Sunday, June 8, 2014

Doing DIversity

In an analysis of Doing Diversity in Higher Education, it is understood that majority populations, whites, in higher institutions use legislation such as the 14th Amendment to argue their victimization as a result of affirmative action. Not only is this a dirty move in that it spits in the face of abolitionist and civil rights advocates from the 18th century on to the 21st, but it also fails to paint a true picture of the real situation of diversity at higher ed institutions across the country.

“Whites are often presented as victims of affirmative action policies, which are described as mechanisms of reverse racial discrimination. This argument’s success is a tribute to the skillful ways in which reconstructive opponents have captured the civil rights movement’s language of equality, reshaped it to promote their own agendas, and thus reversed the movement’s goal of expanding resources and access to all citizens.” (Brown- Glaude 6)

In the midst of this white privilege in higher ed institutions, faculties face three distinct challenges in continuing their work to transform the campus climate and they include: funding, obstacles to pooling resources, and long term university support. Many ethnic study programs are either underfunded, isolated, or seasonal with no real commitment to their longevity and scholarly integrity.  

In addition to this stifling climate, faculties have identified three strategies that serve as useful ways to secure funding, organize like-minded folks, and gain long term commitment from the university. The strategies include: making scholarship central, producing and publicizing the fruits of their labor, and changing existing university patterns of recognition and reward. (Brown- Glaude 35)

In addition to the white-black paradigm often illustrated at predominately white college campuses, faculty members at HBCUs also have a problem with diversity.
There are many complexities when talking about diversity at HBCUs (historically Black colleges and Universities), they include how the expectation of conformity to race, class, gender, and sexual orientation standards at black institutions not only suppresses difference but also creates structures of authority and silence that can stifle the rigor and excellence associated with diversity. Diversity is also  about individual selves seeking the freedom of choice to reveal the most basic and fundamental aspects of who they are. (Brown- Glaude 56-57)

What is essential to the progress of ethnic studies and diversity in higher ed institutions is the recognition that efforts to organize minority students and faculty members as well as developing pertinent professional development and further academic intrigue in the form of conferences, forums, and festivals, are seen as academic enterprises rather than trivial cultural celebrations. Perhaps the most significant contribution of the current study is a broader understanding of service. We believe that this study challenges the existing literature, specifically about faculty diversity work that is considered service in the tripartite faculty responsibilities of teaching, research, and service. In fact, the patterns and themes that emerged demonstrate that intellectual work undergirds the efforts even in initiatives with differing goals, histories, and futures. Institutional service is also embedded in intellectual work, and should be understood and rewarded as such.” (Brown- Glaude 78) Similar to the work of Cornel West and accusations from Harvard that his efforts were misguided and adrift from the scholarly publications that were expected from him, high profile university professors should have the opportunity to build social academic mechanisms that help mobilize a community and provide opportunities for academic dialogue.  

If universities are concerned about keeping minority faculty members they should also be concerned as to whether such members are comfortable on and off campus. Microclimates are critical for the retention of faculty: if they do not have alternative microclimates available to them, faculty members in chilly or actively hostile environments are more likely to disengage from the institution, or to leave it completely. (Brown Glaude 84)

There is a disconnect among our respondents, then, between the value that individual faculty members place on their service work and the value they feel it is accorded by those they feel have the power to validate. Finding new ways to bridge the gap may therefore be one relatively simple strategy for enhancing faculty microclimates. (Brown- Glaude 95)

Along with minorities, women too have been shut out of academic circles. The narratives of the women we interviewed for this study reveal the importance of inventing of a new paradigm for assessing the diversity, transformation, and activism of women STEM faculty at HBCUs. Regardless of race and ethnicity, these women share common political and sociocultural issues that form an agenda for combating their marginalization. (Brown- Glaude 115) Partnerships along gender lines are thus as important, if not more, for identities along racial lines.

Without vocal leadership at the top, it is very difficult to bring the message to faculty at the department level that they must diversify both their hiring methods and their results to reflect the current composition of the PhD recipients in their academic fields. If faculty hires do not feel the pressure to do things differently, they won’t—they will just continue to hire those candidates their friends recommend and with whom they feel most comfortable. (Brown- Glaude 133)

Without built-in structures, systems, processes, and resources to protect and promote progress, faculty members who work to support educational excellence through racial and gender equity are dependent upon the individual interests and priorities of a few key university leaders. (Brown- Glaude 164)

Finally, if domination and patriarchy are part of the organization and operation of the academy (hooks 1993), we must create a new model that includes diversity and respect and is not measured solely according a specious conception of merit. Working with institutional leaders may improve the campus climate for diversity, but faculty activists must consider whether their strategies replicate the patriarchy or are expanding into a new and vibrant model of success that dismantles hierarchy and domination. (Brown- Glaude 182)

Doing Diversity in Higher Education: Faculty Leaders Share Challenges and Strategies edited by Winnifred R. Brown- Glaude, published by Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 2009