I want to thank members of the Black Student Union for their guest editorial, “K-State has long way to go to meet 2025 goal of a diverse workforce,” published Friday, April 5. As the Interim Director of American Ethnic Studies I appreciate and support the BSU’s call for improving university support for the recruitment, retention and promotion of Black faculty.
One important clarification is needed: the university is actually on a path to increase the number of core faculty in American Ethnic Studies, not decreasing the number as the letter stated. No contracts are being terminated, and two of the three annual instructors are being offered contracts for the fall. Recognizing the need for more than just three tenure-track faculty positions, Arts and Sciences Dean Peter Dorhout and Provost April Mason authorized the hiring of two additional full-time faculty positions over the next two years. With the addition of a new full-time director, a net increase of 2.5 positions will be realized and bring the program to a total of four tenure track faculty.
The difference between annual contracts and tenure track (requiring a Ph.D.) faculty can be confusing, but these new lines represent significant progress and a long-term commitment by the university. Without them we could never become a department. American Ethnic Studies serves a broad constituency of under-represented groups in four primary areas of study: African American Studies, American Indian Studies, Asian Studies and Latina/o Studies. More recently, we have become an independent major, and the future addition of highly qualified faculty members will make us even stronger.
So, what can the university do about the retention of Black faculty? The university, not simply the college nor any one department, needs to continue to take seriously the problem of the retention of Black faculty. While the numbers presented by the BSU are staggering, they are hardly unique to K-State. African American representation in higher education is a huge concern nationally. I, for one, would love to see K-State become a national leader in this regard. I urge that the BSU, other student organizations, concerned faculty and members of the administration come together to identify an aggressive strategy aimed at recruiting and retaining Black faculty across the University. I’ll volunteer today to serve on any committees or working groups devoted to these concerns. Keep it up BSU!
Spencer D. Wood
Interim Director, American Ethnic Studies