The importance of faculty diversity is more than just a numbers game

Kathleen McElroy

Editor's note: This column was submitted to the Texan by a member of the UT community

The importance of faculty diversity is more than a numbers game. We want UT students to understand this complex world through the experiences and expertise of a diverse faculty. We want UT students to trust that a diverse faculty not only understands their background and experiences, but also shares their background and experiences. A colleague recently told me, “A diverse faculty helps White students learn diverse experiences and perspectives, so they benefit as much from hearing different experiences as students of color benefit from having faculty who understand and have had their experiences.”

That said, numbers are important. Tracking our faculty demographics keeps us focused on goals that counter UT’s history as first excluding, then vacillating between being downright hostile and less than welcoming to students who do not identify as cisgender straight White men. I believe UT is a more inclusive campus than it has ever been, and one reason is the amplification of faculty and staff voices that listen to and speak for all students, all Texans and all communities. Yet every faculty member and staff member of color is an ad hoc Diversity, Equity and Inclusion officer at UT because our numbers are so small.

 Because of racism throughout fundamental American institutions — including education and, in my particular field, journalism — growing diversity in higher education seems difficult. Yet Howard, an official Historically Black College and University campus, flourishes across a myriad of departments and fields. I have been attending seminars and reading articles about attracting faculty of color because we all have to identify, hire and nurture faculty of color as we have done for privileged groups. To change the world, you must understand and embrace all of its citizens.

McElroy is the director of the School of Journalism and Media.