Broadening the faculty pool

The Baltimore Sun

The Johns Hopkins University's impressive financial commitment to recruit more minority and female faculty members is a welcome recognition that higher education has to try just as hard to diversify faculty as it does to diversify the student body. But increasing the ranks of minority professors at any given campus can't be accomplished by simply recycling the existing pool. Recruitment efforts must also focus on making the academy more inviting as a career choice.

Nationally, about 52,700 doctoral degrees were awarded in 2004-2005. Only about 14 percent were given to minorities, including 5.5 percent to African-Americans, 5 percent to Asian-Americans and 3 percent to Hispanics. The numbers have been increasing over the past decade, but there has also been greater competition from the private sector for highly trained minorities.

Through the Mosaic Initiative, Hopkins will provide $5 million over five years to attract female and minority professors to its nine schools. The money should help tip the balance by covering salaries or helping to fund research of established and promising scholars. A similar program was successful at Duke and is being pursued by Stanford and other universities.

Beyond financial incentives, universities need to offer women and men trying to combine career and family more flexibility by extending the time allowed to achieve tenure or making it easier for parents to stay home for a while and then rejoin the faculty. The academy must also do more to ensure that minority undergraduates finish college and are encouraged to attain graduate and doctoral degrees.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County has long offered scholarships to minorities pursuing the sciences and a nurturing environment that encourages success. It's a winning combination that Hopkins and other schools are rightly extending to faculty to encourage an increased flow of diverse talent.

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