Minority, female faculty members more likely to experience discrimination, campus climate survey finds

Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion Robert Sellers presents in the Union Monday

Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion Robert Sellers presents in the Union Monday Buy this photo
Arnold Zhou/Daily

 

Monday, November 20, 2017 - 8:32pm

The University of Michigan Senate Assembly, the University’s leading faculty governance body, gathered Monday afternoon to learn the results of the faculty campus climate survey. Guest speaker Robert Sellers, vice provost for Equity and Inclusion and chief diversity officer, presented the information from the 2016-17 survey. Overall, 72 percent of tenured faculty and 75 percent of nontenured faculty reported they were satisfied or very satisfied with the climate — which is consistent with students and staff.

However, white faculty members were more than two and a half times more likely than African-American faculty members to report they are satisfied with overall campus climate, and over three times more likely than those who are Hispanic or Latino.

Seventy-one percent of the faculty sample responded to the survey, much higher than the typical climate survey response rate of 22 percent to 27 percent.

“The University of Michigan’s faculty vary on a number of different dimensions,” Sellers said to begin his presentation. “Overall, faculty report positive experiences.”

Despite the overall feeling of satisfaction, there are disparities among the responses.

African-Americans are five times more likely, and Latinos four and a half times more likely, than white faculty members to report they have been discriminated against in the past 12 months.

Many other groups reported being discriminated against as well. Fifty percent of women on the tenure track, and 33 percent of women on the nontenure track report experiencing at least one discriminatory event. Twenty-two percent of those with disabilities on the tenure track and 25 percent of those with disabilities not on the tenure track reported being discriminated against as well.

“The goal is not for the data to sit up in my office, but for the data to be of value to the larger University community,” Sellers said.

Earlier in the meeting, the Senate Assembly met in small groups to discuss the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion relevant to their teaching or service, and what the University can do to promote the values throughout the community.

Research librarians Bob Fraser from University of Michigan at Dearborn and Laura Friesen from University of Michigan at Flint joined pharmacology professor John Traynor to speak about the difficulty of uniting students from different backgrounds — especially considering the lack of diversity of the Ann Arbor campus.

“Ten percent of your student population is in the top 1 percent economically,” Fraser pointed out. “Most of our students here are students of privilege. So thinking of ways to help them empathize with other, they’ve never had to run against that before.”

The members also discussed the Go Blue Guarantee, acknowledging that even with financial aid, many eligible students do not apply to the University.

“It is still difficult for people from that background to come to this Michigan” Traynor said. “I’m not saying they’re not trying.”

Ultimately, the group agreed on the importance of students interacting with peers from different backgrounds.

“How do we get to the place wherein we get people to be more empathetic, more understanding and more caring with one another?” Fraser asked.

“There’s been various versions of forcing it (and) it hasn’t worked before,” Friesen and Traynor agreed.