December 10, 2016

Webster University aims to increase faculty diversity

Warren Ferguson, Vice President of the Association for African American Collegians (AAAC) at Webster University, said a more diverse faculty can help create better connections in the classroom between professors and students.

“It’s a big connection issue,” Ferguson said. “When I see another black male in the media, they show that black males, all they do is go shoot people, go to jail, sell drugs. Seeing an educated man that you can connect to because you know he’s had that same type of struggle. To see a male of color teaching me something is just more of an attraction, more of a, ‘I know where you are coming from, and I understand.”

A 2011 report from the National Center for Education Statistics showed that nationally, the majority of full-time faculty in secondary education are white. Out of 1.5 million full-time faculty members:

  • 79 percent are Caucasian (approximately 1.185 million)
  • Nine percent are Asian
  • Six percent are African American
  • Four percent are Hispanic

Thirty percent of undergraduate students in the U.S. are minorities according to Diverse, an organization that covers issues in diversity of higher education.

With almost 80 percent of faculty being white, a majority of minority students are not being taught by other minorities.

Nicole Roach, Associate Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at Webster University, said the numbers are a bit off in comparison to Webster.

According to the 2014 school faculty reports, Webster University’s staff consisted of:

  • 81 percent Caucasian
  • Seven-and-a-half percent Asian American
  • Five percent African American
  • Zero percent Hispanic
  • Zero percent Native American

Roach said from 2013 to 2014, Webster increased its full-time faculty by 11 new members. Two were Asian Americans, four African Americans and 11 Caucasian. Webster also lost its only three Hispanic faculty members in 2013.

Roach said racial diversity among faculty does not satisfy her.

“It is not at a level I am happy with… (Webster University leadership) was behind the start of meeting the need. We needed someone in the (AVP of Diversity and Inclusion) role to make sure that we are managing and showing that we are committed to Diversity and Inclusion at this Institution.”

Benefits of a Diverse Faculty

According to the University Business website, a more diverse faculty improved factors such as social development, stronger creative thinking and the experience of multiple cultural perspectives.

“I think having a diverse faculty is increasingly important today. It’s more important now to have faculty with a variety of experiences to engage students,” Ann Springer, Associate Counsel, American Association of University Professors in Washington D.C. said in an interview with University Business, “You need (to hire) people who are in touch with different segments of our population and have innovative and provocative resumes.”

Roach says there is change coming.

“There are some initiatives coming. Lots and lots of research has been done behind the scenes over the past year and a half. It just takes time,” Roach said.

“Diversity is not about the color of your skin. It’s about a frame of mind,” Webster University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion said. “It’s about the ability to connect and communicate with people from all backgrounds, no matter their color, race, sex, age, sexual orientation, abilities or socioeconomic background.”

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