October 5, 1998
Volume 51, No. 7
Emory must prepare for a more diverse population; symposium examines our readiness
What does diversity really mean? Does it mean the same for each of us? Is Emory holding on to outdated values and practices in dealing with faculty and students of color? These are some of the issues participants grappled with at a Sept. 29 symposium on race and diversity at Emory titled "Honoring Our Vision."
Mildred Garcia, associate vice provost for academic affairs at Arizona State University West, served as keynote speaker for the symposium, which was sponsored by the President's Commission on the Status of Minorities and part of the nationally based Racial Legacies and Learning dialogue mounted by the Ford Foundation and the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
Garcia travels throughout the country giving lectures and presentations on issues surrounding diversity; her latest book is titled Affirmative Action's Testament of Hope: Strategies for a New Era in Higher Education. Her audience at Emory was sprinkled with administrators, program directors, faculty, students and community leaders.
The Emory community, President Bill Chace said in his introduction of Garcia, has become increasingly diverse in the last 31 years because of "considerable tenacity" on the part of administrators and faculty. "As dramatic as that progress has been, it should not offer to us any measure of self-satisfaction," he added. "There's still a long, long way to go."
Barriers to minority groups members--especially recently minted PhDs--remain, which make it difficult to claim that truly equal access is the standard today, Garcia said. While the job market for all PhDs is very tight today, Garcia said, the hiring process is particularly difficult for minority faculty.
Garcia talked about the results of a survey undertaken by her and other researchers that set out to examine various obstacles hiring officials say they routinely face in recruiting minority faculty. Some say they can't compete with better paying, more prestigious institutions located in cities attractive to minority candidates. Others claim there's a "revolving door" for minority faculty, who leave to find jobs at "better" institutions, and that heterosexual white males have been all but abandoned in the search process.
By and large, Garcia's research debunked most of these myths. The study looked at a highly selective group of recent doctoral degree recipients--93 percent of which had attended Research I or Ivy League institutions. The group included all races and ethnicities.
"The study suggested that institutions provide more talk than action" in hiring minority faculty, Garcia said. Because many graduate advisors believe some or all of the myths about minority candidates, she said, they "assume minority faculty are going to get a job--so they don't adequately prepare them for the job market." Also, Garcia added, search committees are often mistrustful of the quality of minority candidates if they haven't graduated from an Ivy League program.
After Garcia's presentation, Associate Professor of History Leroy Davis asked, "Once we get diversity, can we continue to use the same old ways of doing business?" Ozell Sutton, regional director of community relations at the Department of Justice, said, "If the ways of doing things remain the same, things will basically remain the same," and systemic discrimination will remain.
Campus Life Dean Frances Lucas-Tauchar, a panel member, said she is often asked what she thinks of affirmative action--"sometimes in a challenging way."
As a women, she said, "I usually want to say, 'I am affirmative action.'" At her prior job, as the only female vice president at Ohio's Baldwin-Wallace College, she was the recipient of some not-so-subtle snubs, she said. "I was in Ohio for six years and never once invited into the homes of other vice presidents."
Welcoming people, not just accepting them, seemed to be a common theme among participants. Ray White of the group 100 Black Men said Emory needs to reach out more to the community. "When the African American community looks at Emory it sees an elitist institution, an enclave unto itself, lacking the interest and tenacity to come into the community and make its presence felt," he said, adding, "This is where the kids will come from" who may be Emory's future students.
Educating students is Emory's first priority, but the University needs to "mirror the world and do it in an educational environment that's civil--not forsaking what we do and can do, and not trying to do that which we're not able," Emory College Dean Steven Sanderson said, "while at the same time moving faculty, staff and students in a progressive direction."
David Patton, this year's PCSM chair, said the group will continue to have dialogues on these issues as part of the "Racial Legacies and Learning" series throughout the year.