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March 26, 2003


SPRINGFIELD - Saying that colleges and universities are missing opportunities to diversify their faculties, a report to be presented to the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) next week recommends measures that campuses and the state can take to broaden the diversity of teaching ranks.

The Board will meet at 9 a.m., April 1 in Room 302 of Vermilion Hall at Danville Area Community College.

"As the face of our nation and state has changed, our faculty has not changed along with it," the study of faculty diversity concludes. "There is no area of higher education that is less diverse."

The report also concludes that faculty diversity-including more minorities, more women in underrepresented disciplines, and more faculty with disabilities-will strengthen learning opportunities for all students. It recommends steps to better develop pools of available minority candidates for faculty positions, to ensure that diversity is a central component of campus job searches, to create a climate hospitable to diverse groups, and to engage higher education leadership in making diversity a part of the campus DNA.

The study, Opportunities for Leadership: Strategies for Improving Faculty Diversity in Illinois Higher Education, is the outgrowth of a report on access and diversity in student enrollment which the Board approved in August 2001. The faculty study involved public hearings, including a web-based hearing; focus groups on campus leadership and other issues; consultations with national and state experts; and analysis of research and information from Illinois colleges and universities.

Among its findings, the study cited national research and Illinois surveys demonstrating that students, parents, and citizens place a high premium on the role of college to help prepare them to live and work in a diverse world. It also noted that faculty play a pivotal role in helping students achieve that goal. But the study further concluded that faculty representation among African-Americans and Latinos is "shockingly low," particularly considering those groups comprise nearly 30 percent of Illinois' population.

The report suggests colleges look at a largely untapped pool of potential minority faculty right under their noses: African-American and Latino graduates of master's degree programs. The study found that while the percentage of minority master's degree recipients remains low, the number of recipients has grown significantly during the nineties and today constitutes an underused resource for diversifying faculty ranks, particularly at community colleges.

The study recommends other actions at both the campus and state level to broaden faculty diversity, including:

  • Revamping two state-funded, minority graduate incentive programs to place a stronger emphasis on placement of their graduates in faculty positions.
  • Rethinking academic searches with structural and procedural changes, strengthening the roles of deans and department chairs, and weeding out subtle impediments that can unintentionally work against minority candidates, such as narrowly construing job descriptions and a narrow reading of resumes.
  • Taking the temperature of campus climate to determine whether policies and practices create a welcoming environment for faculty of diverse backgrounds.
  • Convening statewide workshops to showcase strategies that can increase minority enrollment in graduate studies.
  • Creating a state job bank of master's degree and doctoral recipients as a resource for colleges seeking to expand faculty diversity.
  • Offering budgetary rewards in FY2006 for colleges and universities that have succeeded in diversifying their faculties during 2004-05.

The report notes that the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to rule by early summer on a case challenging affirmative action measures in student admissions at the University of Michigan, a decision that could have implications for some recommendations contained in the study on faculty diversity. Hence, the Board of Higher Education will not take final action on the study until its scheduled August meeting.

Full Faculty Diversity Report :
Opportunities for Leadership: Strategies for Improving Faculty Diversity in Illinois Higher Education


Don Sevener



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