Opinion | The UI needs to fix the issue of a lack of diversity in faculty

If the University of Iowa wants to value diversity, they should be hiring a more diverse staff and listening to their current faculty.


Jenna Galligan

The Old Capitol is seen on Thursday, March 12, 2020.

Josie Taylor, Opinions Contributor

The University of Iowa does not only lack diversity in its student population, but also in its faculty. Liz Tovar’s appointment as the UI’s executive officer of diversity, equity, and inclusion is a positive step — the division’s leader returned to reporting to the president instead of the provost. But, the UI needs to make a conscious effort to change this lack of diversity by doing a better job of retaining and recruiting a more diverse faculty body.

The most recent release of information on faculty demographics from the UI was released this month assessing October 2020 data. Out of the 1,318 tenure or tenure-track faculty, only 33.9 percent are women and 23.2 percent are from underrepresented racial groups. Iowa fell below its peer universities in 2019 for percent of full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty who are female — UI’s 33.94 percent vs the peer group average of 36.15 percent — and the share who are minorities — 20.89 percent at the UI compared to 25.01 percent average at peer institutions.

The UI presidency and cabinet have 13 members, and nine of them are white men.

It would benefit students — and in turn, the university — if students could look to a diverse group of professors.

Research done in 2017 found that students of color perform better when they enroll in classes with teachers of color. Hiring and recruiting a more racially and ethnically diverse group of professors would help students improve in school, which could help the overall academic performance of the university.

In postgraduate education, a study lasting 24 years found that women are more likely to graduate with a doctorate if they have female instructors. If the UI recruits and hires more female professors, we could see improvement in its graduate-student graduation rate.

Students also deserve representation here at Iowa. Eighty percent of undergraduate students are white, and students from underrepresented communities should have the opportunity to learn from professors who have similar backgrounds.

The UI’s official policy on diversity claims to be anti-discrimination and states that the university values diversity, equity and inclusion.

However, actions speak louder than words.

It is clear that the UI’s past actions have not always created an inclusive environment for all faculty members. If the environment does not continue to change, then the UI will not be able to recruit diverse faculty members.

Multiple instances have occurred where the UI ignored the voices of faculty of color.

In summer 2020, a female professor of color who is immunocompromised expressed concern about COVID-19 and was told she had to work in the classroom to serve as a “role model.”

Later, the administrator who said that, former dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Steve Goddard, was removed for an undetermined violation of employee ethics policy.

There was even a committee and petition created by students in the English department that advocated for a more diverse staff.

In December, two faculty members of color voiced concerns over lack of outreach from the UI’s DEI program.

It is one thing for UI leadership to say they care about all students and staff, or to say that they value diversity, but it is more important to show it.

The UI must do better and pursue a more diverse faculty, and in order to do so it must create a more inclusive environment.

By making hiring and recruiting faculty diverse faculty members a top priority, the UI will benefit academically and show current and future students it values diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.

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