When Assistant English Professor Herman Beavers decided to come to the University more than a year ago, he rejected offers from Stanford University, the University of Michigan, Amherst College and Emory University -- a list typical for a sought - after black scholar. Many black faculty members at the University share similar stories. The scholars who have remained here are almost always leaders in their fields, and the University has gone to great lengths to keep them. Beavers said the University has more than exceeded his high expectations. "There has been support for my work in terms of research funding, support for the things I want to do as a teacher and support for me as a new member of the community," he said last week. "People have looked out for me as a new junior faculty member." But some say that beyond the superstars, the administration is not doing enough to attract and retain black faculty. Some black scholars who have left the University say a lack of support and commitment towards minorities drove them to seek positions elsewhere. And even those who stay at the University say the small number of black faculty -- in the School of Arts and Sciences, for example, 12 of approximately 500 faculty members are black -- leads them to feel isolated. Leaders say that to increase black faculty presence, which will in turn draw minority graduate and undergraduate students, the administration must use more creative recruiting techniques and support not only the superstars but also not yet established faculty. · Black faculty members said last week that academic and research opportunities enticed them and keep them here despite the numerous other offers. They said that although the University is supportive in general, they feel that because there are few non-white people in their departments, they are forced to represent the minority voice inside and outside of their regular. Both administrators and minority faculty say hiring more black faculty would benefit the University, but they point to a pool of doctoral recipients in most fields that is prohibitively small. "We are not alone," School of Arts and Sciences Dean Hugo Sonnenschein said last month. "The market for minority scholars is a substantial one. We try to hire the best and the brightest, but the numbers in the aggregate in our country are not in our favor." "It is not just a matter of attracting senior stars, but also young faculty," Sonnenschien added. The dean said that although University is doing better in attracting and retaining minorities than many peer institution, it is held back by the dearth of black candidates. Assistant Physics Professor Larry Gladney said, for example, that between two and 12 black scholars receive a doctorate in physics each year. Although the pool of black candidates is generally small, black leaders said the departments and schools should look beyond traditional recruiting channels to larger minority populations. They said they expect the University to increase the number of black faculty through the $35 million being raised for "minority permanence" in the $1 billion capital campaign. The money will support programs for undergraduates, graduate and professional students as well as endowed and term chairs and research for faculty. · The percentage of black faculty varies widely by school and department. Faculty members say departments and schools with higher percentages of black faculty have greater representation not only because there are more black scholars in those areas, but because their faculty and administrations work harder to attract them. In SAS, black faculty praised the history, English and sociology departments for a commitment to attracting minority faculty. But the faculty members criticized other departments for not recruiting seriously enough. "The School of Arts and Sciences has sort of a pitiful record," Folklore Professor John Roberts said. Black faculty said the Medical School, the Law School and the School of Social Work have better records than the other schools. They said successful recruiting begins with efforts of committed department heads and senior faculty. "There are a lot of departments who really don't care," Roberts said last week. "I just don't think they do very much to attract [black faculty]." In 1980, there were six black faculty members in SAS, and the & number has doubled over the last 10 years. The total number of minorities in SAS has gone from 25 to 36 in the same 10-year period. "[Recruiting minorities] doesn't exist as a priority for most departments," Assistant Physics Professor Gladney said last week. · English Professor Beavers is in one of the departments which has been most successful in recruiting black faculty. He said a combination of factors, including a supportive environment and the presence of two prominent black faculty in the department, drew him here. Beavers said that when he was deciding where to work, other institutions offered him more money, but the opportunities in department here were better. Beavers also credited the University as a whole with a similarly progressive attitude. "People are interested in making it an even better place than it is now," he said. Some departments, like sociology, have several established black scholars. But these departments have to compete with other institutions continually to retain them. Sociology Professor Elijah Anderson was offered a position at Amherst College in 1988, but he said that he "preferred to stay here." Anderson emphasized that for minority faculty, like for majority faculty, the offers made to attract and keep a scholar at the University depend on the quality of the individual as a teacher or researcher. "I think what [the University] does to recruit or retain a person depends on the minority faculty member's merit," Anderson said. "Various people rank either higher or lower in their fields. It would be unfair to place a strictly racial bias on it." Anderson said there are more black candidates in fields like sociology than in physics and organic chemistry. He said certain fields, particularly in the social sciences, have a greater need for the minority perspective than the hard sciences. Anderson said that a minority point of view "enhances the field and contributes to its growth and development" in subjects like history, English and sociology. Anderson was recently offered an endowed chair at the University of Notre Dame. He declined to discuss whether he will take that position or remain at the University. · Several black scholars who have left the University said the administration undermines efforts to increase minority presence by not giving some candidates a chance and some professors adequate support, forcing them to leave or consider leaving the school. Assistant Education Professor Michele Foster said when she went to meetings with her program group in the Graduate School of Education, she was surrounded all men and for several meetings no one would talk to her. "If you said something they'd say 'That is because you are black and a woman and a junior faculty member,' " Foster said. After one year at the school, Foster said, her colleagues took her out to lunch after voting unanimously for her appointment to continue and, only to "trash" her research over the meal. "It was not the kind of treatment that brought you in and made you feel like you could make it," she said. Foster, who is on leave at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, also said the University did not help her find a place to live as most other universities had offered to do. Foster said she has fielded five other job offers in the last two years and that the other schools offered to help her husband find work in the area. "Universities that are serious help people find jobs," Foster said. Foster's leave ends in May, but she said no one from the University has called to ask if if she plans to return. She said she has not decided if she will come back. "I don't love the University of Pennsylvania so much that I am willing to put up with that," Foster said. Carol Blackshire-Belay, a former post-doctoral student in German at the University, left the German Department in the spring of 1989 when she learned the department was not considering her for a tenure track position. At the time, Blackshire-Belay & was one of only two blacks in the nation to have received a Ph.D. in German in the previous six years. Blackshire-Belay would not discuss the details of the case, but SAS administrators said at the time that she was not hired because the department made a procedural mistake. She said she would have seriously considered staying at the University if she was offered a position because of the challenging academic environment. Blackshire-Belay said the University lost "in more ways than one" when she left because she would have added to the community as a black woman and to the German Department as a specialist in the linguistic aspects of German. Blackshire-Belay, who is now teaching at Ohio State University, said that although she was disappointed by her experience here, she cannot condemn the University because she does not know the current situation. "A lot can change and people can change as well," she said last week.Comments powered by Disqus
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