The University Record, November 23, 1992

Minority faculty increases despite stiff competition

By Jane R. Elgass

Persons of color now comprise 12.9 percent of the Ann Arbor campus instructional staff following another year of growth in minority numbers reported in this fall's faculty racial profile.

Growth in minority faculty continues to be steady, though not at the high rates experienced in the late 1980s. While more new faculty are being recruited, others are leaving in increasing numbers for a variety of personal reasons frequently exacerbated by hotter competition from other universities

And U-M deans are finding it more and more difficult to attract minority faculty and to retain those already here.

Faculty of color's 12.9 percent share of the overall faculty population this year compares with 12.3 percent a year ago, 11.2 percent in 1990 and 10.7 percent in 1989.

Of the 3,721 faculty on the Ann Arbor campus, 480 are persons of color. Black faculty stand at 155, representing 4.2 percent of the overall total. There are 242 Asian faculty members (6.5 percent), 75 Hispanic faculty members (2 percent) and eight Native American faculty members (0.2 percent).

Among the 90 new faculty of color this year, Asian faculty comprise the largest cohort at 39. They are followed by Black (32), Hispanic (17) and Native American (2). Their appointment starting dates range from July 1991 through June 1993.

Despite these gains, the percentage of minority faculty who have left the University---for any reason---more than doubled this year compared with two years ago.

In 1989--90, nine minority faculty departures accounted for 6.5 percent of all departures. The 19 departures this year accounted for 15.8 percent of the departures. Fourteen minority faculty departed in 1990--91, 8.6 percent of all departures.

The reason? Other universities have adopted the U-M's successful strategies, such as aggressive, individualized recruiting and use of supplemental funds.

"By and large, we've done a good job," says Provost Gilbert R. Whitaker Jr. "But in doing so, our success has aroused the competition. The pool of potential minority faculty is still small, and there is more and more competition for these promising scholars.

"Our success has nothing to do with advertising, either," Whitaker notes. "It's the result of individual faculty members doing good, solid recruiting. We don't give enough credit to a lot of people who have worked very hard. They have helped change this place. It's different to walk across campus now compared with a few years ago. We have a much more diverse population---both faculty and students."

LS&A Dean Edie N. Goldenberg notes that much of the competition comes from peer private schools, and this year's budget constraints have made the job of recruiting all new faculty more difficult.

"The zero salary program this year is a problem. Salary programs in future years will continue to be a critical issue. The private schools have more endowed chairs, they are able to pay higher salaries, and have smaller student bodies, resulting in smaller classes."

Goldenberg notes, however, that the University's "great strength---the high quality of the faculty overall and the excitement surrounding its intellectual programs" continues to be a major drawing point.

"It's important to maintain this environment of intellectual excitement and vitality," she states, "but it's a real challenge with our budget. Discretionary funds that support scholarly activities, such as travel funds for research or attendance at professional meetings, and visiting speakers, are scarce this year."

Goldenberg agrees with Warren C. Whatley that the University's success in recruiting minority faculty also rests in part on the increased number of students of color.

"What we do in every area---recruitment of undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty---is linked, one influencing the others," says Whatley, who is associate dean for graduate recruitment and support at the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies.

"Potential minority faculty are impressed with our growing number of minority students. Likewise, potential minority students see increased numbers of faculty of color as a plus."

Both Whitaker and Goldenberg agree that it's impossible to generalize about factors that may influence a faculty member's decision to leave the U-M.

"Its been my experience that when faculty leave by their own volition, it's due to personal or family considerations and new opportunities," says Whitaker. "That's true of all faculty, regardless of race."

"Faculty members' reasons for departure are very individual," says Goldenberg, "They can't really be categorized. Michigan is a great place to go shopping for faculty."

John R. Chamberlin, LS&A associate dean for academic appointments, suggests that burnout may be a factor in some departures.

"Minority faculty run this risk," he says. "They have heavy involvement in undergraduate and graduate teaching and administrative duties. Leaving may be a means of getting their lives back into their own hands. There are lots of opportunities and they want to be involved, but it could be too much of a good thing."

Chamberlin notes that the University has set up programs to address the problem.

"We give them release time from teaching, and we provide research assistance such as funds for travel and graduate student support. We can provide them with flexible research funds that can be used during the summer.

"In addition, we generally give junior untenured faculty a term off from teaching that, when combined with the summer, gives them eight uninterrupted months to concentrate on their research."

On the plus side, Chamberlin says the increasing use of joint appointments benefit both the University's environment and the faculty who hold the appointments.

"They provide an environment in which faculty of color find kindred spirits." A number of programs, including those in the English and history departments and the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies, the Women's Studies Program and the Program in American culture, have taken this approach.

"New communities have developed in these areas that are interdisciplinary, that cross departmental boundaries," Chamberlin says. "These appointments are a key ingredient in the intellectual excitement in those units. It is probably one of the things that attracts both minority and non-minority faculty to Michigan. To the extent that a minority faculty member's research doesn't fit traditional lines, the dual appointments provide what they are seeking."

Chamberlin is not overly concerned about the increase in departures.

"That there is some turnover, more than that of a few years ago, should not be a surprise. Many of our new faculty of color came in as junior faculty. They are the most mobile. If they are thriving here, the rest of the world wants to hire them.

"As long as we continue on balance to move forward, that's OK," Chamberlin says. "Each loss does not necessarily indicate that we weren't supportive, that they couldn't find a home here where they could be productive and thrive.

"Our faculty," Chamberlin notes, "get great opportunities offered to them. Sometimes they decide to take them. It would be useful," he adds, "for us to step back each year to see if too many minority faculty just spend a few years here and, if that is the case, determine if we are contributing to the losses or if they are just a sign of the market."

Chamberlin agrees with Whatley that the University must maintain its leadership position in the training of graduate students, higher education's future faculty members.

Whatley notes that the U-M is "in the lead in training graduate students of color, especially African American students. We are third, behind Howard University and Ohio State University, in the number of doctoral degrees awarded to African Americans. I expect we will surpass them in the not-too-distant future."

Whatley suggests that the University might want to consider "hiring its own" in the future, but both he and Goldenberg note that that approach is difficult.

"There is a lot of diversity in programs across the country," Whatley says. "Our graduates need to be exposed to these, they deserve it. Otherwise they have only one point of view. It's also difficult for students to establish themselves as faculty members among their recent mentors. But some departments may be forced to consider this as an option."

Goldenberg is hesitant on this point. "I don't think it's healthy in large numbers. We are producing more well-trained graduates than other places. They should go to other schools to help transform those places. They will contribute to better training of students at those schools, and we all will be better off for their efforts."

In commenting on the still relatively small pool of potential faculty of color, Whatley stresses that "it takes a long time to develop a pool," adding that work actually has to start at the undergraduate level to do so.

"We have found that mentoring of both graduate and undergraduate students of color is an important part of their experience here. It's an intervention that works."

Also successful and important, Whatley notes, are several programs administered or awarded by the University. These include the Summer Research Opportunities Program, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, the National Science Foundation Minority Scholars program and the General Electric Faculty for the Future program.

Whatley singles out the top-down support as a major reason for the University's success in attracting and retaining students and faculty of color.

"President [James J.] Duderstadt's leadership, the Michigan Mandate and supplemental funding for recruitment and retention have helped tremendously. It's hard to attract students and faculty to a particular campus, and somewhat more difficult at the University due to its decentralized environment.

"We're beginning to see all the pieces coming together, but," Whatley adds, "faculty of color still feel lonely. We don't yet have a critical mass. We still have to increase numbers and enhance our research environment in both facilities and programs."