Diversity still lacking in KSU faculty

A lot has changed at Kent State in the past decade.

Enrollment at the Kent Campus has climbed from 20,635 students to 22,317.

Tuition has jumped nearly 50 percent, from $2,144 per semester to the current $4,215.

But some things haven’t changed, and that has some people at the university upset.

As was reported in yesterday’s Daily Kent Stater, the number of non-white faculty members, specifically black faculty members, has remained pretty consistent — and consistently low at that.

George Garrison, president of the Pan-African Faculty Staff Association, recently asked to go before the Board of Trustees to discuss this matter and put it on the record; however, his request was denied. The reasoning he was given was the meeting’s business format wouldn’t allow an open dialogue to discuss the concerns being raised.

Garrison claims that in the past eight years, the number of black faculty has increased less than 1 percent and today represents a mere 4 percent of total faculty at Kent State.

If the ratio of white faculty to black faculty is indeed 1,945 to 88, then there is definitely cause for concern. Not just concern for those doing the complaining, but concern for every member of the university community.

According to Regional Planning and Institutional Effectiveness (RPIE), the number of black students (undergraduate and graduate) at the university this fall is 2,341, representing about 6 percent of total student enrollment. That number is disappointingly low; that the percentage of faculty is even less only adds insult to injury.

President Lester Lefton has stated that diversity is about more than a blacker Kent State or a more LGBT-friendly Kent State, it’s also about intellectual diversity.

A more intellectually diverse university is not a bad thing to strive for, but minority and intellectual diversity are not mutually exclusive. It’s hard to dispute that students who are members of a minority community on campus, be it black, gay or Republican, should be able to find mentors and leaders on campus who know where they are coming from and in whom they can see themselves.

So what can we do about increasing diversity on campus?

Garrison wants a university plan with specific goals and timetables. He also wants administrators’ pay to be tied to meeting diversity goals.

We agree: The university should have a concrete plan with numerical goals. But setting an overall milestone for Kent State will only have a marginal effect, because faculty hiring decisions are made by committees within the schools. Bolstering diversity happens one hire at a time.

That’s why schools must have individual goals — a specific percentage of minority faculty members.

But there must also be standards for recruiting. Searches must cast a wider net to find more potential minority professors. And during the interview process, candidates must be shown that the university is a welcoming place.

Because otherwise, it’s all just talk.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.