Study: minority faculty increasing, not getting tenure

Emily Larsen
Program Manager

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  • According to a new study from the TIAA Institute, diversity has been increasing in college faculties. However, they're not getting tenure.
  • Although the percentage of female and minority faculty members has increased since 1993, most of the gains have come in non-tenure-track positions.
  • Nearly 50 years after the implementation of Title IX and affirmative action policies, university faculty demographics are more diverse, but perhaps in an undesirable way.

    A new study from the TIAA Institute found that, while there are slightly more minorities and women in academic faculty positions, the majority fill adjunct and part-time positions rather than more desirable tenured and tenure-track positions.

    "Less than one in ten academic women have achieved the ultimate prize, a full professorship."   

    The study, “Taking the measure of faculty diversity,” examines the number and proportion of women, underrepresented minority, non-resident alien, Asian-American, and white university faculty in 1993, 2003, and 2013.

    “In many ways the faculty epitomize the values of their institutions,” the study says, arguing that faculty serve as “role models for their students” and comprise the “essential core” of the university.

    In examining female faculty, the study finds that the percentage females in all faculty increased from 39 percent in 1993 to 49 percent in 2013. However, the proportion of female faculty in tenured or tenure-track positions fell from 36 percent to 22 percent

    “Less than one in ten academic women have achieved the ultimate prize, a full professorship,” the study notes.

    The study’s findings on minority faculty tell a similar story. While the proportion of minority faculty slightly increased from 9 percent in 1993 to 13 percent in 2013, the majority of the change comes from non-tenure-track or part-time jobs. Only 25 percent of minority faculty held tenured or tenure-track jobs in 2013, which compares poorly to the 40 percent who held such positions in 1993.

    The proportion of full time white faculty shrunk from 84 percent in 1993 to “a still formidable” 73 percent in 2013. Whites were the only group to see a negative growth rate in the total number of tenured and tenure-track faculty (-2 percent and -9 percent, respectively).

    Non-resident aliens were the only group to see an increase in the proportion of desirable full-time tenure and tenure-track positions. While the proportion of non-resident alien faculty remained relatively constant, at 2.2 percent in 1993 and 2.1 percent in 2013, 38 percent of non-resident aliens held a tenure or tenure-track job in 2013 compared to 24 percent in 1993.

    The increase of female and minority faculty in non-tenure-track and part time positions may be explained by the overall dramatic decline in tenure and tenure-track positions in general. According to a different TIAA Institute study, tenure and tenure-track positions at colleges and universities fell from 70 percent of all positions in 1969 to 32 percent in 2011.

    “Colleges and universities must make note that changing faculty models have made it even more challenging to bring much-needed diversity to our campuses,” said Stephanie Bell-Rose, Senior Managing Director and Head of the TIAA Institute, in a press release.

    Despite continued expansions of Title IX and the Supreme Court upholding affirmative action policies, the study calls for an increase in diversity efforts.

    “Efforts devoted to diversification are a function of formal policy at multiple governmental and organizational levels,” authors Finkelstein, Conley, and Schuster said in the paper.

    “Further intensification of efforts to diversify the faculty remains, in our view, an imperative for American higher education.”

    The TIAA Institute is the research arm of the Teachers Insurance and Annuities Association of America, a leading financial services and retirement plan provider.

    (H/T: Inside Higher Ed)

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    Emily Larsen

    Emily Larsen

    Program Manager

    Emily Larsen is Campus Reform's Program Manager. She manages, recruits, and trains Campus Correspondents. Previously, she worked for the Leadership Institute as a Regional Field Coordinator.

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