October 15, 2003
Phone: (504) 865-5714
For Wendy Brown Scott, the discovery was surprising. Scott, who has been on the law school faculty for 14 years, learned that she is the only African-American woman who is a full professor at Tulane.
That information came out of a two-year study on diversity chaired by Scott and Mary Bitner Anderson, professor of structural and cellular biology. The report, which was released last month, indicates that while Tulane compares favorably with peer universities in terms of inclusiveness and diversity, it still needs to make progress in order to fully institutionalize its commitment to diversity.
Charged in August 2001 by President Scott Cowen to assess diversity and equity at Tulane, the President's Special Task Force on Diversity surveyed students, faculty and staff to gauge the perception of the level of diversity on campus.
The task force also held meetings with focus groups, did individual interviews, and analyzed payroll data and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System information collected by the Office of Equal Opportunity. According to the report, females constitute 65 percent of the university's staff, with minorities making up 43 percent (36 percent of staff self-identified as black).
Data collected from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System indicated that these numbers have changed little in the last 10 years. The report also indicates that minorities are underrepresented in job categories of "executive administrators" and "other administrators." The report also noted that females were underrepresented in the categories of "executive administrators," "skilled crafts" and "maintenance."
The task force's Diversity and Salary Equity Analysis revealed no pattern of gender differences in salaries except for one job title (after providing for job title, age and years of employment). Differences in race were noted to be "marginally significant," which was attributed to two job titles. The Diversity and Salary Equity Analysis and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System indicated an uneven distribution of females and minorities across academic ranks with minorities underrepresented at the ranks of professor and associate professor and female faculty underrepresented at the rank of professor.
The ages of females and minority faculty, however, were found to be lower than for males and whites, which may be a factor in the uneven distribution. An analysis of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System study revealed that of tenured professors, 10 percent self-identified as minorities and 12.7 percent as females. The cohort of tenured associate professors comprises 13.9 percent minorities and 31 percent females.
Minorities represent 24.6 percent and females 16.7 percent of tenure-track assistant professors. A "campus climate" survey conducted with the assistance of Perkins Williams and Associates reveals a statistically significant difference in the way that faculty, staff and students of different ethnic groups perceive the campus environment.
Members of the Tulane community used a scale of one to five to measure the general friendliness and supportiveness they found on campus, with five being the most positive response. Black respondents registered the lowest rating at 3.23 with whites responding with 3.56 and "others" (Asian/Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, American Indians) at 3.57. According to the report, male and female faculty members differ in their perceptions of fair treatment and the extent to which the university promotes diversity on campus, with males registering a more positive response than females.
That same discrepancy is exhibited in the responses from blacks, whites and "others." In most cases, "others" (Hispanics and American Indians/Alaskan natives) are most positive, followed by whites, Asians and blacks. White students were found to be the most positive about the supportiveness of the Tulane environment. Outside of her own distinction regarding rank, Scott found little in the report that surprised her.
"Being here for 14 years I am convinced that we don't have enough diversity, especially at the higher levels of administration and faculty," she said. Anderson put the results into a national perspective. "What we see in this report is what we see nationally," she says. "Look at it nationwide and nobody is where they should be. But by any measure we are not lagging behind. We are within the top two or three in each category."
Both women agree that leadership is key to promoting diversity. "Based on the survey report, staff and faculty perceptions of the university boil down to the performance of the immediate unit head," says Anderson. In fact, mandatory diversity training for unit heads and supervisors is one of 16 recommendations made by the task force.
Other recommendations include developing a strategic plan for diversity, creating a senior-level position to oversee implementation of the plan, developing uniform procedures to ensure consistent and fair administration of practices and policies, making a concerted effort to achieve racial and gender diversity among faculty and staff, and encouraging development of potential faculty members from the student body through pipelining.
The task force also recommended that a new task force be appointed to implement the proposals and widen its scope to include a study of student diversity, those with disabilities, gays/lesbians and others. (All the recommendations can be found at www2.tulane.edu/diversity_survey_results.cfm.) Anderson and Scott have already presented the report to the president's cabinet and will go before the University Senate in its October meeting.
"We all have to shift the way we think about diversity," said Scott. "Currently we look at it as a legal issue--complying with external mandates. We suggest that the university community think of diversity as an educational asset. We all benefit from diversity on campus."
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