February 24, 2006

SIUC guide offers tools for creating diverse faculty

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A new booklet produced at Southern Illinois University Carbondale offers the state's higher education community strategies for recruiting and retaining a diverse faculty.

Seymour Bryson, SIUC's associate chancellor-diversity, authored "A Comprehensive Action-Oriented Recruitment and Retention Plan for Faculty of Color." A Higher Education Cooperation Act grant through the Illinois Board of Higher Education supported the research, discussions and analysis that led to the development of the 36-page document.

Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich endorsed the plan in a letter to Bryson.

"In order to have a complete education, it is essential that college students be exposed to a wide spectrum of ideas and individuals," Blagojevich said. "Students who have learned from professors with a variety of backgrounds and experiences will be better equipped to face the world once they leave the campus."

In his letter, the governor encourages "all stakeholders in higher education to examine this plan and implement the strategies it outlines."

The booklet offers suggestions and recommendations for the governor and lawmakers, the IBHE and its staff, university governing boards, chief campus administrators, vice chancellors/presidents, deans, department chairs, faculty and affirmative action staff.

In one of the booklet's forewords, Terry Nunn, the IBHE's senior associate director for grant administration, points out that diversifying higher education faculty has become the focus of strategic policy decisions made by the IBHE.

"We are hopeful that higher education personnel from across Illinois can benefit from the research-based strategies that are presented in this report," Nunn writes.

As SIUC Chancellor Walter V. Wendler noted, the University's commitment to diversity dates to its very first class, which included students of color.

"Creating a diverse higher education community is everyone's job," Wendler said. "If we fail, our future cannot be certain."

The booklet offers several recommendations for university governing boards, including the establishment of racial/ethnic diversity as an institutional priority and requiring chief campus administrators to develop effective strategies to locate and hire faculty of color. Those strategies should include plans to attract and retain new faculty and to groom graduate students as future faculty.

Administrators should provide resources and flexibility to support the appointment and retention of faculty of color. The booklet recommends that departments go beyond what their budget allows "to be able to hire faculty and staff of color when they are available."

Recommendations for vice chancellors include establishing partnerships with historically black colleges and universities and exchange programs for faculty and students.

The booklet encourages college deans to ensure that faculty of color have visible roles as valued professors, researchers and mentors. When appropriate, deans should reward faculty of color for their service and commitment to students of color, the university and the local minority community.

Recommendations for department chairs include ensuring that racial/ethnic minorities are on search committees and that position descriptions are inclusive and not designed to restrict the applicant pool.

Among steps faculty should take is working to eliminate the "hire one/job done" philosophy of supporting faculty of color hires. Faculty members should assume an active role in the recruitment of faculty of color.

Bryson said diversifying faculty requires "a statewide commitment" with all stakeholders in higher education working together.

"These are just tools," he said. "Diversifying faculty requires a true, sincere commitment. Strategies are no better than the people employing them."

He emphasized the proposed process doesn't guarantee results. Rather, it "will help ensure that a good faith effort has been made to increase and retain faculty of color in Illinois' institutions of higher education. I sincerely believe that if the will is evident, these guidelines will help show the way."

To receive a copy, call Bryson's office at 618/453-1186.

Enhancing diversity is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.