In the last two academic years, the University of Missouri campus in Columbia has hired 451 faculty members.
But on a campus that has been torn by protests over a lack of diversity and an oppressive racial climate, just 19 were African-American.
Data obtained by The Star through a Freedom of Information Act request show that in the last two years the Columbia campus hired more than 13 times as many white professors as African-Americans.
While just about 4.2 percent of the hires were African-American, 262 — more than half — were white.
In that time, MU also hired 61 Asian professors, 12 Hispanic professors, three American Indians and two Pacific Islanders.
The remaining 92 hires did not define their racial identity. Doing so is optional, university officials said. But even if half of those hires were African-American, the campus would still come up well short of meeting any standards proposed to ensure a diverse faculty.
The campus now has 1,973 ranked faculty members. Just 55 — about 2.8 percent — are black. There are 1,476 white faculty members, 64 Hispanic and 259 Asian.
At universities nationwide, about 6 percent of faculties are African-American. Even Yale, with a hefty bankroll to put into boosting African-American numbers among its faculty, is struggling to make any significant change.
The minority faculty gap is so large, and the pace of change so slow nationally, that Robert Bruce Slater, managing editor of The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, makes a startling point:
“We find that blacks in faculty ranks will not reach parity with the black percentage of the overall American work force for about another 140 years.”
African-Americans are 13 percent of the national population. They are 11.2 percent of Missouri’s. The Association of American Colleges and Universities says campuses should hire faculty to better reflect the surrounding population.
Concerned Student 1950, the predominantly black student group that last November led campus protests, called for MU faculty to be 10 percent black by 2017. Several attempts to reach members of Concerned Student 1950 were not successful.
MU has not set a goal for how many more African-American faculty it would hire in the coming years or how quickly the campus would see the percentage grow.
“But do we want to increase our number of minority faculty? You bet we do,” said Christian Basi, an MU spokesman. “Are we taking steps to make that happen? You bet we are.”
The numbers “are not great,” said Ben Trachtenberg, president of MU’s faculty council. But the task, he said, “is daunting. I hope we do better in the future, and that is not a crazy hope. But it won’t happen by accident. It has to be dealt with on a campuswide level.”
The university’s hiring numbers indicate how slowly the racial complexion on campus can change. The Star requested two years of data — the academic year before the campus became embroiled and the year the racial strife peaked — to try to determine any trend.
Of the 19 African-American professors hired, just three were hired last year. However, there were fewer hires overall that year — 324 in the previous year and 127 last year.
Trachtenberg and others point out that hiring trends will be influenced by which departments have vacancies. Hiring committees in each department govern the process and don’t take into account how the overall campus is doing.
Basi also said laws don’t permit a public institution such as MU to create specific hiring goals for any individual ethnic group — such as the demand presented by Concerned Student 1950.
“Quotas are not legal,” Basi said.
What is less clear, said Pauline Kim, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, “is whether a university such as University of Missouri could say, ‘We are going to recognize the diversity makeup of our faculty in our hiring and make it a priority to take race into account.’ ”
Easier said than done
The Concerned Student 1950 group pushed the issue of low minority faculty numbers into the light last fall with a tent city occupation, a student hunger strike and the football team’s threat to boycott a game.
The protest, which led to the resignations of the university president and the Columbia campus chancellor, set off a national debate and movement on campus diversity and inclusion.
Since the protest, MU has set up a task force; hired a vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion; and begun requiring diversity training for students, staff and faculty.
This month, the University of Missouri System hired a Massachusetts company, Interactive Business Inclusion Solutions, to conduct an audit of diversity and inclusion at its four campuses.
MU isn’t the only school moving to hire more minority faculty members. Universities and higher-education experts across the country acknowledge that campuses need more faculty of color, but they also agree that noticeably increasing those numbers, especially for black faculty, won’t be easy.
A lot stands between intent and action.
For starters, it’s expensive at a time when budgets are tight. Few African-Americans hold doctorate degrees, so competition for them is high. At some schools, experts say, bias knit over time into the processes and functions of the system blocks faculty committees from choosing black candidates.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, nearly 80 percent of full-time faculty members at degree-granting colleges and universities were white in 2013, the most recent federal data available.
Among minority ranks in addition to the 6 percent that are black, 5 percent are Hispanic and 10 percent Asian or Pacific Islander.
Closer to home, the percentage of black faculty at campuses on the largest four-year public universities — the University of Missouri at Columbia, the University of Kansas, Kansas State University and the University of Missouri-Kansas City — is below the 6 percent national average.
Kansas State’s, at 2.4 percent, is even lower than MU’s 2.8 percent. KU has 2.9 percent. But the black population in Kansas, at 6.3 percent, is much lower than its neighboring state’s.
Five percent of the faculty at UMKC are black.
“Universities are not proud of their numbers,” Slater said. “Some of them are embarrassed at their low levels of black faculty.”
MU administrators make the point that as a research institution, MU is a member of the Association of American Universities. At universities considered research institutions, the highest percentage of black faculty is 6 percent, the lowest is 1.28 percent.
“MU sits in the middle,” said Ken Dean, MU’s senior associate provost.
“It is a challenge not only for us to recruit and retain black faculty, but it is a challenge for all the major research institutions in this country,” he said. “We are all running the same race, and everyone that we are competing with is trying to find the edge.”
MU officials said they are trying such tactics as training faculty search committees in how to diversify the pool of applicants and how to deal with implicit bias and be more inclusive and culturally competent when looking to fill faculty positions.
The school also has fine-tuned its faculty mentoring program so that senior faculty consider cultural issues that may be important to junior faculty and make the difference in whether they would stay on at the Columbia campus.
“Training we started for faculty hiring this year has not had a chance to work,” Trachtenberg said. “It could be another year before we see its fruits.”
For more than a decade, MU has had an incentive program called the Faculty Inclusion and Excellence Fund, used to help departments make offers to top minority faculty more attractive so they will consider coming to MU in the first place.
To “sweeten the deal, so to speak,” said Noor Azizan-Gardner, chief diversity officer at MU. The fund could boost a hire’s salary or increase research resources, she said.
“We are trying to run this race as fast as we can,” Dean said.
But even offering potential hires financial incentives may not be enough, Dean said. Some don’t want to be so far from a major city, some prefer living on a coast, and sometimes, he said, “another institution will make a counteroffer so staggering to any counteroffer MU could ever make.”
The schools dangling the biggest paychecks, usually the elite schools such as Columbia, Brown and New York University, private schools with big budgets, get first crack at the top-notch black faculty, said Amilcar Shabazz, faculty adviser for diversity and excellence in the chancellor’s office at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.
But even Yale, where just 2.9 percent of the faculty is black, has been slow to increase its black faculty numbers. It recently pledged to spend $50 million to diversify its faculty over the next five years.
But a recent report says plans to increase minority faculty have been raised before on the nation’s campuses, then shelved without follow-through until the next time the issue gets pushed to the forefront.
MU would have to hire about 150 more black faculty to hit the 10 percent mark demanded by Concerned Student 1950. And that level would still be below the 11.2 percent black population in the state.
“Even if resources were not an issue, hiring 150 black faculty by 2017 is not likely to occur no matter how much money we have,” Dean said.
Joe Moore, a second-year journalism doctorate degree candidate, finds the low number of black faculty at MU “alarming but not surprising,” he said.
“We have known for some time that the numbers are low, lower than they should be,” said Moore, who also is outreach officer for the Coalition of Graduate Workers at MU. Moore’s group also launched protests on campus last fall and supports, Moore said, Concerned Student 1950’s demand for a more diverse faculty.
“I know the university has made statements that they are going to do something about this,” Moore said. “But it remains to be seen if their actions are serious enough and meaningful enough to address what is really a serious problem.”
Students are not the only ones concerned about the lack of diversity among the faculty. A fair number of faculty also want to see some real improvement in the numbers.
“I think it is extremely important that we increase the black faculty,” said Angela Speck, a physics professor who is white and also chairs the Faculty Council’s committee on diversity enhancement at MU.
“We should be able to reflect the black student population if not the black population at large.”
Speck said she has tried to change the way her colleagues review an applicant’s credentials — to consider varied types of experiences — so that more minorities get included in the candidate selection process.
“But as soon as you try to bring people’s attention to this idea of implicit bias that they don’t know they have, people get upset, angry even. They have a hard time accepting that.”
Clovis Semmes, who has been a professor of black studies at University of Missouri-Kansas City for seven years and has sat on several faculty search committees, supports advertising jobs in periodicals for black organizations, “like with the association of black engineers, or black psychologists …,” to attract candidates. “But there has to be a commitment for that from the top.”
Semmes and others say a financial investment in the effort would be a critical step forward for Mizzou. The university is now using savings to help cover a $22.9 million building renovation effort that includes upgrades to its administrative hall and a complete renovation of Swallow Hall, which houses the museum of anthropology.
But a recent report in The Chronicle of Higher Education questions whether even a substantial amount of money can create diversity.
The average salary of full-time, teaching faculty at Ph.D.-granting public schools in 2013 and 2014 was $85,900; at private schools, $101,700.
But some argue that increasing black faculty is more than dollars and cents.
“We seek more than money. We want to be where we can work.” said Jennifer Hamer, a professor of American studies at the University of Kansas and president of the Black Faculty and Staff Council.
“If you want to increase diversity, then have a program specific to increasing diversity,” Hamer said. “Don’t leave it to chance.”
She said schools must change campus climate so faculty of color feel welcome, are given a voice in the campus community and have a committed pathway for advancement.
Speck agrees. “Some black faculty are treated so abysmally it’s a wonder they stay,” she said.
Speck recalled stories told to her by black faculty at MU, who said some students had refused to call them professor, telling them that to do so “would mean you are better than me.”
Faculty want to teach where they are comfortable.
Jannette Berkley-Patton, an associate professor of applied behavioral analysis at the UMKC School of Medicine, said she turned down a “lucrative” endowed chair at Michigan State University to stay in Kansas City, where she was born and raised.
“My story is very home-centered,” Berkley-Patton said.
At one point her UMKC office overlooked her old inner-city neighborhood including 48th Street and Benton Boulevard. “I could look out my window and see Paseo High School, my high school.”
The recruiting problem goes deep, Berkley-Patton said. Professors need a doctorate degree. To get more African-American faculty to pick from, schools first must graduate more African-Americans with doctorate degrees.
Slightly more than 52,700 doctorate degrees were awarded by American universities in 2013. And according to a federal study that year on the number of doctoral graduates in the U.S., Asian-Americans received 8.9 percent of all doctorates awarded. African-Americans received 6.4 percent, Hispanics 6.2 percent and whites 72.9 percent.
In some fields, though, particularly among the hard sciences, the number of potential professors of any race graduating with doctorate degrees is small and the African-Americans among them are less than a handful.
“We have to pump the pipeline,” Berkley-Patton said.