Sunday, September 04, 2016

At the Bottom of the Resource Gap Lies the Diversity Desert by Dr. Jason Rivera

While potentially disheartening, this unblinking look at higher education diversity by Dr. Jason Rivera portrays a rugged landscape of representation in terms of racial and ethnic diversity in our nation's faculty.  Once one parses these figures by gender, our numbers—especially as female faculty of color—are miniscule.  Stated differently, white male privilege in higher education at the upper echelons is normative and, as a consequence, not typically a cause for alarm.  How can it be if the status quo is the air that we breathe?

When our leadership and communities call for valid and equitable representation in public school textbooks and curriculum, for growing our own teachers out of our communities, together with multicultural education or ethnic studies programs, diversity and equitable inclusion are precisely the sought-after goals.  The idea is not just to have more diverse bodies, but minds, as well.

We constitute in our nation many "publics" and we all benefit from just and equitable representation in the workforce.  For example, see this commentary on the matter that I made previously.

To do things differently, we must look at what is normative or inherited with fresh eyes, making the familiar, unfamiliar so that we can not simply re-envision this landscape for purposes of political expediency, but rather because it is truly right and essential to a just, democratic society within which imbalances of power—particularly severe ones over time—are not sustainable.
Yet this piece is encouraging as it simultaneously reminds me that the work that we do matters enormously.  

My admonition to current and future faculty of color is to not get too comfortable with the academy or the status quo, for we are the progeny of literally decades of family and community sacrifice to whom we are literally beholden for the positions that we hold today.  I am certainly grateful, beginning with my parents and grandparents, and all of the teachers, researchers, writers, and community leaders that have literally dedicated their entire lives to our enhanced representation in the academy and society.

If we could only all contribute our part at whatever point or points in the Pre-K-16 process and tap positively into our nation's changing demographics, we can begin to turn this desert into an oasis of achievement based on the breathtaking talent that already resides in our millennial generation and our communities everywhere.

Gracias a nuestros antepasados.  Thanks to our ancestors.  

Happy Labor Day, everybody!

Angela Valenzuela

At the Bottom of the Resource Gap Lies the Diversity Desert
by Jason Rivera

If you’ve ever looked around at your or your child’s college professors — or at your colleagues, as the case may be — you might have noticed something looking right back at you: the yawning expanse of the diversity desert in faculties around the nation.

Dr. Jason Rivera
“Where are all the professors of color?” you might ask yourself. “Is it really that hard to hire a more diverse faculty?”

 Actually, it really is that hard, and it’s a phenomenon that affects colleges across the country. To figure out why, start here: White students are 10 times more likely to earn a Ph.D. than Black students and 12 times more likely than Latino students. So what this means is that, of the 1.3 million professors working in American college and university faculties, most of whom have earned a Ph.D., only 6.7 percent are Black and 4.4 percent are Latino (2013). (It’s actually worse for private, nonprofit baccalaureate colleges, with only 5.3 percent Black faculty and 3.3 percent Latino.)
Circle back several years and we find that Black and Latino students have significantly lower high school graduation rates than their White counterparts, and Black and Latino students who go to college are more likely than White students to require some level of remedial coursework.
So, now we’re back to square one and need to ask, “Why are those students of color who aren’t becoming college professors not even graduating from high school or struggling once they do?”
To crystalize the answer, look no further than the “resource gap.” It’s the chasm between students who thrive and students who don’t, populated by woefully underfunded schools and the ghosts of essential resources students need to thrive, such as AP courses or, worse yet, textbooks. It exists in many communities — surviving on a steady diet of race-borne poverty — and serves as an aggressive barrier to the American dream.

it’s a people issue as well: Students attending underresourced schools too often don’t have counselors to push them to apply for college, let alone help them with college applications. Fewer role models are also present for students whose parents and relatives may not have graduated from high school because of that exact same, multigenerational resource gap.
Race and class are heavily intertwined in America, and no one is suggesting that poor White students don’t suffer from similar issues of underresourced schools. They do. But poor students of color, despite continual calls for multiculturalism and inclusion, still face ever-present, systemic racism that poor White students never will experience, making an already uphill educational climb that much steeper.
And what happens when students make the climb, defying the odds and land in a college classroom to find that only a small percentage of their professors are of color? The cascade — from low graduation rates to low rates of Ph.D.s to low rates of professors of color — comes to an end with students of color standing in that diversity desert of the American college classroom, wondering if maybe they really are out of place in higher ed. It’s the exact opposite of the ideal outcome, and it provides an unwelcome twist to an already fraught and complicated educational journey.
So let’s fill the resource gap and give students of color a fighting chance. With proper funding and resource allocation, we’ll one day be able to circle back and explore the reasons these students have been thriving at all levels of education, in roles across the spectrum, instead of the reasons they’ve been struggling to keep pace.
Dr. Jason Rivera is director of institutional research at Dickinson College. Previously, he served as director of institutional research at Pitzer College. 

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