UIC students protest lack of minority faculty

By Carolina Bolado

Students at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) campus protested on Wednesday what they deemed to be discrimination against minority professors. The protest was organized by the student group Diversity in Demand in response to the administration’s failure to grant tenure to Valerie Johnson, an African-American political science professor.

“It was a grassroots student effort,” said Ruben Feliciano, one of the student organizers.

The students protested the fact that only two and four percent of the tenured faculty are African-American and Hispanic, respectively. Non-minorities, on the other hand, make up 82 percent of the tenured faculty.

“The university tends to showcase the diversity on campus, but when we saw the minority professors that had tenure, the numbers were very dismal,” Feliciano said.

The students presented administrators with a list of demands, which included granting Johnson tenure. They also requested that the administration replace the five African-American professors lost from the African-American Studies Department. They called for the university to hire 12 African-American and Hispanic professors in the Liberal Arts and Sciences school within the next year.

“Those are the numbers that they should have in the Latin American and African-American studies departments,” Feliciano said.

“It’s a start. It’s not exclusive to those departments, but university-wide, they should have more African-American and Latino professors.”

The U of C’s numbers are lower than those of UIC. African-American professors make up 1.6 percent of the tenured faculty, while Hispanic professors are .75 percent of tenured faculty.

“It’s relatively difficult to gain tenure here,” said Michael Dawson, the director for the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture and a professor in the political science department. “You have to have an academic publishing record that demonstrates that you’re the best in your field.”

Dawson, who will soon be leaving for Harvard’s African-American Studies department, was involved in hiring one minority professor, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, and has recommended another, Cathy Cohens of Yale, to the administration, but she has not yet accepted or declined the offer.

“At the administration level, there’s substantial support for recruitment of minority faculty. Some departments are more aggressive than others,” Dawson said. He cites the political science, history, and English departments as among those most aggressive in recruiting minority professors.

“We have and will continue to give encouragement in recruiting more black staff,” said Provost Richard Saller.

In the College, approximately four percent of students are African-American and seven percent are Hispanic. “Having a greater number of minority professors on campus would definitely make a really huge difference because there’s a lack of support for minority issues, whether African-American, Latino, and even Asians,” said Juliana Garcia-Uribe, a third-year in the College and a member of the Coordinating Council for Minority Issues (CCMI) advising committee.

The CCMI is designed to help in the recruitment and retention of African-American, Hispanic, and Native American students. “It’s not that other students aren’t considered minorities; it’s just that those are the minorities we work with. They’re traditionally the groups that are underrepresented in the general population,” said CCMI Director Kathryn Stell.

Garcia-Uribe cites a new CCMI mentoring program which pairs minority graduate students with minority undergraduates as very helpful. She also suggests that the administration create departments of African-American and Latin American studies.

“I think that’s one way we could start. It’d be great to have more contact with minority faculty too,” Garcia-Uribe said.