Hearing investigates whether CUNY hires enough minorities
Faculty members and students at Baruch College are raising concerns about the dwindling number of black and Latino faculty members.
An oversight hearing chaired by New York City Council Member Inez Barron was held on Sept. 27, with the purpose of ending the long-fought battle and coming up with a solid initiative.
Barron lamented that the percentage of black hires of the CUNY colleges remains nearly flat despite the fact that CUNY schools are located in culturally diverse areas.
“Since 1997, the lack of black hires was a constant struggle,” Dr. Arthur Lewin, a professor at Baruch College, said. A document — the Master Plan — that promised to enrich the culture of CUNY schools has been changing every four years.
Interim Chancellor Vita C. Rabinowitz testified at the hearing, saying that the main focus of CUNY Central is to bring in more diversity and hire more underrepresented minorities.
However, the Quarterly Report on Faculty Diversity conducted by CUNY’s Office of Human Resources Management proves how empty those promises are.
According to the report, the percentage of black hires was only 2.5 percent and the percentage of Latino faculty was 5.9 percent.
“As a student who takes liberal arts and social science courses exclusively and who is a senior completing the last year of a bachelor's degree, I can count on one hand, the number of ethnic minority professors that have instructed me,” said Liam Giordano, a senior who spoke about his experience.
“I find this incredibly disappointing and unrepresentative of our diverse city and its pool of qualified, educated individuals looking to teach for our school.”
“In the black and Latino Studies Department, it is currently down to just three [full-time] professors without hiring replacements for those that leave, which brings the slow, deliberate destruction of the Black and Latino Studies Department,” Lewin claimed.
According to Giordano's research, “Of ten courses under the subject ‘Black Studies,’ six were the basic, introductory course into ‘Black Studies’ that fulfills a CUNY core requirement for undergraduate students, and there are no graduate-level courses pertained to black or Latino studies this semester.” A decrease in the number of courses in African-American Studies is unlikely to attract students interested in the field to Baruch College.
In addition, the administration had promised a Strategic Diversity Plan in 2013 in which it will have periodic meetings with black and Latino faculty to resolve the issue and promote diversity. Five years have passed since administration pledged to this. Still, faculty members are complaining of seeing no progress in this long-standing issue.
Throughout the hearing, Barron shed light on the failures of recruiting and supporting faculty diversity. Although no clear-cut initiative was proposed, the efforts to increase faculty diversity will continue, she said.
Robert Holden, a professor at New York City College of Technology, said in the hearing, “If the university is serious about hiring black faculty, there will be an improvement.”
Giordano, taking an active role for making changes, explained his future actions. He “intends on addressing this issue to the University Student Senate and will propose a taskforce to investigate the shortcomings of the promises made by CUNY regarding staff and curriculum diversity, and following that, leadership within the Senate can put forward a recommendation,” adding that we still need to do more research.
Giordano, representing more than 500,000 students at CUNY, is hoping for having a well-rounded education.
The core value of the administration taking actions lies in providing students with the best education that ultimately cultivates future CUNY leaders.
Although Rabinowitz admits that CUNY administration is working to recruit black and Latino faculty members, there have been no notable developments.
After 40 years of protesting and waiting, faculty members and students are standing up for change.
Giordano ended his speech with saying, “I recommend a more revamped hiring system that is more inclusive than ever before to offer our students the education they deserve.”