Student diversity grows; staff, faculty diversity lags behind

Kelton Holsen, Staff Writer

Augsburg University is among the most diverse academic institutions in the state of Minnesota, with approximately 47.5 percent of day students and 39.6 percent of students overall self-identifying as students of color, according to Augsburg’s Department of Institutional Research.

However, recent statistics show that the school’s faculty does not reflect that diversity. According to a new report from Augsburg’s Faculty Senate, 16.4 percent of full-time faculty and 12.9 percent of faculty overall self-identify as people of color. While this is significantly higher than in 2008 when only 6.8 percent of full-time faculty self-identifed as people of color, it is still less than the national average for university professors. According to a 2016 study by the National Center for Education Statistics, approximately 24 percent of faculty nationwide self-identify as people of color.

Augsburg staff are more diverse than their faculty counterparts, with 22.6 percent of full-time staff self-identifying as people of color, according to recent statistics. For comparison, recent estimates show the population of the United States is made up of somewhere between 26 and 38 percent people of color.

It is important to note that these statistics reflect resistance to change that is inherent to a university system focused on long-term employment. In a statement to “The Echo,” Lisa Stock, Augsburg’s Chief Human Resource Officer, points out that Augsburg faculty often take time to diversify due to the very low turnover rates among faculty who often “will stay with the institution for their entire career,” compared with the four-year life cycle of a given student body.

Stock also points out that Augsburg staff tend to have much higher turnover rates. “When turnover rates are higher, it is often because there are many other employment opportunities available to people in staff positions which can often include career options outside of academia,” says Stock.

While changing faculty demographics is a slow process, Stock says that Augsburg is working towards intentional diversity in its hiring of new staff and faculty. According to Stock, Augsburg has hired Dr. Eve Fine, a professor from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, to review institutional hiring processes at Augsburg. The university has already implemented some of her suggestions such as emphasizing Augsburg’s commitment to diversity in all job postings and asking candidates to “address their ability to educate and mentor diverse students and/or contribute to a diverse community.”

“Job descriptions are … framed to be as inclusive as possible to recruit a diverse pool of candidates (for example, assessing achievements demonstrated in multiple ways rather than years of experience, not focusing on the perceived prestige of educational institutions from which degrees are received and similar factors),” says Stock. “Augsburg also provides training in minimizing unconscious bias in the hiring process as well as many workshops through the Diversity and Inclusion Certificate program.”

In last week’s interview with “The Echo,” Augsburg Day Student Government President Brandon Williams expressed disappointment with the lack of diversity within Augsburg faculty. “I think our University does not reflect the student body … in the sense that we’re not represented within faculty,” said Williams.

This article was originally published in the Feb. 15, 2019 issue.