Investing in Historically URM Scholars notes on seminar by Dr. Ruth E. Zambrana

Here are notes from the UC Davis ADVANCE Seminar today (March 14, 2016) entitled, “Investing in Historically URM Scholars: Applying Competent and Responsive Practices in Higher Education,” with Dr. Ruth E. Zambrana.

See for more information about the Consortium on Race, Gender and Ethnicity at University of Maryland, where Dr. Zambrana is the Director.

Data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) between 1985 and 2015 reveal that the percentage of faculty in the United States who are Asian or Pacific Islander has doubled since 1985 while the percentage of faculty in the United States who are Black or Hispanic has only increased modestly. The percentage of faculty in the United States who are Native American has remained constant at about 0.5%. White faculty continue to be the majority, at over 70%.

Affirmative Action does not take jobs away from white candidates, as evidenced by the percentages of faculty by ethnicity following court cases such as 1978 Regents of UC vs Bakke, 2003 Grutter vs Bollinger, 2003 Gratz vs Bollinger, and 2013 Fisher vs University of Texas.

Dr. Zambrana and co-author Michelle Espino have looked at ~120 studies to find that progress (in terms of numbers of URM in faculty positions) has been modest except for majority culture women, for whom progress has been immense. Definitions of terms such as diversity, underrepresented, first generation,  and faculty of color are vague, inconsistent, and broad, yet are used abundantly and may hinder progress for URM. These vague definitions make it unclear who needs help and who is making progress.

Some of the challenges URM faculty face in tenure and promotion include:

  • unclear expectations for tenure and promotion
  • isolation, marginalization, tokenism
  • lack of mentorship
  • work life balance and stress
  • discrimination by colleagues, administrators, and students
  • institutional cultural taxation
  • undervalued research

Some recommendations for all faculty include:

  • Formalize work-life policies. This promotes equity since majority culture individuals may be more likely to socialize and set up informal arrangements with other majority culture colleagues or supervisors than minority individuals are.
  • Set clear expectations for tenure and promotion (teaching, research, service) and regularly evaluate faculty based on these expectations.
  • Recognize and reward those who carry additional service or teaching burdens (eg URM and women) with money, additional teaching assistants, keeping track of service obligations, or considering these extra burdens when it comes time to decide about tenure or promotion

The playing field is NOT level. URM faculty are “in the line of fire” in many ways, including:

  • experience overt and/or covert racism
  • are marginalized & find that their research is discredited
  • bear a tremendous burden of tokenism
  • feel obligated to represent one’s race
  • mentor and advise same-racial/ethnic students
  • suffer from negative consequences of being perceived as affirmative action hires or target-of-opportunity hires

There is racism across all aspects of identity and for all groups, but inclusivity in academia requires special attention on groups that have a history of disadvantage.

—to be continued—