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Education, Discrimination in Higher - STUDENT ISSUES, FACULTY ISSUES

color students institutions racial

Colleges and universities play an important role in advancing equity through their efforts to recruit and retain students, faculty, and staff of color. Despite the great improvement in educational equity since the 1950s, racial discrimination in institutions of higher education continues to exist in the early twenty-first century. To overcome the barriers to advancement in higher education for racialized people, institutions of higher education must make real commitments to greater racial equity on campus. Such commitments do not come in the form of proclamations, but rather in the form of bodies, time, and monetary and community resources. Educational institutions must closely examine the racial climate on campus and work toward ideological shifts that will remove any existing barriers for racial/ethnic groups. Such commitments result in the sort of institutional transformation that is necessary in order to see a meaningful reduction in racial discrimination at colleges and universities. There are a number of basic ideas that institutions can implement in order to both address issues of discrimination and attempt to retain faculty of color.


Colleges and universities have not traditionally provided equitable educational opportunities to students of color, and in the early 2000s, students of color are not represented in higher education at proportions that reflect their numbers in the population as a whole. Table 1 demonstrates this point by examining the number of students earning doctorates in 2002.

This table indicates that the number of earned doctorates is well below any reasonable expectations for any racialized groups, except for whites and Asian Americans. According to the 2000 census, 12.5 percent of the U.S. population identifies as Latino/Latina, 12.3 percent identify as African American, 3.7 percent identify as Asian American, .9 percent identify as American Indian/Alaska Native, .1 percent identify as Pacific Islander, and 69.1 percent identify as white. One might reasonably expect the student population receiving doctorates to be more closely aligned with these numbers. This is not to say that the ratios should be exactly the same, but the discrepancies indicate a lack of access to and retention in institutions of higher education. Clearly, there are barriers for some racialized groups to institutions of higher learning.

One strategy for improving admissions, retention, and hiring in institutions of higher education is through affirmative action programs. Race-based affirmative action programs in higher education have been advocated by a number of scholars, and they are often supported by traditionally marginalized students. Yet attacks on these programs have been fierce, and the discontinued use of affirmative action in some states has resulted in significantly fewer students of color applying to and attending institutions of higher education. Although arguments abound in support of need-based rather than race-based affirmative action programs, a number of scholars have expressed the view that institutions of higher education have a moral obligation to repay communities of color for past injustices, and that need-based programs are likely to divert more resources to white men (see Feinberg 1996, Heller 2002, St. John 2004).

Once students are on campus, the racial climate of the institution is crucial in determining whether students persist in their studies and graduate. Campus climate is an important issue because even if institutions of higher education are able to recruit more diverse student bodies, students are less likely to persist and graduate if they experience a hostile environment on campus. Evaluating campus racial climate has been the topic of much research since the 1980s. A 1991 survey by the American Council on Education found that 36 percent of all institutions (and 74 percent of research institutions) reported incidents of intolerance involving race, gender, or sexual orientation. Further, despite current efforts, many students—including many minority students, white women, gay and lesbian students, and disabled students— still find the campus climate unresponsive to their needs, past experiences, and educational expectations (see Humphreys 1998). In their book The Agony of Education (1996), Joe Feagin, Hernan Vera, and Nikitah Imani argue that when researchers examine campus racial climate and racism in institutions of higher education, they need to consider not just overt racial incidents, but also patterns of human recognition of racialized students and how social spaces are racially marked. Critical-race scholars have focused on the micro-aggressions experienced by students of color on college campuses across the nation. In 1998, for example, David Solorzano analyzed the microagressions experienced by Chicana and Chicano students who were Ford Foundation Minority Fellows, and his findings led him to challenge the colorblind meritocracy ideology that tries to pass these microagressions off as “oversensitivity.” Researchers have also documented how students of color experience greater emotional stress due to prejudice, and that racial tensions are more likely to be perceived by students of color (see Hurtado 1992, Johnson-Durgans 1994). These experiences of hostile racial climates also impact the academic success of students of color such that they are less likely to do well in college. Walter Allen, a professor of higher education at University of California, Los Angeles, has documented that black students at historically black institutions have better completion rates and report closer connections to their universities than black students at predominantly white institutions. Ana Alemán, an associate professor at Boston College, reported in 2000 that the dominant culture of predominantly white universities makes friendships with racially matched peers even more important for the success of racialized students. Clearly, then, access to institutions of higher education is not enough to ensure equity within these institutions, because the campus climate experienced by students of color is often extremely hostile and stands as a barrier to these students’ academic achievement.


The proportion of people of color in faculty positions continues to lag behind that of whites and closely mirrors the rate of those people earning doctorates. Table 2 illuminates the disparities in faculty positions at all levels.

The low proportion of doctorates being awarded to people of color is often blamed for the dismal increase in faculty of color since the mid-1990s. However, there is more to the problem of low numbers of faculty of color than the “pipeline” argument. Octavio Villalpando and Dolores Delgado-Bernal argue that faculty of color face “institutional barriers at most stages of their academic careers” (2002, p. 244). Reflecting on the framework for diversity outlined by Sylvia Hurtado, Jeffrey F. Milem, Alma Clayton-Pedersen, and Walter R. Allen in 1998 provides a reminder that problems in achieving structural diversity are related to issues of psychological and behavioral diversity, and to the historical legacies of individual institutions and the broader institution of higher education. In the following examination of literature regarding faculty diversity in higher education, the focus is on available research, most of which examines the experiences of faculty of color and the barriers they face.

Biases against people of color “contribute to unwelcoming and unsupportive work environments for faculty of color” (Turner, Myers, and Creswell 1999, p. 28). Overt and covert racial barriers include: tokenism, isolation, racial and ethnic bias in recruiting and hiring, barriers found in tenure and promotion practices, the devaluation of “minority research,” and isolation and lack of mentoring. Tokenism is a problem common to environments where structural diversity is low. Relatedly, researchers have pointed out that faculty of color feel alone and often invisible when they are the only scholar of color in departments or colleges (see

Essien 2003). Biases in recruiting and hiring can reflect the racism of individuals, but they also mirror an institution’s lack of attention to its own legacy of exclusion. The mechanism of tenure and promotion in higher education is an institution itself, and it is rife with barriers to faculty of color, including the devaluation of the extraordinary service responsibilities of faculty of color and the lack of legitimacy granted to research agendas that fall outside of the mainstream. In a 1994 article in Educational Researcher , Amado M. Padilla discussed the concept of “cultural taxation” to illuminate the fact that many underrepresented faculty are expected to cover minority affairs, in addition to completing a rigorous agenda in research, teaching, and institutional service.

In addition to questions regarding their research agendas, faculty of color find their legitimacy questioned by those who challenge their place in the institution due to the role of affirmative action in the hiring process. Linda Johnsrud and Kathlee Sadao found in 1998 that such ethnocentrist behaviors and attitudes are rampant in college and university faculty. In a 2000 survey by the American Council on Education, Geoffrey Maruyama and colleagues found that the faculty in their survey who had more experience working with diverse groups of students had more positive attitudes towards institutional and departmental values about diversity and the importance of having a diverse population. As with students, it appears that faculty exposure to and interaction with diverse groups and individuals leads to an increased acceptance of diversity.

Another challenge to faculty of color is the amount of institutional service they are asked or required to perform. Indeed, they “often complain about overwhelming counseling responsibilities” (Allen et al. 2002, p. 192). Faculty of color serve on a myriad of institutional committees and are expected to represent the “minority voice.” Additionally, these faculty become mentors and counselors to students of color in their departments. Departments may have only one or two people of color on staff and they are often expected to serve larger numbers of students of color. While time spent on these activities is important, and faculty gladly undertake it, it does detract from research responsibilities, which are more highly valued in the promotion and tenure process. In this way, institutional service expectations for faculty of color actually represent barriers to their professional progress. Increasing structural diversity will add more faculty of color to share the responsibilities of institutional service. However, it is important to also examine institutional histories and the psychological climate on campuses, and to assess their impact on differential service expectations for faculty of color and white faculty. Working towards diversity in these areas will create better institutional environments in which faculty of color can focus on performing excellent research, teaching, and service to further institutional missions, including diversity initiatives.

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about 6 years ago

Help Salah Rahmani to get back to school ASAP

To University of Alberta Administration,

CC: Ombud Service, Office of Safe Disclosure and Human Rights, Alberta Human Rights Commission

Attn.: University of Alberta Community,

Salah Rahmani was a graduate student at the Department of Cell Biology, at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry from Sept 2009-May 2010. During this time, he was the target of harassment, insult and bullying. After Salah discussed the situation with the department, not only did his situation not improve, he was also subjected to more pressure and unfair treatment. It became very obvious that the department had no intention of helping Salah to resolve the situation.

Photo courtesy of Aaron Yeo/thegatewayonline.ca

Salah has expressed his disappointment and his concerns about the department’s unwillingness to address his problems and the efforts to make his situation worse. Subsequently, he found himself very helpless and in a very critical condition, subjected to psychological pressure and manipulation causing him stress, and depression. Salah informed the department that if they are not willing to deal with the problem in a proper and fair manner, he was going to file a human rights complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

Day by day Salah’s situation took a turn for worse, and he was subjected to more pressure and bullying. On 11 May 2010 the department arranged a meeting and Salah was told that his attendance was mandatory. In that meeting they brought a psychologist and under further psychological pressure and threat, psychological manipulation and humiliation, Salah was forced to leave the department immediately. Salah expressed once again that he was seeking help from the department and saw no reason to leave the department. While the department and university representatives were allegedly giving each other advice, Salah was left helpless and without any advisor.

The psychologist, Dr. Lorraine Breault – who is also a friend of the department’s representatives - told Salah that the decision was ultimately up to the department Chair who could make any decision. Salah’s understanding was that this was absolutely wrong, because no one is above the law and every body is equal before the law. Therefore, the Chair’s decision must be based on the laws and rules of university and the department. Salah was told by the chair that he had to leave the department immediately, otherwise security would be called. Finally, under psychological threats and further bullying, harassment, arbitrary and retaliatory decision he was forced to leave the department on 11 May, 2010. However, in further arbitrary, retaliatory and discriminatory actions against him, in letters to Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research (FGSR), the department has accused Salah of academic and professional misconduct.

Since then he is contacting professors in different departments including Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, but his requests have been turned down. “Salah asked some of his friends to apply to the same professors who refused him, and said they received positive and enthusiastic replies. Other professors he asked exercised their right of "academic freedom," and refused him without citing a reason.” (The GateWay)

As a graduate student at the University of Alberta, Salah Rahmani has been insulted, harassed, bullied, discriminated and retaliated against. As a result, he is currently suffering from psychological trauma caused by mistreatment, abuse of power, and injustice. Therefore, we, the undersigned, request the U of A administration to mediate the situation and help him to get back to his program to continue his study and research. However, we believe that remedy is necessary as well.

"Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all. Let each know that for each the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves."

— Nelson Mandela

Your Sincerely,