February was Black History Month and there were reminders all over campus, but there were very few in the classroom. This is partly due to the fact there are very few African-American professors at LIU Post. According to the LIU Office of Institutional Research, the diversity of LIU Post students is as follows: 62 percent White; 12 percent Black, Non-Hispanic; 13 percent Asian/Pacific Islander; 13 percent Hispanic. With such a diverse student population, one question comes to mind: Is the same diversity evident among faculty members?
From the viewpoint of many students, the answer to that question is no. Few students, other than those who have taken classes in either the music or dance departments, can say that they have had an African-American professor during their time at Post. A January graduate from the Music Education program, Christina Montalto stated, “I have to say there are a lot of ethnic professors…. other than white and black. But yeah, outside of the Music department, I don’t think I had any black Professors.”
Junior Adolescence Education major, Tynesha Jones, seems to be an exception to this rule. She has had two African professors, one for Psychology and another for an Education class. When asked if she thought that African-Americans were underrepresented on our faculty, she responded, “Yes, I do think so.”
Senior Public Relations major, Brittany Scelza, agreed with Jones. Although neither the University nor the C.W. Post Collegial Federation, which is the union for LIU Post faculty members, would provide the Pioneer with the number of Black professors at Post, Scelza offered an interesting perspective concerning the number African-American professors on campus. “If you think about it, we probably have somewhere near forty professors during our four years at LIU Post,” she said. “I’ve only had three black professors and two of them are no longer working there.” According to Scelza’s account, African-American professors have accounted for 7.5 percent of her in-class experience at Post. In her case, at least, that 7.5 percent is not equal to the 12 percent of the student population that is “black.”
In its Equal Employment Opportunity Policy, Long Island University declares that it is committed to, “equal opportunity in employment and to the opportunity for advancement of all qualified individuals without discrimination due to race, color, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, veteran status, disability, marital status or citizenship.” So why is it that certain students experience the complete opposite? Is there failure on the part of the University to hire these individuals? Or are there not enough of them out there in the hiring pool of scholars to choose from? And if in fact they are out there, is LIU Post an attractive destination for them?
When presented with these tough questions, numerous faculty members and administrators directed the Pioneer to Rita Langdon, Post’s Associate Provost of Communications, Public Relations & Marketing. Langdon did not provide any statistics about the ethnicity of the faculty at LIU Post. However, Langdon did issue an official statement about the University’s hiring practices on behalf of Dr. Jeffrey Kane, Vice President of Academic Affairs for LIU.
In his statement, Kane mentioned that, “Increasing the diversity of faculty is a joint responsibility of the faculty themselves, the academic deans and the University.” He also stated that it is primarily the faculty’s duty to conduct searches for new faculty members. Amidst teaching classes, conducting their own research, and sharing that research with their peers, current faculty members are expected to go searching for new faculty members. How much time can they truly dedicate to searching for new faculty members who aren’t already a part of their social circles?
Dr. Barbara Fowles, Chairperson for the Department of Media Arts, commented on the matter. “I think that the people in the University administration would like to have more minority group members on the faculty and in university administration, but sometimes in order to expand the faculty in these directions, a little flexibility in evaluating their resumes is needed, and that seems to be a stumbling block here.”
Dr. Fowles suggested solution seems to have some merit. In order to become a full-time tenured professor at LIU Post, one must obtain a doctoral degree in his/ her respective field. According to data collected from the Survey of Earned Doctorates, which is a federal survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center, African Americans accounted for about four percent of all doctoral degrees earned in the United States during the year 2011.
In compliance with University requirements, there are very few qualified African American candidates to choose from. But, does being an expert in a particular field of study automatically mean that an individual is an effective educator? Could there be a case made for “under-qualified” individuals as effective educators?
Once again, Scelza, thought so. During her time at Post, Scelza has had three black professors, two of whom no longer work at the school. One of the two professors that Scelza was referring to is Dorothy Reed, who she claimed to be, “hands down the most influential and caring teacher I’ve (ever) had.” Reed, who is Black, used to head the Journalism program, but left the University after being denied tenure. After much research, the Pioneer learned that Reed was not denied tenure purely because of her ethnicity, but rather because she failed to obtain a PhD within the allotted time. When contacted for more information on the matter, Reed declined to comment.
LIU remains committed to, “equal opportunity in employment and to the opportunity for advancement of all qualified individuals,” according to its Equal Opportunity Employment Policy. The more pressing question here seems to be: Has an attempt to recruit some of academia’s most decorated scholars snubbed some of this generation’s most influential educators, hurting students in the process?