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Actions Speak Louder Than Words

I, like many, have been following what has been going on across the nation with the many civil rights protest centering on the Black Lives Matter movement. I watched specifically the protests on college campuses across the nation, as people of color demanded an end to racial inequalities, discrimination, and covert and overt forms of racism. Many college administrators negotiated with protesters and a wide range of promises were made to students of color to facilitate their access and inclusion in higher education. Whether they promised to hire diversity officers, increase minority student enrollment, provide safe spaces, and/or increase the number of faculty of color, I listened with hope and skepticism.

Too many times in the past have these promises been made to quiet those voices that recognize the inequities faced by people of color. Would these promises go, as in the past, unfulfilled? And if so would it be because those that made the promises were maliciously promising something they had no intention on making good on? Could it be those that made the promises lacked the know how to facilitate the execution of protesters demands or maybe they lacked the ability to communicate their desires to or get buy in from the necessary principal players needed to make such wide scale changes?

Regardless, many administrators would eventually inform protestors of their inability to meet their needs, specifically when it came to the recruitment and retention of students and faculty of color. Administrators responded by blaming the victim. In one foul swoop many college and university administrators choose to pathologize both prospective students of color and potential faculty of color. Such as UW Madison claim that the reason for low minority student enrollment was due to a lack of qualified students instead of recognizing that how colleges and universities define qualified determines whom they view as qualified. The failure of administrators to recognize their inability to recruit students of color originates from within. The failure of the colleges and universities to recognize that when they pathologize the cultural values, norms and assumptions of minority group members because they don’t mirror the dominant group the result are minority students who are viewed as less qualified.

I think the same can be said for the recruitment and retention of K-12 teachers and faculty of color. I read many articles, following the commitment of colleges and universities across the nation to increase people of color on college campuses that provided excuses why the recruitment of faculty of color was an insurmountable task. These article, which pathologized people of color, rationalized the lack of faculty of color. Excuses ranged from a lack of quality applicants, not enough people of color in the faculty pipeline, the failure of prospective minority faculty to access the needed social and cultural capital that facilitates employment in higher education (knowing the “right” people who will vouch for you and your ability, or having the right mentor), additionally the lack of recruitment and hiring committees to communicate their desire to recruit and hire a diverse candidate through job posting and application screening. I feel all these issues demonstrate institutions of higher education lack of commitment to diversity, they maybe giving lip service to the need to increase diversity, but they not committing the requisite resources and time to the actual execution of real and concrete diversity initiative.

Finally an article, written by Marybeth Gasmen, a professor of higher education, provides an honest answer to a question prominent in the minds of many people of color, “Why don’t colleges hire more faculty of color?” Gasmen responded, “We don’t want them”. In the article, written in The Washington Post, she went on to elaborate on the reason for her response and the way in which colleges and universities demonstrate a lack of commitment to diversity. Thank you Marybeth Gasmen, for putting into words what I as a minority who holds a Ph.D. knew all along.

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