Testimony Before the Joint Hearing of the Higher Education and Civil Rights Committees

On Improving Faculty Diversity and Academic Leadership at New York Public and Private Higher Education Institutions

September 21, 2012

On behalf of the 25,000 members of Professional Staff Congress, I wish to thank Committee Chairpersons Rodriguez and Rose as well as the members of the Council’s Higher Education and Civil Rights Committees for the Council’s continuing attention to diversity among the faculty and administrative leadership at New York City universities. New York is perhaps the most ethnically and racially diverse city in the world and this attribute has contributed greatly to the city’s economic and cultural vitality. We applaud the Council for calling on both public and private colleges to better reflect this diversity, so that they can best serve their students and the communities where they are located.

Our members are the instructional staff – including full and part-time faculty, librarians, counselors, technicians and professional administrators – at the City University of New York. As you are aware, CUNY enrollment has undergone an enormous upsurge over the last decade, and we acknowledge CUNY’s efforts to increase the diversity of the faculty as it has added new faculty positions in response. These efforts include establishing a university dean for recruitment and diversity in 2007 and, more recently, the Latino Faculty Initiative and the Diversity Projects Development Fund.

However even as enrollments have climbed, austerity conditions have hampered the university’s efforts to increase diversity and progress has been disappointingly slow. According to CUNY’s own study, there has been only a modest 5.2% increase in full-time minority faculty overall during the last decade, and there has been virtually no increase in the percentage of African-American faculty.

Though faculty hiring decisions are carried out by departmental search committees, the central administration can play a crucial role in promoting diversity by providing resources, training and support to the colleges so that they in turn, are able to support the departments.

For this reason, the PSC has undertaken its own study (to be released next spring) which will include extensive quantitative data on trends in hiring, retention, promotion and tenure throughout CUNY from 2000 to 2009 and will document best practices at the college department level in each of these areas. We believe the union’s research will extend and deepen the university’s diversity efforts. Our initial results indicate the following:

  • Departments that are most successful at recruiting, hiring and retaining minority faculty and women have colleagues who are explicitly committed to hiring a diverse faculty and have a chair who actively works to remove barriers that might limit success for minority faculty.
  • Successful departments have found ways to expand recruitment beyond the usual, established channels.
  • Successful departments provide support for junior faculty research through lab space and equipment, funding and course relief.
  • Successful departments often utilize “target opportunity” hires provided by their college administration to diversify the faculty.
  • Mentoring of new faculty is practiced in very different ways throughout the university; much of it is very informal. In order to maximize its effectiveness, there should be systematic support from the administration, department chairs and deans.

We also believe that retaining newly-hired minority and women faculty, and promoting them is critical if CUNY’s diversity is to improve. As we have testified in previous testimony, racial stratification within the faculty and professional administrative staff is a problem at CUNY. The higher up one goes in the hierarchy of titles, the whiter the workforce, resulting in the greatest racial and ethnic diversity at the lower, least-paid rungs, and among the most junior members. This is as true for part-time faculty and professional staff as it is for full-time faculty.

Thus, we strongly urge that CUNY consider these additional initiatives in the next iteration of its diversity efforts:

  1. CUNY should provide more funding for “target opportunity” hires of minority faculty, for additional research support for junior faculty, and for targeted university-wide initiatives such as the Latino Faculty Initiative, which currently has one staff person for the entire university.
  2. CUNY should develop explicit promotional paths for professional staff which, unlike faculty hiring processes, can be implemented directly by CUNY and the colleges.
  3. CUNY should be provided additional new funds to enable departments to support more minority faculty. CUNY recruits faculty in a national market and budget cuts limit its ability to compete, a problem exacerbated by the lack of a contractual raise for the last three years and the decision by state government last spring requiring new employees to pay more toward their retirement.

To conclude, we commend the Council for its continued attention to this issue. PSC is committed to working with you and the university to increase diversity. Though much can be accomplished internally, the university’s continuing scarcity of funding limits the speed of improvement. While CUNY has hired additional faculty, these increased numbers have barely kept up with enrollment increases. This point is powerfully supported by static faculty-to-student ratios. CUNY will be required to hire a large number of faculty in the coming decade. This hiring will largely be driven by the 20% of the current workforce over 65 years of age who decide to retire. This is an enormous occasion to diversify the workforce, but it will only be possible to fully capitalize on this opportunity if additional funding is available.