Augustana lacks racial diversity in faculty

Augustana lacks racial diversity in faculty

Olivia Doak

Out of a total of 261 instructional faculty, 29 belong to minority racial and ethnic groups. This lack of diversity among faculty impacts everyone in the Augustana community and plays a large role in shaping campus culture.
 
Junior Rosalia Flores is on the executive board of Latinx Unidos and is the co-chair for special events committee for multicultural programming board of OSL. Since she began her career at Augustana, Flores said she has only had three professors of color.
 
A diverse faculty encompasses a multitude of intersectional backgrounds, including, but not limited to race, gender and sexuality. Flores said that a less diverse faculty sends a message of what you can and can’t do based on your race. “When you don’t see yourself in those positions, it’s kind of discouraging,” Flores said. “A lot of people don’t feel connected or like they’re being invested in or taken seriously.”
As the vice president of academic affairs, provost and dean of the college, Dr. Wendy Hilton-Morrow is involved in the hiring of new faculty. “For our students of color, it’s very important for them to see themselves reflected in the faculty,” Hilton-Morrow said. “It’s easier for them to think about getting through an education here at Augustana if they feel like there’s people here that might understand what their experience is as a student of color.”
The administration is actively taking steps to increase faculty diversity. Dr. Monica Smith is the vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, a new position added last year to promote diversity and inclusion on campus. 
“When you have an employee base that does not reflect the student population, there are unspoken messages communicated to students about their own identity, their sense of value, the institution’s sense of value for diversity,” Smith said. “We want to make sure as much as possible that we are reflecting the identity of the student population.”
Within her first year at Augustana, Smith worked with the administration to improve the hiring process and continues to strive in improving campus culture by promoting inclusion.
“There is research that informs us that student sense of belonging, student retention, student success, increases when there are increases in diversity among faculty,” Smith said.
 
Professor Corey Miles is the current diversity fellow on campus and also works to promote a healthier culture surrounding race on campus. The diversity fellow position is a year long with the purpose to promote conversations about race and inclusion.
“Faculty of color are underrepresented across college campuses everywhere,” Miles said. “But I think hiring someone like Dr. Monica Smith shows the desire to do something different. We have a lot of work to do, but we have people that are sincere, genuine, and caring who want to find new ways to make faculty more diverse.”
Although the right steps are being taken, it will take time for a change to be visible. “If you think about the student body, we have a turnover of 650-700 students every year, the diversification of the student body happens a lot more quickly,” Hilton-Morrow said. “If we think of our faculty having a career of 30 years or more, then the turnover in the positions open and available are going to take more time to diversify our faculty.”
Jessica Schultz is the associate dean of academic affairs and associate professor of psychology. She is involved in hiring our diversity fellow. “I’m really excited about the work that were doing and the direction that were headed,” Schultz said. “We have work to do and we’re doing that work.”
Graphic by Noah Robey.