(This is the first in a two-part weekly series on faculty diversity)
Although a recent study shows that universities and colleges have hired more women and minority faculty members in the last seven years than ever before, University officials say all its departments will have to step up efforts in recruiting or the door of equal opportunity may slide shut.
According to an American Association of State Colleges and Universities newsletter, the report, published by the National Center for Education Statistics, shows that faculty who have seven years or less experience tend to be more diverse than faculty with more experience and tenure.
The pattern reflecting more diversity among untenured, new faculty is most apparent with women. Women comprise only 28.5 percent of senior faculty but 40.8 percent of new faculty.
The study also found that blacks hold 4.6 percent of experienced faculty positions, compared to 5.7 percent of the less-experienced faculty.
Karen Holt, University director of equal opportunity programs, said the Center's study reflects the situation at the University, although the number of black faculty members may be on a downturn.
"The percent of faculty that are women is steadily increasing, but the increase in minorities has stopped and may even be declining," Holt said. Because the percentage of black faculty is so small "even one or two departures can make a big difference," she said.
One concern is that the pool of qualified black candidates may be shrinking because fewer blacks are seeking a Ph.D., the degree a faculty member must hold, she added.
Some administrators said they worry that the decrease in new black faculty members may not reverse unless the University makes a concerted effort at minority recruitment.
"With the economy being as it is, there is a greater pressure to go to business school," Holt said. "Also, most universities are not expanding faculty positions right now."
Asst. Dean of Students Glenna Chang said more minority students should be encouraged to earn their Ph.D.
Chang said there are still barriers hindering blacks from getting jobs, but that Affirmative Action programs help offset the obstacles.
Although the University supports Affirmative Action, each department has leverage in deciding how actively they will recruit minority applicants, she said.
"Some departments are going above and beyond what is required by the state by advertising and seeking certain contacts," she added. "Some departments don't."
African-American Affairs Dean M. Rick Turner said the University's commitments to diversity will not be enough to increase the number of black faculty members.
"Unless there is incentive placed on departments to seek out viable black candidates, there will be no improvement," Turner said. "The [Board of Visitors] has to really commit itself to hiring more African-American members, or it won't happen"