Increasing faculty diversity in higher education: A case study of the role of the chief diversity officer at three public universities in Texas
Green, Birgit Barbara
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While some progress has been made toward increasing diverse student populations on college campuses in the United States, statistics show that the presence of racially and ethnically diverse faculty has remained fairly stagnant. The 2005 Annual Status Report of the American Council on Education shows that only 14% of all faculty positions at postsecondary institutions in the United States are held by faculty of color. Numerous larger universities around the country have created new positions at the executive administrative level that are charged with leading their institutional diversity efforts. The emergence of the “Chief Diversity Officer” at public, predominantly white universities seems to provide a new strategic opportunity for institutions to increase the representation of faculty of color. The purpose of the study was to examine the role of the chief diversity officer at public universities with respect to increasing faculty diversity. The study examined the chief diversity officer’s specific actions, behaviors, and attitudes that may contribute to the institution’s effectiveness in increasing the diversity of its faculty. The questions that guided the research focused on identifying any institutional cultural barriers that may be impacting faculty diversity at the institution and uncovering strategies that the chief diversity officer used to address these barriers, and achieve positive and sustainable change in the area of faculty diversity. The study was conducted in the form of a multi-site case study at three public universities in Texas during spring 2007. Face-to-face interviews with each institution’s chief diversity officer constituted the primary source of data. Interviews with administrators from the academic side of the institution who had a working relationship with the chief diversity officer with respect to faculty diversity, as well as institutional documents served as secondary data sources and triangulated the findings. The research identified four roles that the chief diversity officers assumed at their institutions in order to increase faculty diversity. They served as catalysts, educators, persuaders, and facilitators. The findings also provided insight into core elements of effective practice that each chief diversity officer incorporated into his or her daily practice to address existing cultural barriers to faculty diversity and work towards change at the institution. These core elements were: communication, collaborations, relationships, and resources. The data also revealed a pattern of transition and change for the chief diversity officer’s position. Lastly, it became obvious that the chief diversity officer’s role was still evolving.