UB faculty, police not as diverse as student population
UB’s classrooms may be filled with students from around the world, but the faculty instructing those classes and the department policing the campus aren’t nearly as diverse.
Only one of UB’s 40 police officers isn’t white. And while just under half of UB’s students are white, there’s an underwhelming number of diverse faculty.
“UB can, and should be doing more to recruit minority faculty, but we are not unique in our challenges,” said Teresa Miller, a law professor and vice provost for Equity and Inclusion.
Only 48 percent of UB undergraduates are white, but almost 79 percent of UB’s faculty is white, according to UB’s demographic statistics. While international students make up 17 percent of the student body, only 5 percent of UB faculty is not from the United States. Some feel the lack of diversity amongst faculty affects not only learning outcomes, but also the comfort level between students and the administration.
UB’s faculty demographics are similar to the 38 public schools in the Association of American Universities (AAU), but not all those universities have such a diverse student population, actively recruit international students or have a president from India like UB does.
Race and diversity have been prevalent topics on campus the past few weeks after graduate fine arts student Ashley Powell posted “White Only” and “Black Only” signs for a class project. The signs caused outage and debate and the Black Student Union (BSU) to hold a special forum last week.
UB is required to complete an Affirmative Action Plan every year, which is created to ensure equal employment opportunity based on gender, race and ethnic profile. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs set a placement goal for UB to attain 7 percent representation of people with disabilities and 7 percent representation of veterans in the workforce.
But when it comes to gender and race, placement goals are based on the availability pool for the position, so there isn’t an exact percentage that must be met.
Miller said UB is working on many different fronts to hire and retain more faculty of color, but the university has faced challenges in doing so. One reason for the lack of diversity is the “critical mass” factor, according to Miller.
“It is much easier to recruit people of color to teach at a university that is already rich in racial diversity,” Miller said.
Nnedi Okorafor, a Nigerian-American associate professor in the English department, said the lack of diversity in the faculty is “highly problematic.”
Okorafor said in just the year that she’s been at UB, the numbers have proven what she’s seen as far as the low number of black faculty at UB, which is 3.79 percent.
Okorafor said the majority of the universities she taught at have predominantly white faculty, such as University of Illinois. But from 2007-14 she taught at Chicago State University, which was predominantly black.
“I’m used to different types of universities and I can basically fit in wherever I go,” she said. “So when I came to UB, [the predominantly white population] was nothing new to me.”
Okorafor said she would like to know why there is a disparity in numbers when looking at the faculty demographics compared to student demographics. UB’s undergraduatepopulation is 7 percent black.
“This is a teaching institution and people come here to learn,” Okorafor said. “Diversity is a requirement for knowledge and we can’t do this just to satisfy numbers. It is essential to education.”
At BSU’s open forum last Wednesday, students brought up the idea of having diversity training for faculty. Okorafor said this training would get the university going in the right direction.
“For some of us, diversity is the norm,” Okorafor said. “I’ve been all over the world so some of us live that. But if I had to do diversity training for the sake of people who need it, that would be fine. Any kind of activities that encourage dialogue and awareness of this issue can’t be anything but positive.”
Micah Oliver, BSU president and a senior social sciences major, was unaware of the faculty demographics and surprised to see the numbers.
“Those are staggering numbers,” Oliver said. “I thought there were more [minorities], not from what I’ve seen but from what I would assume from a university as diverse as UB.”
Oliver said he would like to see more black faculty on campus.
But the UPD statistics were the most shocking to Oliver. According to Deputy Chief of Police Joshua Sticht, only one officer is black out of the 40 officers working for UPD. Only six are female, including the lone black officer.
Sticht said UPD gets officers from statewide recruitment and there have been more black officers in the past, but they’ve gone on to other forces.
According to The Wall Street Journal, 13.2 percent of police officers in the United States are black.
“It actually makes me concerned,” Oliver said. “With all of the current events in regard to law enforcement and black people, now more than ever, black people need to see more of each other in those uniforms.”
At BSU’s open forum, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Barbara Ricotta said UB is interested in creating an advisory colored committee to meet with UPD starting this month. Oliver and many other students are in full support.
“It’s an excellent idea being able to open up a channel between students and university police,” Oliver said. “But the university police [demographics] will present a certain bump in the road.”
Oliver said that although the committee is a good idea, it doesn’t excuse the fact there needs to be more black officers on campus.
Miller said an environment where faculty members are “aware of, value and engage with students’ racial and ethnic backgrounds” would enhance student achievement.
Elizabeth Cardinale, a sophomore philosophy major, also said UB should have a more diverse faculty, but wasn’t shocked to hear the demographic statistics.
“If you look around, we’re all so different,” Cardinale said. “When you only have on group of faculty, you’re not getting the full spectrum. People with a diverse background have more to offer I think.”
Other students don’t find the statistics a problem and don’t believe the differences in numbers are a concern.
Holly Raesly, a freshman architect major, said race shouldn’t be a factor when hiring for a job because then it would be “unethical.”
Jasmine Nijjar, a freshman architect major, said, “It doesn’t bother me as much. They’re hired because they’re qualified for the job.”
According to the UB recruitment policy statement, “UB is committed to ensuring equal employment opportunity to all qualified individuals. The university believes a diverse workforce will enhance its ability to fulfill the mission of education, research and public service.”
“Diversity isn’t a politically correct term, but it’s what the world is,” Okorafor said. “A diverse faculty brings something that is different from a non-diverse faculty. Something should be done not only for political correctness but for the idea of reality.”