boosting minority faculty

There have been some new articles about the relative scarcity of Black, Latino, and Native American faculty. Phil Cohen notes that the news exaggerates the results, but the basic trend is still there. The growth in minority faculty is mainly in Asian American numbers and the gap increases as one goes up the ranks (i.e., the gap is largest among full professors). Cohen notes that when you look at the data, you see a poor pipeline – few Black undergrads at leading universities. I have also noted on this blog, that the pipeline is very leaky at many points for under represented groups.

There’s a lot of hand wringing on this issue, but precious little action. At the undergraduate levels, much of the problem is in poor high school preparation, steering people to competitive schools, and not letting people fall through the cracks during the undergraduate degree. At the graduate level, the problem, in my view (see this comment), is that the faculty at the PhD programs simply don’t co-author/collaborate with many students of color and so they either have poor CVs, or they have little connection to the profession.

For example, look at recent issues of leading journals, how many have co-authors from under represented groups? Answer: the last two AJS issues (July and September 2015), I think, have one African American faculty author and zero African American student co-authors out of 16; the previous two ASR (Aug and Oct 2015) issues have 35 authors and I could not identify any African-American authors. Please correct me. I emphasize that this is not an accusation of overt racism. I personally know editors at both journals. They are good people. What I am suggesting is that the pipeline is broken. The very best scholars in sociology  appear in these journal issues (e.g., SEE NOTE) and they are not matching with the fullest spectrum of students available. This is not an editorial problem, this is a graduate school problem.

There are many parties that could step up to address the situation. Those in teaching intensive institutions can be on the look out for for talented folks and see if grad school is right for them. Those who work in graduate programs have a much harder task. They need to actively ask themselves: Am I working with all students in our program? Why not? We should look at the CVs of professors in leading programs and ask: who are the co-authors? The oldest among us should also ask how we can mentor younger colleagues, so they can attain a position of leadership. Only when this happens, will you see racial gaps in the professoriate decrease.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Note: Originally, I had listed some senior scholars by name if they appeared in the journal issues I discussed. Over email, a colleague suggested that I was casting these scholars in a way that suggests ill intent or downplayed their work co-authored with people from under represented groups. In fact, the opposite is true. These people were highlighted in the post because they are decent folk and highly regarded scholars, which magnifies the blog post’s original point. If you look at the gate keeper journals, you see a co-author imbalance even among people who are on the right side of things. That suggests to me that the problem is structural and that graduate programs are set up in ways that discourage matching of minority grad students with the faculty who can best promote their careers. So I stand by my original point (and data), but I do recognize that my argument can be read opposite to my intent. Thus, the names have been removed and I apologize to readers who may have thought I  was disparaging these scholars.


Written by fabiorojas

October 15, 2015 at 12:01 am

Posted in academia, fabio, sociology

3 Responses

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  1. I think that the co-authorship issue is really important, especially when talking about graduate students co-authoring with senior faculty. Some of it is just plain old discrimination, like the Milkman et al paper showed (though that was with regards to professor replies when applying to graduate school, but there is no reason to think that it wouldn’t be the same process for publications).

    But some of it is also cultural capital. In my own research (some published, some in the pipeline) for STEM fields, underrepresented minorities publish less frequently with advisors, but a lot of that statistical difference is reduced or disappears when you include variables on parent’s education or having academic parents (and underrepresented minorities in academia are substantially more likely to be first generation college graduates). Which raises the issue of socialization into academia. While “publish as much as you can” should be obvious to anyone in academia, there are a number of subtler norms regarding collaboration (how to seek them, and, importantly, how to make sure that you get appropriate credit on the author list, which, given John Walsh’s research on “ghost” graduate student authors, is big in the social sciences and I would not be surprised if also related to race/ethnicity) with senior folks that can perhaps exacerbate the issue.

    Liked by 1 person


    October 15, 2015 at 2:20 am

  2. I agree, of course, that the co-authoring issue is a big deal, and I expect it could go far in making the small number of PhD students of color more competitive for top jobs and helping them develop the profiles they need to succeed in earning tenure and promotion once there. But that is not enough. If we are to take this pipeline problem seriously, we might need to de-emphasize those GRE scores (in 2009-2010, Whites on average earned GRE verbal scores 24% higher and GRE quantitative scores 32% higher than Blacks, according to and find other ways to make applying to elite PhD programs more feasible for students from lower-ranked colleges (which enroll the lion’s share of Black and Latino/a students–see And then, once we’ve done that, co-author with the incredible, perceptive, and no-longer-overlooked students who could (one dreams) finally have a chance.



    October 15, 2015 at 3:03 am

  3. The pipeline metaphor is limited because it treats people as existing in some gray zone from which they get pulled into the pipeline and if they fall out of the pipeline, they go back into that gray zone. In reality, people aren’t in some gray zone but rather on a different career path. Pulling minority students into one career means lowering their level of representation in some other area. If that other area is blue-collar work, then understandably, we wouldn’t consider it a loss to have them less represented there. However, if they’re going into consulting or government work, then pulling them out of those areas means that they’re less represented there.

    Also, some students, whether white or minority, may decide on careers outside academia after having weighed the pros and cons, and may actually be happy with their choice. It would be helpful to have research on whether minority students opt into non-professor jobs because they feel thwarted in graduate school or because they are genuinely more interested in some other sector.



    October 20, 2015 at 2:14 pm

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