The Need for Diversity in the Classroom

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While universities are increasingly aware of the benefits of diversifying student bodies, efforts to increase diversity in faculty and staff in academia are proving to be insufficient.

According to an article published by the Santa Cruz Sentinel, universities across the US are lacking in diversity amongst their faculty. More specifically, Bay Area colleges present an overwhelming shortage of professors of color.

The university system may be hindering students’ path to success by hiring faculty that is not representative of their students’ diversity. Oftentimes, students of color sit in classrooms with professors they cannot identify with.

The UC has recently been criticized because of the lack of diversity within its admission rates. What many fail to recognize is the issue goes beyond meeting quotas for student admission. Although UC Santa Cruz’s highest division of students are white, making up 40 percent of the student body, the diversity rates for faculty are more staggering — 61 percent of the faculty identifies as white.

Recently, UC President Janet Napolitano promised over $10 million in financial aid to help postdoctoral and graduate students hoping it will build a graduate student-to-faculty pipeline within the UC. What Napolitano failed to consider are retention rates among undergraduate students of color, which decrease as students begin the upper division of their college career, according to report from UCSC on retention and graduation rates.

Students of color are less likely to reach the top of the academic totem pole and are therefore unable to secure academic and administrative positions in the future. The decreased likelihood of their graduation makes it imperative for these issues to be addressed earlier.

Instead of waiting years to potentially diversify the faculty, it would be beneficial for the university to start the process now. Students should be able to find an adviser or a professor that can connect with their backgrounds and offer them guidance if needed. This connection could ultimately be what prevents students from dropping out of college.

In striving to diversify the campus, UCSC can also consider being more inclusive in terms of the majors they offer. Although UC Santa Cruz boasts its facilitation of majors like engineering and literature, it is interesting to note UCSC is one of the only UCs that fails to provide an African American studies major.

According to the article in the Sentinel, the possible expunging of the African American studies departments is a trend throughout schools like San Jose State and Cal State Long Beach.

For some students, the only place of comfort and belonging may be within ethnic studies courses. More than that, students should feel comfortable outside the confines of their ethnic studies class. Simply put, a student should feel just as comfortable in an engineering class as a racial studies class.

Students at UCSC also said professors overlook the lack of privilege that affects their students because they do not understand where their students come from. As with any other facet of everyday life, diversity can help in facilitating a more productive environment where all students are on the same page and can contribute to discussion within the classroom.

The consequences surrounding the lack of diversity are not exclusive to the students. Other members of faculty are also affected by this issue. According to an article published by The Los Angeles Times, many students and faculty members at UCLA have reported violations of the university’s nondiscrimination policy by their professors.

In the report, students and faculty members expressed that they have been discriminated against and those who violated the policy had not faced any consequences. The bias was due in part to the fact that those in charge of enforcing the policy were white.

If we had a more diverse faculty, it would be easier to fairly handle these cases of discrimination and uphold policies of diversity.

We encourage the UC and all institutions of higher education to promote diversity within every facet of their college campuses, as it would be beneficial to provide different perspectives   and a more comfortable learning space for their students.