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Faculty Perspective

In the wake of the passage of the anti-Affirmative Action Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI), diversity has again become a buzzword on this campus. President Mary Sue Coleman stood on the steps of the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library on Nov. 8, 2006, the day after the MCRI was passed by voters, and boldly declared, "Diversity matters at Michigan, today more than any day in our history. It will always matter because it is what makes us the great university we are."

Since that day, much of the discussion regarding diversity has focused on the composition of the student body, while little campus dialogue has addressed the diversity of those in the front of the classroom. The faculty, however, did not ignore the issue. In 2008 the faculty-based Committee for a Multicultural University (CMU) released a landmark study of the diversity, hiring and retention of the tenure-track faculty. Participation among minority faculty, it found, has been increasing since 1994. The distribution of the growth, however, has been highly uneven across both units and races. In some schools, minorities have seen a marked decline over the past seven years.

The current CMU study was based on a previous study done by the committee in 1994. Done in the midst of then-President James Duderstadt's Michigan Mandate, the report's most notable finding was the relative lack of black, Hispanic and Native American faculty as a percentage of all faculty in respect to the nation's population. In each case, the percentage of the national population was larger by at least a factor of three.

In the subsequent 14 years, progress has been made, but the results are far from ideal. While the overall participation of minorities has increased from 14 percent in 1994 to 23 percent in 2008, that gain has not been experienced uniformly across the university. Since the 1994 report, the percentage of black full-time, tenure-track teaching faculty has decreased in eight schools and colleges, the percentage of Hispanic faculty has decreased in three schools and colleges, and the percentage of Asian faculty has decreased in two schools and colleges. Despite positive trends in the number of overall new hires, there has been no significant change in the hiring rates for blacks and Hispanics. Echoing that trend, the participation of black and Hispanic assistant professors has substantially decreased over the last seven years.

To remedy these unfortunate trends CMU made a number of recommendations to the provost, among which included the collection of hiring pool data and the creation of a task force to study and report on the climate faced by minority faculty and the role that climate may have played in faculty departures. The report and its recommendations were positively received by Provost Teresa Sullivan. To date, however, those recommendations have yet to be acted upon by the university administration. During the 2008-09 academic year, CMU is committed to continuing to work to understand the factors limiting minority participation and encouraging the administration to uphold its pledge to make diversity matter.

The Committee for a Multicultural University (CMU) was created in 1989 by the faculty Senate Assembly to "provide leadership for the faculty on issues and tasks related to (diversity)." To read the CMU's report in its entirety go to the SACUA Web site,

The Faculty Perspectives page is an outlet for faculty expression provided by the Senate Assembly. The opinions expressed in Faculty Perspectives are the views of individual faculty members and do not represent the official position of U-M nor the faculty governance system. Prospective contributors are invited to contact the Faculty Perspectives Page Committee at Submissions are accepted in electronic form and are subject to review by the committee. Essay lengths are restricted to one full printed page in The University Record, or about 1,500 words.

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