USF Tampa needs continued progress on faculty diversity

Black and Hispanic representation falls short in USF’s professoriate. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

USF Tampa has a solid record of success when it comes to diversity and inclusion for students of color.

University figures show, however, that there’s much room for improvement in another key area: diversity of faculty.

The USF InfoCenter, managed by USF Information Technology, provides statistics on faculty diversity.

According to the InfoCenter, as of fall 2018, about two-thirds (67 percent) of USF Tampa professors are non-Hispanic white, 16 percent are Asian, 8 percent are Hispanic and 5 percent are black.

When compared to the student population, black and Hispanic faculty representation is lacking: per USF’s most recent System Facts book, about 20 percent of Tampa campus students are Hispanic, while 10 percent are black.

InfoCenter data shows that the Tampa campus has made some progress on faculty diversity over the past 10 years.

USF Tampa has added about 200 Asian professors and 70 Hispanic professors since fall 2008. Concerningly, however, the overall number of black professors at USF Tampa has actually declined since 2008, from 128 to 120.

There are a few caveats to these figures. The InfoCenter website says that these numbers are for “internal use,” meaning there may be minor reporting errors.

The data also has a separate category for “non-resident aliens,” for whom racial or ethnic identity information isn’t provided. Nevertheless, they’re the most detailed data on faculty diversity publicly available.

Poor representation in postsecondary faculty is a national problem.

A 2019 study from the Pew Research Center analyzed data from the National Center for Education Statistics, finding that 45 percent of college and university students are people of color, compared to only 24 percent for faculty.

Compared to Pew’s figures, USF performs about average on black faculty representation (5 percent for USF, 6 percent nationally) and above-average on Hispanic faculty representation (10 percent for USF, 5 percent nationally). Nevertheless, in absolute terms, the gap is concerning across the board.

Faculty diversity matters across several dimensions. From a labor and employment standpoint, professors of color deserve equal opportunity to pursue careers in academia.

In terms of teaching, students deserve professors who understand their cultural backgrounds and experiences. For research and innovation, meanwhile, diverse perspectives are essential for covering a breadth of topics and gaining new insights.

In the interest of shared success and continuing excellence, USF Tampa needs to deepen its commitments to faculty diversity, particularly recruitment and retention of black and Hispanic professors.

Nathaniel Sweet is a senior majoring in political science.