingly diverse professoriate for the future, particularly for students and the communities to which they contribute after graduation. These concerns inform the questions that we ask about faculty diversity.

While recognizing that gender and sexual orientation are also important elements of diversity, this study does not purport to offer insights into those issues.[4] Nor does this study examine the relationship between race, ethnicity and status by comparing tenured and tenure-track faculty to lecturers. These are all important issues that merit consideration, but they are beyond the scope of this study.

What this study does attempt to accomplish is a Janus-like approach that will improve the understanding of affirmative action in the context of the CSU faculty. First, it looks backward in an analysis of the affirmative action literature. Then, it draws on state government and California Faculty Association documents for a clear picture of the current situation to provide grounding for exploring future courses of action.

Historically, Richard Tapia (2007) reminds us, affirmative action was implemented to resolve race-based domestic problems in the United States – correcting for the under representation (or over representation) of minority groups in particular sectors of society.  Tapia, a mathematician, also directs Rice University’s Center for Excellence and Equity in Education. Conventional wisdom was, if there is a legacy and continuing pattern of racial and sexual discrimination not only is that unjust, not only does it create social and racial division but it means that there are institutions (universities, businesses, fire departments, etc.) where various groups are under represented.  And that has been understood as a major social and political problem.  It is a problem not only because it is unjust but also because once the major institutions are formed by racial and sexual discrimination then there can be an automatic reproduction of racism unintentionally without anyone willing it or designing it.  As a result, the idea of adopting policies that get increasing numbers of non whites and women into jobs has been irresistible and powerful.  But it is also an idea that has created tremendous resentment and disagreement.

In the United States today we can distinguish a number of answers to the legacy of racial and sexual discrimination.  First, if the problem is long-standing patterns of racial and sexual discrimination, we should just end discrimination now.  Do no more do no less – end discrimination through penal sanctions and victim compensation.  The second type of answer is that we should end discrimination and add affirmative action in recruitment.  Affirmative action in recruitment means that if there are very few blacks or Latinos in the university, for example, the institution should not only make sure that its admission policies and officers do not discriminate, but also make a special effort to bring the institution to the attention of qualified non whites.  The institution should bring qualified non whites to the campus, making the institution more accessible to those who have been discriminated against.  The third position demands that the institution does the first and second and something more.  The third position requires a modest policy of preferential treatment.  In awarding admissions to the university, in awarding scholarships, in deciding who to hire or who to promote, other things being equal, give some preference to members of under represented, victimized groups.  This is called a modest policy because it does not dictate how to give preference.  Finally, there is the policy of bold preferential treatment.  A bold policy of preferential treatment dictates quotas, timetables, and enforced progress.  Moreover, the federal law and state law are used to enforce policy.  These are the four kinds of answers and there has been real debate and good moral arguments in favor of each position (Doppelt: 1993)

According to Tapia (2007), after twenty years of debate, as a nation, we tired and the talk began to shift from “improving domestic minority representation” to “broad cultural diversity on campus.”  The goals of global understanding and increased representation of domestic minorities became conflated into diversity. While both goals will be essential for college graduates in the twenty-first century, they are not the same and one cannot replace the other.  Tapia rejects the focus on diversity and representation that obscures the domestic problems of under-representation that gave us affirmative action in the first place. Further, he argues that while international faculty members bring important perspectives that enrich the campus learning environment, they are not the same perspectives that domestic faculty of color can offer, especially as mentors for students who may have shared similar experiences.  To build on the success in developing an increasingly diverse student body, the CSU should provide faculty from a variety of backgrounds to broaden student learning. Both international and domestic faculty members of color have important roles to play in that effort, but they are distinct roles that are not interchangeable.

Sociologist Adalberto Aguirre (2000), writing from California, considers how the visibility of women and minorities in the academic work place has incorrectly led faculty to believe that the campus has been transformed into a race neutral, pluralistic organization “characterized by full integration of minority culture members both formally and informally.”   He complains however, that there is an asymmetry between what faculty perceives and what is actually happening. The phenomenon is similar to what Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton (1993) found when they explored the dissimilar ways blacks and whites interpret their lives and the world around them.  They report that for many blacks, an integrated neighborhood is one in which at least half of a resident’s neighbors are black.  On the other hand, for many whites, an integrated neighborhood is one in which there are one or two black families.  When the number of black families moves beyond two, the neighborhood is turning black, and whites look to move out. Similarly, white faculty members may feel that their departments are sufficiently diverse if one or two faculty of color from different racial or ethnic groups are represented. Their department is integrated; they no longer need to make diversity a concern in subsequent hiring. However, the experience for students may be quite different if the majority of their classes are taught by white instructors. Students will still see the field as white-dominated.

In Aguirre’s view (2000), “The increasing presence of social forces such as Proposition 209 and Hopwood v. Texas that argue against diversity make it necessary for us to examine academia’s response to diversity.”[5]  One of the areas for examination is the distribution of faculty of color among various departments and fields of study. While it is true that the professorate in the CSU is becoming more diverse, it does not follow that non white and white students have a better chance of interacting with faculty of color.  Between the years 1985 and 2007 the number of instructional faculty of color across the CSU increased over 116 percent from 2,745 to 5, 942. This included Asian/Pacific Islanders, Latinos, Black/African Americans, and Native Americans.  In 1985 whites made up 85.5 percent of the instructional faculty in the CSU, by 2007 they comprised 71 percent of the instructional faculty (Shreck 2008).  Between 2007 and 2009 the CSU lost ground.  The number of instructional faculty of color dropped by 9 percent to 5389 from 5942 (Schreck 2010).

This follows the same trend toward diversity in the professorate that Ben Gose (2007) found across the nation.  Nationally, in 2005 there were 109,964 minority scholars holding full time jobs; this was a 58 percent increase from 69,505 in 1995.  In 2005, 15.6 percent of full time faculty was from minority groups and this was an increase of 12.7 percent over the numbers of 1995.  Hispanics and Asians showed the greatest percentage of growth.  Their numbers were up 75 percent from 1995.  The growth of American Indian and Black scholars was slightly lower (Gose 2007).

On the other hand, Gose (2007) concedes that increases in the overall numbers do not give us the full picture.  While it is true that minority Americans are earning a larger number of advanced degrees they are in certain fields.  For instance, a National Opinion Research Center (2006) survey of earned doctorates reports that of the 1,659 doctorates earned by African Americans in 2006 more than 606 were awarded in the field of education administration, only 16 were earned in mathematics, 11 in economics, and 10 in civil engineering.  In sum while instructional faculty in the CSU and the professorate is becoming more diverse, there remain fields of study where students have a slim chance of working with instructional faculty of color. Thus, we are not moving toward the goal that Tapia pointed out of correcting for the under representation of minority groups in particular sectors of society.  Indeed, the under-representation of faculty of color in some academic fields could itself create stereotypes, discouraging students from entering those areas of study and, thus, perpetrating the lack of racial and ethnic balance in that discipline.

Admittedly, the scarcity of candidates of color for faculty positions in many disciplines creates challenges for hiring committees. However, Aguirre (2000a) has pointed out that the attitudes of hiring committees and even affirmative action programs themselves can undermine efforts to diversify the faculty. He illustrates the point by narrating a hiring committee process that eliminates minority candidates despite a university’s stated intention to diversify its faculty.

Similarly, an audit report concerning hiring practices on the 23 CSU campuses prepared at the request of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee found that efforts to overcome obstacles to hiring faculty of color are uneven. The Bureau of State Audits concluded:

The chancellor’s office and board of trustees (board) of the university have delegated the hiring authority of assistant, associate, and full professors (professors) to the campuses but have issued little system wide guidance to the campuses regarding the hiring process.  Not surprisingly, the campuses we reviewed are inconsistent in their consideration of gender and ethnicity when hiring professors.  For instance, departments on some campuses consider the gender and ethnic composition of search committees for professors, while others forbid it, and we noted that women and minorities were not always represented on search committees (Howle 2007).


While conventional wisdom may have it that affirmative action is dead the auditor recommends that:

To ensure the university employs hiring practices that are consistent with laws and regulations and among campuses, it should issue system wide guidance on the hiring process for professors.  This guidance should include the use of affirmative action plans to familiarize search committees with estimated availability for women and minorities (Howle 2007).

In addition, the auditor stated that there is little consistency among the campuses in meeting federal regulations that require employers consider both internal and external factors when estimating the percentage of qualified women and minorities available for the job market.  Some campuses consider an aggregate analysis for professors campus wide while others compare the gender and ethnicity of the current professors in each department to those available in the labor pool (Howle 2007).  Such inconsistencies in hiring practices have led to diversity among professors in some departments but not others.

We stress that any new affirmative action plans for the CSU not lose sight of race-based problems in American society.  The notion that the CSU system has already been transformed into a multicultural organization does not fit the facts.  In the 21st century the limited presence of faculty of color will become more apparent as the number of students of color on the system’s campuses increase.  The CSU must be clear about where the system stands today and about its goals.  It must also explore barriers to reaching its goals.  And faculty must be clear about their obligations and those actions that are permissible as members of hiring committees.

Although we acknowledge the negative impact of recent economic and budgetary developments across the CSU, we still maintain that many of the resources needed to proceed are already available. Besides uncovering inconsistencies, the State Bureau of Audits has discovered campuses and departments that have implemented successful practices for recruiting faculty of color.

For example:

• At CSU Long Beach, departments review the proportion of women and minorities currently employed in the department and create qualitative goals for recruitment, operations, and retention that may increase faculty diversity. By considering gender and ethnicity early in the hiring process, the university demonstrates that it is making good-faith efforts to increase employment opportunities for under-represented groups.

•At San Diego State University, the equity and diversity office shares the information with search committees upon request, reviewing the affirmative action plan and placement goals with members of the search committees to ensure that they understand the purpose of the goals and the affirmative action plan in general. This practice allows search committees to use this information to plan searches in accordance with Proposition 209 and federal regulations.

• CSU Long Beach has sent out a reminder e-mail to applicants requesting that they complete and submit the forms containing their gender and ethnicity, when response rates are low. The reminder explained that a reasonable response rate to the optional survey avoids delays and clarifies that the search committee will not have access to the surveys or the information reported by the applicants, to alleviate concerns applicants may have about disclosing their gender and ethnicity. This practice is a promising measure to increase the low response rates cited by campuses as a reason why comparing applicant pool data with labor pool data often is not meaningful.

• At CSU Long Beach, the director of the equity and diversity office provides annual training to search committees on the hiring process, which is reviewed point by point in the context of campus policy, federal regulations, and Proposition 209 (Howle 2007).

* In 2006 San Jose State University composed an Inclusive / Diversity Master Plan.  The purpose of the plan was to make diversity central to the institution’s educational mission.  The first iteration of the plan appeared in 2009 and included innovative processes and procedures for departmental search committees to engage in tenure-track recruitment (see SJSU Diversity Plan for access to the PDF file at

Such experiences should be shared throughout the system. Faculty members and administrators who have participated in several successful searches should be identified and encouraged to act as mentors and resources for other departments and campuses desiring to improve their recruitment of faculty of color. Success in recruiting diverse faculty should be recognized as a demonstration of leadership. Our hope is that this document will serve as a stimulus for collaborative research within the CSU for those seeking to meet the needs of people of color.











Aguirre, Adalberto Jr. (2000). Women and Minority Faculty in the Academic Workplace: Recruitment, Retention, and Academic Culture. ASHE Higher Education Report, 27.

Aguirre, Adalberto. Jr. (2000a). Academic Storytelling: A Critical Race Theory Story of

Affirmative Action. Sociological Perspectives, Vol 43, No. 2, 319-339.

Doppelt, Gerald. (1993). In a lecture on Diversity at the University of California San

Diego Fall 1993. (Dimensions of Culture 1993).

Grey, Marge. (2005). The California State University: Working for California.

Gose, Ben. (2007, September 28). The Professorate Is Increasingly Diverse, But That Didn’t Happen By Accident. The Chronicle of Higher Education, B54.

Howle, Elaine. (2007) California State Auditor Report 2007, 102.2.

Massey, D.S., & Denton, N.A. (1993). American Apartheid: Segregration and the Making of the Underclass. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 88-93.

Mills, Charles. (1997). The Racial Contract. Ithaca: Corness University Press, 2.

National Opinion Research Center. (2006). Survey of earned doctorates. +of+earned+doctorates.htm.

Schreck, Amiee. (2008). Changing Faces of California State University Faculty and Students: Vol. II., 17.California Faculty Association. Volumes available at

Shreck, Aimee. (2010). Changing Face of California State University Faculty and Students: Vol. III., 17. California Faculty Association. Volumes available at

Tapia, Richard A. (2007, September 28). True Diversity Doesn’t Come From Abroad. The Chronicle of Higher Education. B54.

Wilson, Robin. (2007, September 28). Black Women Seek a Role in Philosophy. The Chronicle of Higher Education. 54, B4.


[1] We employ faculty of color as a descriptive expression that refers to Latinos, Blacks, Asians, and American Indians.


[2] For a discussion of the relationship between newsroom diversity, diversifying the student body in journalism programs, and the presence of faculty of color please see Carolyn Martindale “Recruiting Minority Students with Limited Resources” Journalism Educator; 1990 Vol. 45 Issue 1, 71-77; John F.

Greenman, Recruiting and Retention of Minority Students: A How to’ Guide for Joumalism

Schools,  American Newspaper Publishers Association, 1988; and Diane Hall, Barbara Hines, and Robert M.

Ruggles, “Recruiting and Retaining Black Students for Journalism and Mass Communication Education,” in ASJMC Insights, July 1989.


[3] For a discussion of the value of diversity in Mass Communication and Journalism classes, please see Sharon Bramlett-Solomon, “Bringing Cultural Sensitivity to Reporting Classrooms” Journalism Educator; 1989 Vol. 44, 24-28; Jeremy Cohen et al, “Developing a Multicultural Mass Communication Course” Journalism Educator 1992 Vol. 47 Issue 2, 3-12; and T. Dickson; and “Sensitizing Journalism Students to Minority Issues,” ASJMC Insights; 1993, 1-5.


[4] For a discussion of gender and ethnicity in the professoriate, please see Lucila Vargas, Women Faculty of Color in the White Classroom: Narratives on the Pedagogical Implications of Teacher Diversity. Higher ed, v. 7. New York: P. Lang, 2002.

[5]  In 1996 California voters passed Proposition 209, which prohibits public universities from considering race, sex or ethnicity in their admissions policies. The same year, in Hopwood v. Texas, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit struck down race-conscious admissions in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. The Supreme Court has since upheld race-conscious admissions policies, affirming the race is one of many factors institutions may consider in selecting students.

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