Panel held to improve retention of minority professors

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Recently, there have been a few guest editorials in the Collegian from the Black Student Union addressing concerns about black faculty retention. On Tuesday in the K-State Student Union room 227, an open meeting was held to discuss black faculty retention. A panel of BSU members voiced concerns to a panel of administration members. Audience members were able to ask questions of both panels.

“I definitely feel this meeting is the beginning of seeking progress, but in order to see improvement in the retention of faculty of color then we need to see more action from the administration within the next 18 months,” said Caitlyn Wells, special programs director for BSU and junior in public relations.

Members of the BSU panel were Anita Easterwood, current BSU president and senior in art; Marcus Bragg, incoming BSU president and senior in management information systems; Mercedes Perry, BSU vice president and junior in management and American ethnic studies; Ashley Wooten, BSU Big 12 delegate and senior in political science; and Ingrid Perez, BSU general body member and junior in human resources management.

Members of the administrative panel were K-State President Kirk Schulz, provost and senior vice president April Mason and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Peter Dorhout.

Article III, Section G of the 2008-2013 Strategic Plan for Diversity states that K-State will “make every effort to retain historically under-represented faculty and staff. Establish a campus-wide culture of acceptance for and encouragement of historically under-represented and diverse populations such that other opportunities elsewhere become a moot consideration.”

However, three minority faculty members in the American ethnic studies department jobs were in jeopardy, and one of these faculty members will not be retained. BSU members did not find this acceptable; they shared the influence and impact that this faculty member, JohnElla Holmes, instructor of American ethnic studies, had on them and stated reasons she should be retained.

Although the termination of this influential instructor was the tip of the iceberg as far as BSU’s concerns about black faculty retention at K-State go, the group’s passion to address the issue increased after certain facts were revealed to them during their research process.

To the knowledge of both sides, there is no rule that requires K-State to interview at least one minority candidate. The lack of this rule could be a reason for the low number of minority faculty members.

Only 26 faculty members (1.9 percent of the entire faculty body) are African-American or of African descent, and not every college at K-State has black faculty members.

Although the meeting was established due to BSU concern about black faculty retention, it also addressed issues concerning all faculty of color. At one point in the meeting, someone suggested that it is important for white faculty members to be more racially sensitive and culturally aware.

The administrative panel responded by stating that there needed to be improvement in the retention, recruitment and climate for professors of color. They also announced that there will be minority faculty members added to the College of Engineering and at least one of them is of African-American descent. The College of Engineering is currently one of the colleges with no African-American faculty.

One concerned student at the meeting asked how students could hold the members of the administration accountable for making improvements in the retention rate of professors of color. Schulz suggested meeting again in a year to check on the progress made.

The administrative panelists stated they would work on making improvements for professors of color.

BSU stated that if they see no progress they would take further action.

“I just want to make sure that the administration truly heard us and is prepared to take action and not just listen and say ‘we understand your concerns,’ but put no action behind it,” Bragg said. “I’m glad we had the meeting, but there is still a lot of work to do.”

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