Black college students demanding more black professors don’t realize ‘they are demanding the impossible.’

Atlanta native Walter M. Kimbrough is a graduate of Mays High School, the University of Georgia and Georgia State. He has worked at Emory, Georgia State and Albany State. He is now president of Dillard University in New Orleans.

His piece addresses student demands for faculty diversity. (Read another recent piece by Kimbrough on the death of Rev. David H. Nunnally of Athens.)

By Walter M. Kimbrough

In recent weeks, America’s campuses have been on the front page. Instances of racial insensitivity and acts have caused black students primarily to protest campus climates that sometimes are hostile. The epicenter was Columbia, Missouri, but demonstrations have sprouted from coast to coast.

Dillard University President and Atlanta native Walter Kimbrough at commencement this year. (Dillard Photo)

Dillard University President and Atlanta native Walter Kimbrough at commencement this year. (Dillard Photo)

Among the byproducts of the protests are lists of demands by the students. They identify a number of issues they would like addressed and remedied for their overall experiences on those campuses to be not only free of harassment, but supportive of their educational pursuits. Some of the demands have called for changes in leadership, both administrators and student leaders. Some have asked for mandatory diversity training for all members of the campus community. Still others have asked for counseling and academic support targeted toward underrepresented groups on campus.

They all ask for one thing: More black faculty. There is unanimity in the belief more faculty who look like them will go a long way in solving these issues.

There is an old saying that you can’t get blood from a turnip. In the same regard, you cannot hire black faculty that do not exist.

Over the years studies have consistently presented data which indicate the number of black doctorates awarded, the standard credential required for most faculty appointments, fails to keep pace with the number of black students attending predominantly white universities. According to the 2013 report of the National Science Foundation, for all doctorates awarded, blacks, 12 percent of the population, received only 6.4 percent of Ph.Ds. Of those roughly 2,100 doctorates awarded to blacks, 515 or a quarter of them were in education.

That means, outside of education, there is approximately one new black Ph.D. per every three college campuses nationwide. Digging deeper, students will understand they are demanding the impossible. In 2013, blacks earned 252 doctorates in the biological sciences, 206 in psychology, and 172 in engineering. There were 61 in chemistry, 49 in history, and 26 in math. In foreign language and literature? Nine.

Four years ago the numbers were about the same. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education noted, particularly for about 20 fields where no Blacks earned doctorates, “fewer and fewer African-Americans are seeking doctoral degrees in these areas means that there will be fewer black scientists and professors in the classroom and the various fields.”

This is not a quick fix. In fact, it will take generations, and those best in position to change this sad state are those black students protesting the dearth of black faculty. They should make pacts with each other to continue their studies in their fields, earn terminal degrees, and come back to teach on those campuses so the next generation has a greater diversity of faculty.

Institutions must develop long-range programs to invest in growing a diverse faculty. It means incentivizing current faculty to mentor students of color from undergraduate through graduate school. It means establishing funds to recruit and financially support students of color to earn doctorates. It also means convincing recent doctorate holders, particularly in the sciences, to choose a career in academia, as they will be pursued heavily by business and industry.

I feel for the students. I did not have a black faculty member until I began my doctoral studies. But I had no expectation I would. Attending the University of Georgia for undergraduate studies only two decades after it was integrated by court order and being in the college of agriculture, I knew the deal. Less than 6 percent of the faculty there is black today; I am sure it was less then.

Diversifying the faculty is not a quick fix. No demand of an arbitrary percentage of black faculty by an arbitrary date will change the fact there simply are not enough potential black faculty for comparable ratios of black students on every campus.

Hopefully, students will dedicate their careers to help solve this problem. If having black faculty is a high priority, students need to make different choices about where they attend. But asking places with few black faculty to dramatically increase their numbers in short order is both unrealistic and unfair.

 

 

Reader Comments 0

118 comments
A.R. Henderson
A.R. Henderson

There are some other ways to address this issue without seriously compromising the need and desire for higher education students to interact with African American instructors and teachers in higher education. Universities can establish effective plans for hiring visiting professors, artists, scientists and writers with strong professional credentials and recognized achievements in their fields. Adjunct professors with a graduate degree are frequently used to teach undergraduates in many disciplines.  Not all college level teachers need a PhD in order to be effective in a classroom. How many graduate students are routinely teaching across this country? Individuals from businesses and other professions have considerable experience and wisdom to share with younger people. Many of these men and women could interact with students on a part time basis.


Yes, graduate schools usually require PhD level instruction but there are considerable numbers of highly educated African Americans from many areas who could effectively teach and mentor all students.  There are also a number of unemployed or under-employed African American scholars with doctorates who have not been able to break into the higher education system, even as administrators. 

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@A.R. Henderson 

You are quite correct about ways to increase the numbers of black faculty, but the black students making this demand are asking for permanent, tenure-track black faculty who will be a permanent part of their departments. Indeed, too often Universities have hired part-time and non-tenure track black faculty instead of hiring permanent, full-time black faculty. Only the tenure-track faculty are allowed to teach advanced and graduate courses, or direct dissertations, or serve on departmental tenure/promotion committees. The black students want a serious, professional black presence in the university.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Since we're on the subject, here is an job posting from the University of Louisville for a physics professor.  Nothing unusual there, except they limited it to "...tenure-track Assistant Professor position that will be filled by anAfrican Americana Hispanic American, or a Native American Indian."


https://www.higheredjobs.com/institution/details.cfm?JobCode=176152946&Title=Assistant+Professor+of+Physics+(Job+ID:+32279)&aID=7137


The ad, posted in mid-October, was taken down after the department received a complaint that the preferences didn’t include applicants with disabilities, said C.S. Jayanthi, chair of physics and astronomy.

Hmmm, CS Jayanthi.  Yep, graduate of Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, 1981.


One can only imagine the politically correct uproar if a white department head of a major university advertised for a white professor.


OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Lee_CPA2 

The U. of Louisville is a state university, covered by federal anti-discrimination laws. All of the groups mentioned (including the disabled) are protected, and can sue if there is de facto discrimination in faculty hiring. Calling that political correctness seems as futile as spitting in the wind.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Starik @Lee_CPA2 

Perfectly legal.  I would guess that most of the present STEM faculty are  white, and there has possibly been an EEOC complaint about that.

Lexi3
Lexi3

Why would the color of a teacher affect the content of his lessons or its delivery. Diversity is nothing more than a shibboleth used to justify discrimination based on race, tribalism trumping merit.Name one society where that worked out well?

Starik
Starik

@Lexi3 The effect isn't due to skin color, it's culture and language. Black teachers range from speakers of standard English (TV English) to thick accents, terrible spelling, and grammar. I be, you be, we be, I is, you is and so on. WSB had a piece on a 4th grade teacher in DeKalb where the good kids were allowed to wear bow ties and step dance as part of school, to increase their sense of self worth. What's wrong with that? Nothing, for black kids.  Not good for white kids.  White kids who show up for a job interview with bow ties and speaking black English  won't get hired. 

  Thanks to slavery and segregation, which white folks inflicted on black folks, we have created separate cultures. Just as some light skinned people could "pass" and be treated white under Jim Crow, black people who absorb mainstream culture and speech will be welcomed in mainstream society today no matter what shade their skin is. 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Starik 

I only have one objection to what you have written in your second paragraph, Starik, and that is that it assumes that the white culture is superior to the black culture.  My experiences have taught me that the black culture has much to offer the white culture if the white culture could only see with different eyes.  The cultures are learning from one another, as time moves on.

In another thread, we had discussed ultimate reality and the mind of God.  In many ways, I have found that many within the black race understand the soul with greater depth than do some within the white race who speak perfect standardized English and who may be highly educated.  If that is true, who would be more in touch with ultimate reality?  That is something that many in the white race should explore - and could explore objectively - if they would drop fallacious assumptions that the white race is an inherently superior race.  The greatest minds who formed our nation were brilliant enough to have realized that "all men are created equal."

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

@MaryElizabethSings @Starik

"The greatest minds who formed our nation were brilliant enough to have realized that "all men are created equal."


Oh good grief, you do realize they were referring to "aristocrats" vs "commoners", don't you?  No, I guess not.


The Founding Fathers created a Republic, not an Aristocracy, form of government.  When elected the first president of the United States, people asked what they should call him.  Washington replied "Mr. President".


I often bring up the Racial IQ Hierarchy when the topic references racial academic issues, such as the "Black / White Achievement Gap".  The politically correct refuse to discuss these racial differences to the detriment of the people they pretend to advocate for. 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Lee_CPA2 

Your insight is limited regarding the long-ranged vision of our Founding Fathers, imho.  Why do you think that Jefferson formed the progressive Democratic-Republican Party (which later became the people's Democratic Party of Andrew Jackson), and why do you think that the commoners supported Jefferson against the more Federalist Adams for President in the election of 1800?  Why do you think Washington freed all of his slaves in his Will? As a model for other Americans to follow in the future.  Why did Jefferson want to purchase the Louisiana Territory?  So that American "commoners" could head West and own their own property and become "common" voting citizens.  These men not only lived in the present, but they also had a vision for America that transcended their present time in history, and they had a vision for an America that would become even more egalitarian in the evolution of time. That is what is referred to with the phrase, "creating a more perfect union," which Abraham Lincoln played his part in fulfilling Jefferson's words that "all men are created equal." In this Lincoln gave highest praise to Jefferson for his transcendent vision of all of mankind. You are missing that deeper dimension in your research and your understanding of our Founding Fathers' long-ranged vision for this nation.

Starik
Starik

@MaryElizabethSings @Lee_CPA2 Well, MES, there are aspects of black culture that are attractive and which could and should be adopted by the white culture. There are also aspects that have proven to be very destructive... I attribute many of them to slavery and the isolation forced by segregation. 


Black English is fine to use at home or with friends, but in most cases will disqualify people from good jobs unless they have the ability to switch to standard English where appropriate. Schoolteachers should use standard English at all time for the sake of their kids. 


Many black folk have adopted a culture of gangs and crime.  Both are attractive: a gang is a sort of family that will support and protect. Crime can pay well and you can set your own hours; the ultimate in self-employment.  Drug dealing is entrepreneurship; a very profitable small business.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Starik 

These issues are so complex and have such history behind them that I think it wise that I not address them on a public blog because these issues deserve more indepth sensitivity training sessions involving hours, not minutes, for many  people of all races - especially those who are in public service jobs such as teachers, police, social workers, etc.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Lexi3 

The race of the professor affects the students and their reception of the content, as I noted earlier. The black professor is a role model who has also undergone racial bias in being educated...as the minority students see it.

Starik
Starik

@MaryElizabethSings @Starik Ithink we should adjust the public education system to reflect reality.  Members of MS-13, the Bloods and all the dozens (hundreds?) of small neighborhood gangs need to be educated intensively to try to save the members who can be saved.  We don't need in school with ordinary kids of any race.  It's not a matter of sensitivity.

Lexi3
Lexi3

@OriginalProf @Lexi3 So, how did the first black professors learn, if they didn't have black professors? Why assume that blacks can only or best be taught by blacks? If that were the common perception the historically black colleges would not be floundering, as they are.

Starik
Starik

@Lee_CPA2 @MaryElizabethSings @Starik If there is an IQ difference between black and white IQ distribution. it's part of a bell curve.  The black curve may be skewed lower than white, but whites have lower IQs, overall, than Chinese and Ashkenazi Jews. Everybody's bell curve overlaps.

Cere
Cere

Gee, almost all the higher-ranking employees of DeKalb schools have some kind of doctoral degree.  They are almost 100% 'Dr' so and so... and they are almost 100% African-American. They do quite well.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Cere 

Is this really a sly criticism of DeKalb K-12 administrators who have online doctoral degrees and insist on being called "Dr."?

BtuceF
BtuceF

Why don't we stop worrying about what color our teachers are and focus on getting an education?

Starik
Starik

@BtuceF That's the goal.  However, there's a lot of history to overcome.

Lexi3
Lexi3

@Starik @BtuceF Seems like Europeans overcame being enslaved by the north Africans in the dark ages without any affirmative action, and the Americans overcame being a colony of the British et al., without reparations or favors of any kind.

quickdigits
quickdigits

Just imagine if, in the USA, we had "All White Colleges". That would be unheard of, correct? But we seem to have no problem using the term "All Black Colleges". Dangerous Double Standard Here......I guess white folks have no issue being shunned from all-black Anything in this country? Just try, if you are white, going to an all-black function of any kind and observe the true racism that exists against you in that situation. I know.....it's happened to me.....

anothercomment
anothercomment

The ironic thing is back in the late 70's at a small majority white private university I attended in DC for Architecture, one of the most best professors I had in Architecture class was the black professor who was a practicing Architect and taught Methods and Materials of Construction. Our class back in the late 70's to 80's at this to 25 NCARB accredited Architecture program started with 100 students. We had exactly one black student in the class, who chose our higher rated school over Howard and played on our Division 3 football team ( with no scholarships). We had 20 women ( the largest percentage they had ever had). We had two wealth Peorto Rican males ( they approached me and another work study female with the offer that they would pay us to do their laundry, we declined and showed them what their mothers or Nanny's should have taught them. We had a lovely South American ambassadors daughter ( 60 minutes did an embaressing expose on how her father aka the Embassey paying maids South American rates in DC). Their was another wealth Hispanic Californian.

Our Architecture program was staffed primarily with Masters level practicing Architects from the DC metro area. The real life architects offered a real world practice oriented substance to our program ( I later supervised up to 30 direct Architects and Engineers and numerous contract A&E's from numerous schools. )

Professor Johnson and an older white practicing contractor professor, had the most positive influence on this white female student. Now both told me if I as a female didn't want to end up getting stuck designing interiors, ( which I was good at), I was going to have to go and get myself an Masters in Engineering degree. Why because I was a girl and my daddy didn't own a construction or development company, so I was going to have to get more education. Now in my graduating class of the top 6 students, 5 of us were female. Which was absolutely outstanding at the time. I know that Professor Johnson was a big influence on me and my friend Jane who were both in this top 6.

Starik
Starik

The truth is that the black population of this country has serious problems, due to these facts: (1)They didn't immigrate voluntarily.  (2)They spent a couple of hundred years as slaves.  (3) When slavery abolished they were subject to Jim Crow laws, which labeled them, at best, an inferior subspecies of humanity. 


If we can we need to fix the problem, not through monetary reparations but through education. Georgia State, an outlier university is a start:http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/mizzous-racial-gap-is-typical-on-college-campuses/

It does no good to pretend the problems do not exist.  They do. 

Starik
Starik

@HILUX No. The problem is that aspects of black culture have evolved into a dependency on the government, and respect for "Bad [African Americans]" who defy the laws and the establishment.  Nothing to do with liberal and conservative labels, except that they remember who supported Jim Crow: the Dixiecrats who have now morphed into Southern Republicans.  Dixicans. 


The leaders make a good living off being "bad." and many do lead their flock in the wrong direction.

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

@Starik "(1)They didn't immigrate voluntarily.  (2)They spent a couple of hundred years as slaves.  (3) When slavery abolished they were subject to Jim Crow law"


Whoa!! We HAVE to do some research on these people - apparently their life spans are astonishingly long!  We owe it to ourselves and to humanity to learn how alone, among all people, they manage to live multiple hundreds of years to experience the above conditions!


Starik
Starik

@HILUX Maybe so...
but the only pol I've standing up to BLM has been Ms. Clinton... briefly.

Starik
Starik

@AlreadySheared @Starik Culture is passed on from generation to generation - like the teapartiers and the "South Will Rise Again folk and the hillbillies. 

HILUX
HILUX

No, blacks' real problem is that their leaders are in the pocket of white liberals.

HILUX
HILUX

@Starik: The racial grievance industry pays the wages of those perpetually indignant black faces the white liberal media love so much.

Lexi3
Lexi3

@Starik @AlreadySheared Not to mention the race baiters. 


Where exactly above the Mason-Dixon line were these "Jim Crow" laws to which you allude? Any idea how many black emigrated to this country voluntarily, just in the last quarter century?

Starik
Starik

@Lexi3 @Starik @AlreadySheared All over the South to be sure, into the 60s, and I the midwest may have had them - we had a KKK Governor if Indiana in the 20s. Chicago is still massively segregated.  We are seeing immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa, since the 60s.  They do well and poor blacks don't like them.

Lexi3
Lexi3

@Starik @HILUX

How does that explain the state of blacks north of the Mason Dixon line, which never had de jure Jim Crow? Fact is, blacks in much of the land had high rates of employment, educational achievement and two parent households until the commencement of the "War on Poverty" which provided Faustian incentives to replicate in single parent households in exchange for a pittance.

Infraredguy
Infraredguy

This must be solved immediately, if we are to have racial equality, I suggest we award Ph.D's  to 12 % of the Black population whether they want them or not. 

HILUX
HILUX

The strategy of liberals is to continually claim racial prejudice regardless of the facts or reality.

c130a
c130a

@Infraredguy - We will never have racial equality as long as there are silly people like you who demand false definitions of equality that are unobtainable.  PhDs are earned, not handed out like welfare checks, but you may not have the ability to comprehend that fact.

Starik
Starik

@c130a @Infraredguy Yes. There are many black folks who deserve respect by earning it.  They compete and succeed. Affirmative Action just casts doubt on their achievements.

Waverly
Waverly

What's the problem?  Are they not ignorant enough?

malinow
malinow

The exhibited attitudes and demands of these students is a good indicator of why they fail to excel in school and in the real world--inherent inability to take responsibility for yourself and stop blaming others for your own failures and inadequacies. Students around the world want desperately to come study in the U.S. because of the great educational establishment and, once here, succeed without any complaints and any "help".   Let's not make our universities into clones of our failed lower education system---overstaffed with underqualified equal opportunists.

DerekGator
DerekGator

The bigger problem today at the big state "white" universities is that you are more likely to be taught by an Indian or Chinese graduate student that nobody can understand or relate to while the real professor is off doing "research" of no economic value, all while tuition goes up 10% per year.

If black students really want to make a difference, stop whining about somebody hurting your feelings and protest about tuition hikes.  Protest about black on black crime, protest about black on black murder in Chicago, protest about 74% of black kids being born to single mothers.  These are real issues, not what color skin is my Calculus teacher. 

c130a
c130a

@Infraredguy @DerekGator  - Hey Infrared, Derek just quoted some facts that you find unpleasant to have to consider.  Hardly "racist" but I guess your culture requires you to call it that rather than confront the issue.  Pity.

shoelessjoe
shoelessjoe

If the color of a professor's skin signifies the quality of education one receives, we might suggest that these student find themselves confined to traditional black institutions of higher learning. As Mr. Kimrough writes, you are pulling from a limited pool of available black professors. It seems if the discontent is confined to color and not substance, they are missing the point. How about spending more time planning for your doctorate so one day you might add to a growing number of qualified black professors instead of protesting non-existent injustices?

Eaglenest
Eaglenest

This article/editorial was written by Dr. Kimbrough.