Faculty Diversity

The college student population is today more diverse than ever: racial and ethnic minorities grew from 23% of the student population in 1990 to 38% in 2010; women currently comprise over 50% of the undergraduate population and are being awarded over half of all new doctoral degrees; and there is a growing awareness of the unique challenges faced by the LGBT community. In spite of this, we still find that people of color become increasingly rare as we move up the educational ladder from undergraduate to graduate student to faculty; women faculty are still not compensated or promoted at the levels that their male peers are; and far too many LGBT individuals report feeling unsafe or marginalized on their campuses. AFT members, both as educators and unionists, are deeply concerned about the pace of efforts to recruit and retain higher education faculty and staff from underrepresented groups, and AFT Higher Education is determined to weigh in aggressively to accelerate progress on this front.

As educators, we know that in order for all students to succeed academically, they need role models and mentors with whom they can identify. The classroom is a more welcoming place when the diversity of the student population is represented in the faculty. In this context, students from underrepresented groups feel less like "strangers in a strange land" and more at ease to share ideas, listen to other perspectives and formulate their own conclusions. Students from the majority population also benefit from learning and exchanging ideas in a multicultural environment that offers a wider range of scholarship and representation of alternative perspectives.

Faculty and staff diversity is also a union issue, essential to achieving union goals of economic and social justice. In particular, we are concerned that a disproportionate number of minority faculty members continue to be hired as contingent rather than full-time tenure-track faculty members, which often marginalizes their contributions and provides them with disproportionately low pay and inadequate working conditions.

While there are dozens of activities already under way on campuses around the country to address diversity, AFT Higher Education believes more needs to be done. Our series of diversity reports offers specific recommendations for what unions can do to promote racial and ethnic diversity, promote gender diversity, and create positive work environments for LGBT faculty. While bargaining positions are offered in each of these reports, the AFT encourages our members to think broadly about the ways in which we can promote diversity in our workplaces. We look forward to continuing our commitment to civil rights through concerted local action by our members and to hear the success stories that come about through these efforts.