NIU expresses concern with faculty diversity

By Michael Berg

The ratio of black faculty to black students at NIU is the biggest differential of all minority and ethnic groups, according to NIU’s Institutional Research Office.

According to the numbers, blacks make up 1.8 percent of NIU’s faculty, while blacks make up 7.1 percent of the undergraduate student population.

The numbers also reveal that Hispanics make up 3.7 percent of the undergraduate enrollment while Hispanic faculty comprise 2 percent of the total faculty.

“It’s not necessarily a problem, but we should be concerned,” said Bertrand Simpson Jr., assistant professor in management and also a black faculty member. “A major public institution should be as diverse as possible.”

“It is a concern for us,” said Brent Wholeben, assistant dean of the College of Education. “It is the reason why the recruitment program of minority professors and students has been stepped up in recent years.”

Wholeben said the numbers raise the issue of whether there are fewer role models for a minority student in the NIU system. “Can a green student learn from a blue teacher? Of course. Should we hire more green teachers as we get more green students? Obviously,” he said.

“It is important that we all have role models who we perceive as being like ourselves,” Simpson said. “Obviously blacks, women and other ethnic and minority students are at a great disadvantage.”

But Simpson said it is not a total disadvantage. One can find good role models in people who are not of the same race or sex, he said.

“There are really no role models for me here,” said Michaus Williams, a freshman pre-business major and also a black student. “There’s not a lot that goes on here for black students.”

Both Wholeben and Simpson agree that the administration is trying to address the problem.

“I think they are trying to make an honest attempt,” Simpson said. “Whether they are trying as hard as they can, I have no idea.”

Simpson said the budget crunch and the lack of sufficient numbers in the hiring population contribute to the situation. “There isn’t a large number of blacks pursuing a Ph.d., and those who are can make better money elsewhere,” Simpson said. “If you want to make money, a university is not the place to be.”

Wholeben said when hiring minorities, NIU is looking for the best people. “But everybody else is doing the same thing,” he said. “Everyone looks for minority professors for balance, so it’s very competitive (between schools).”

Williams said he felt the situation didn’t have a large bearing on his learning. “I think the teacher-to-student ratio should be evened out if possible, but I understand if there’s not Enough personnel out there (in the job market).”

Simpson said students shouldn’t rely on the university to learn about their ethnic heritage. “All of us who go to school have an opportunity to learn more about our own culture and others,” Simpson said. “But there’s so much the university cannot supply. The university is a good place to start, but it’s not the place you want to end.”