NU: More Asian-American, Latino faculty needed

Dalia Naamani-Goldman

Latino and Asian-American faculty positions are lacking at Northwestern, a new report from the Faculty Diversity Committee shows, although the number of female and black tenured or tenure-track professors is on par with other schools.

Thirty-three black professors — about 3 percent of faculty — currently teach at NU, the report indicated. And the university added 13 more tenured and tenure-track female faculty positions during the 2002-03 academic year. Only three new Latino faculty members are in tenure positions.

“The committee is disappointed that the recruitment of Hispanic faculty has not been as successful as that of African-American faculty during that time,” the report stated. “Steady, but very modest progress is being made in this area, and the Committee urges schools, departments and their search committees to ensure that the recruitment of Hispanic colleagues remains a priority.”

This is the first year the committee identified a need to increase Asian-American faculty positions. Although Asian-American faculty members make up about 9 percent of faculty, these professors are in limited academic fields — mainly electrical and computer engineering, statistics, mechanical engineering and physics, and marketing. The social sciences, arts and humanities lack sufficient numbers of Asian-American professors and graduate students.

“The committee focused first on African-American and Hispanic faculty where the numbers were small,” University Provost Lawrence Dumas said Tuesday. “It’s just a natural progression of the agenda for the Faculty Diversity Committee.”

The committee, which examines ways to diversify faculty, was created in 2000 by Dumas. In addition to comparing minority faculty numbers with other universities, the committee also has a $1-million discretionary fund and frequently interviews professors about their experiences at NU.

The Consortium for the Funding of Higher Education — to which schools such as Dartmouth College, the University of Chicago and NU belong — also creates faculty diversity rankings and listings. NU frequently measures its progress in terms of the other universities.

Tamara Kagel, Associated Student Government’s student services vice president, served on the committee last year as ASG academic vice president. Although she was impressed by how efficiently and thoroughly the committee operates, she said much work must be done in the future to ensure a diverse faculty at NU.

“You can’t just look at overall percentages for the whole university,” said Kagel, a Communication senior. “A diverse faculty is not one that has a high number of minority faculty concentrated only in certain areas.”

Many committee members agreed that diversity — among both faculty and students — is crucial to education at NU because it increases the intellectual perspective and growth of students.

“As a minority you offer a unique perspective in your field and simply as a professor at Northwestern,” Kagel said. “If you’re not seeing examples of the opposite, it’s still a stereotype that should be addressed.”

Monica Olvera de la Cruz, professor of materials science and engineering, said she agreed.

“It’s good for everyone to benefit from other perspectives,” she said.

Despite the committee’s progress in the last three years, Dumas said, more minority faculty members are needed.

“We’re not satisfied yet that we’ve accomplished what we set out to accomplish,” he said. “But we’re taking a long-term view.”

The committee will have its annual fall meeting in a few weeks, in which members will identify new issues and initiatives.

The Daily’s Elaine Helm contributed to this report.