Due to an initiative designed to increase the number of minority professors, the University has become a leader among national research colleges for the diverse composition of its faculty, according to statistics collected by the Association of American Universities Data Exchange.

The entire student body benefits from such faculty diversity because minority professors “bring their perspectives on many different social and cultural issues,” said Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic and multicultural affairs.

Faculty diversity exposes students to minorities in positions of authority, which “undermines stereotypes regarding the intellectual authority of minorities,” political science Prof. Vincent Hutchings said.

University departments fill their vacancies by individually recruiting faculty, but the Provost’s Faculty Initiative Program provides them with assistance and emergency funds for the searching of and hiring minority professors, Monts said.

A consolidation of past programs that recruit faculty, PFIP assists departments in hiring clusters of four to six minority professors conducting research in similar fields, Monts said.

PFIP also provides departments that wish to hire prominent professors but do not have the budget space to do so with emergency funds to pursue such faculty, he added.

“PFIP allows us extreme flexibility to compete on the highest level with peer institutions,” Monts said. “PFIP allows us to strike very quickly.”

University Academic Human Resources also permits departments to waive the regular hiring process if they need to quickly pursue a minority professor who has received several job offers, Monts said.

But before departments can receive such waivers, which Monts said “operate within legal guidelines,” the professor’s qualifications must be approved by Human Resources.

PFIP and the University’s overall emphasis on hiring minority faculty have helped the University develop a diverse faculty body in relation to most other major research universities, including Harvard, University of Chicago and University of California at Berkeley.

The percentage of minority faculty at the University has also increased in each of the past five years, from 15 percent in 1997 to 18 percent in 2001, according to statistics from the Office of Budget and Planning. Although the University has a more diverse faculty than most research schools, Hutchings said the University’s faculty composition still lags behind the nation’s minority percentage.

One possible reason for the problem is that “when it goes down to the department levels, very often it seems people can’t figure out how to identify (minority) faculty members,” said Marita Inglehart, chair of the Committee for a Mulitcultural University. The committee is preparing recommendations for the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs.

Another problem is the uneven distribution of minority faculty across University departments, Monts said. While some departments, like the Center for African-American Studies and History of Art, hire many minority faculty, science departments hardly employ any minorities.

“We would like to see a greater balance of minority professors in the sciences and engineering,” Monts said.

Anesthesiology Prof. Satwant Samra said one solution to hiring more minority professors in science departments is to analyze which professors have won national recognition for their work and to see how many of them are minorities.

History of art Prof. Thelma Thomas said as a black woman studying Byzantine culture, she represents a unique role model for her students.

“I am representative of an intervention in the typical demographic makeup of what you expect a medievalist to be,” she said.

The University has the most total minority faculty on the path to tenure in the Big Ten, and ranks second to the University of Illinois in terms of the percentage of minority professors.

Illinois has achieved success creating faculty diversity through a program similar to PFIP called the Targets of Opportunity Program, Associate Provost David Swanson said.

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