Editor's note: This column was submitted to the Texan by a member of the UT community
Universities have a cheap, easy option whenever they need to disguise a visible lack of minorities. The trick is to talk about diversity. They talk about it a lot: statements about diversity, presentations about diversity, trainings about diversity, committees about diversity, workshops about diversity, plans about diversity and so on.
I’ve worked at UT for fifteen years and I’ve seen a lot of this. I’ve also learned that many White people feel uncomfortable with the word “problems.” They prefer not to use that thorny word, so instead they replace it with soothing euphemisms, such as “challenges” and “opportunities.”
Regardless, our University has problems. One is the lack of Hispanic faculty. I know because I went to college in Puerto Rico, where at least 90% of my professors were Hispanic, including both Black and White professors. It made sense because most of the people in Puerto Rico are Hispanic too.
In Texas, the Hispanic population is 40%, and the non-Hispanic White population is roughly 40% too. Yet, at UT only 7% of professors are Hispanic, while 71% are non-Hispanic White. This applies to both tenured and tenure-track professors. Therefore, I sometimes meet Hispanic seniors who tell me that I’m the first Hispanic professor they’ve ever had at UT.
I don’t know how I would feel, as a Hispanic person, if nearly all of my professors were White. But it wouldn’t feel good. It sends the wrong signal: This kind of job doesn’t belong to everyone. To serve Hispanic students, UT needs to recruit and hire more Hispanic professors. For no other group of faculty is there such underrepresentation compared to our students. Unlike most cities, Austin has a strange propensity for Whitening.
From 2000 to 2010, Austin’s population grew by 20%, and at the same time the city lost 5.4% of its Black residents. Similarly, from 2016 to 2019, Austin grew by 31,366 people, but Hispanics decreased by 11,468. They moved away. This is surprising but true, according to U.S. Census data.
UT was founded 137 years ago. Yet every single one of its presidents has been White and non-Hispanic. The same is true for every provost, and most deans. Such facts might seem normal to people who simply assume that whenever someone is chosen or promoted that person must be the best candidate. But if you’re not White, you get a different impression — that there’s something wrong here.
Martinez is a professor in the department of history.