Education

University of Iowa liberal arts college reports success in hiring minority faculty members

College's initiatives align with campuswide goal of advancing diversity

The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top l
The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top left), Jessup Hall (bottom left), Schaeffer Hall (top right), and MacLean Hall (bottom right) in an aerial photograph. (The Gazette/file photo)

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences last year saw a net gain of 12 faculty members, nearly all being underrepresented minorities, following “proactive recruitment strategies,” according to a new report from the college’s diversity committee.

The college’s successful hiring of 13 full-time faculty of color bumped up the college’s faculty diversity from last year’s 150 minorities out of nearly 772 full-time faculty — or 19 percent — to this year’s 162 out of nearly 784 faculty — or 21 percent, the report said.

The minority undergraduate student population in the largest UI college mirrors the faculty makeup, with 3,167 students from underrepresented U.S. minority groups — or about 20 percent of the 15,749 total. The college has 296 U.S. minority graduate students, which accounts for a slightly smaller percentage of the 1,909 total, or nearly 16 percent.

When looking at the UI campus as a whole, minority enrollment accounts for about 18 percent of the student body, on par with last fall and up from 15 percent five years ago.

The report comes as the Board of Regents earlier this fall revealed steady growth in racial and ethnic minorities across its three public university campuses — from 10 percent in 2010 to nearly 16 percent this fall — even as overall enrollment dropped.

The minority increases match projections of an increasingly diverse Iowa high school populace. Those demographic changes will demand higher enrollment of populations that have not historically pursued secondary degrees at the same rate as their white counterparts.

Experts have flagged universities across the nation to expect a sharp overall decline in students attending college — an enrollment “cliff.”

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The UI college committee’s diversity report follows the larger campus’ 2019-2021 diversity, equity and inclusion action plan, which includes among its goals a push to “recruit, retain, and advance a diverse campus community of faculty, staff, and students.”

It follows new data on the campus environment that shows faculty and staff generally are satisfied with their employment, though there are areas of “significant differences in faculty and staff experiences and perceptions.”

“(Underrepresented minority) faculty and staff are much less likely than white faculty or staff to express satisfaction with their employment and employment practices,” according to that campuswide survey. “More than 50 percent of (underrepresented minority) faculty report having seriously considered leaving the university in the past 12 months.”

All three of Iowa’s public universities have dealt with race-related tensions on campus this semester and last year.

At the UI, a social media campaign — #doesUIowaloveme — sought anecdotes from people on campus about times they felt neglected or ignored.

In discussing campus incidents and the recent social media campaign, the college committee reported working with UI communications officials to “adopt a values statement that could be used as the basis for an immediate official response to future incidents of hate and bias on campus.”

The committee declined to release that statement publicly, as it has not yet been disseminated internally.

The liberal arts and sciences diversity report indicates most of the college’s minority and white faculty are either tenured or on a tenure track. The largest underrepresented faculty group by ethnicity, according to the report, includes those who identify as Asian or Pacific Islander — accounting for nearly 11 percent of the college’s faculty total.

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Those who identify as Hispanic or Latino account for about 6 percent, and those identifying as black or African American account for 3 percent of the college’s faculty total, according to the report.

The college’s leadership, according to its relatively new Dean Steve Goddard, “believes that increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion is a top priority that must be integrated into every aspect of our educational, research, and public engagement mission, including in the recruitment of faculty, students, and staff.

“In this respect, our college’s vision is in alignment with that of the broader university, and initiatives like the provost’s Postdoctoral Faculty Fellowship program are excellent steps toward reaching our goals,” Goddard said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Provost Montse Fuentes unveiled that new postdoctoral faculty fellowship program, aimed at creating a pipeline to tenure-track positions expected to “increase campus diversity.” The provost office is supporting the salaries of up to four fellowships per academic year, with each fellowship lasting up to two years.

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