Friday, March 25, 2005

Racial quotas for hiring black college professors have failed

John H. Bunzel:

For the past 35 years, one of the issues confronting higher education has been how to increase the number of black and other minority group faculty members. It has proved to be a discouraging task.

College and universities across the country have tried many different ways to change the ethnic and racial composition of their faculties.

Officials were aware it was impermissible to deny opportunities for a faculty appointment on the basis of race or color, but they also knew deliberate efforts had to be made to include women and minorities in the pool of candidates.

Their initiatives were joined by the federal government, which wanted quick results. But even the most aggressive methods to hire more racial minorities did not produce the desired results.

In 1988, the University of Wisconsin pledged to hire 70 new minority faculty members by 1991. Duke University asked each of its 50 departments to hire at least one new black faculty member by 1993. Other schools took similar steps.

What was never clear, however, was where they were going to find such talent in such a short time. Self-imposed "goals" and "timetables" may have scored political points, but in practical terms, they were simply unrealistic. There were not enough minority Ph.D.s to satisfy the recruitment efforts of colleges and universities to diversify their faculties.

In the 1970s, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, seeking what it called "equalized results," informed the 19 campus presidents of the California State University system that faculty positions were to be left unfilled if there were no minority applicants, even if qualified white applicants were available. (The plan was eventually abandoned because of challenges to the legality of the "set-asides.")

In language that struck the college presidents as even more ill- considered, the commission recommended that because only a few black and other minority candidates had Ph.D.s, the requirement of the doctorate should be dropped, and black candidates with only a master's degree should be considered in the same way that white candidates with a Ph.D. would be considered.

Today, the shortage of black (and other minority group) professors remains a problem of supply, not demand.

By 2001, black Americans earned only 6 percent of the 40,744 doctorates nationwide. They represent 5 percent of all full-time faculty members, and half of them work at historically black institutions.

The proportion of black faculty members at predominantly white institutions is the same as it was 20 years ago: 2.3 percent.

A just-published five-year study, "Increasing Faculty Diversity," reveals a root problem of why so few minority undergraduates pursue a doctorate and become professors.

The prime reason given by minority students was lower undergraduate grades. In the sample of 1,518 African American students, only 65 selected the academic profession as their intended career -- and they were the ones with excellent grades.

"Students with lower grades are more likely to want to become businesspeople and teachers," the study found. "If African Americans and Latinos had the same grade distribution as white students, there would be a meaningful increase in the proportion selecting academia as a first-choice career."

Some insist the situation is the result of discrimination. While it would be foolish to deny the existence of discrimination, the problem runs deeper.

Far fewer blacks of 18 to 19 years old complete secondary school than white students.

On average, black high school graduates achieve levels of literacy well below those of white students. A National Science Foundation study pinpointed a serious gap in math achievement between black and white high school students.

There is no quick fix that will close the gap between black and white achievement.

What colleges should do is abandon their "diversity" goals and concentrate on hiring the best people to do the teaching. That way students can have absolute confidence in the ability of their professors regardless of their skin color.


At 7:20 AM, Blogger MarkT said...

WorldNetDaily has a story about how Princeton defines 'diversity'. You're absolutely right, colleges should admit that their experiment in social engineering has failed and refocus on their original mandate - education.

At 9:59 AM, Blogger Adam Lawson said...

Thanks for the link!

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