Perpetuating a Lie
Pretending that a shortage of black faculty members is their fault, Texas’s top public universities submit to racial bean-counting.
Texas’s two largest public universities—the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M—aspire in the name of equity to build universities that “look like Texas.” The Aggie administration, for instance, imagines that an equitable A&M will statistically reflect the state in all aspects of its operations. As its 2020 State of Diversity Report says, “to be representative of Texas’ population by race/ethnicity, Texas A&M’s population would need to be at least 13% Black/African American as opposed to its current 3% Black/African American and 49% Hispanic/Latinx as opposed to its current 24% Hispanic/Latinx.” Each university has adopted radical programming to achieve “equity,” based on the assumption that systemic racism is the culprit behind their putatively unrepresentative faculty.
The “primary objective” of UT’s new strategic plan “is to attract, recruit, and employ diverse faculty.” The Longhorn administration imposes various trainings to ensure this happens. There must be “diversity hiring training” for search committee chairs, then for entire search committees, and eventually for any faculty members who would vote upon candidates. Faculty positions also should be written generally as to encourage black candidates to apply. If someone who teaches, say, Canadian politics retires, he could be replaced with someone who teaches the politics of foreign countries or political science generally, in the hopes that casting a wide net will lead to the hiring of more black candidates. Department needs give way to diversity needs. “Diversity officers” or associate deans for DEI in each college monitor the selection process at every stage for hidden biases.
Major recruitment efforts are underway. At the cost of $750,000 annually, UT has set up a special “Provost’s Faculty Recruitment and Hiring Program” to attract candidates with “diversity-related skills.” A similar program costing $1.5 million annually exists for ten early-career faculty with “diversity-related skills” who “can contribute to diversity at UT.” UT also makes $35,000 annually available for speakers and visitors who can contribute to diversity on campus.
A&M has a conservative reputation, but its equity programs are just like UT-Austin’s, as my recent report shows. Strategies and Tactics for Recruiting to Improve Diversity and Excellence (STRIDE) training, a nationwide program, has been mandatory for search committees at A&M since 2019. Recommendations from the STRIDE workshops also include enhanced affirmative action techniques; search committees’ personally calling members of underrepresented minority groups, emailing them, and sending them personalized letters to encourage them to submit their applications; and the tailoring of job descriptions to attract underrepresented minority groups by saying that qualifications are preferred, not required, and by emphasizing diversity statements.
In addition, A&M has adopted aggressive programs to attract minority Ph.D.s to work at College Station. The Accountability, Climate, Equity and Scholarship (ACES) Faculty Fellows Program, a pre-tenure-track faculty hiring program established in 2019, “promotes the research, teaching, and scholarship of early career scholars who embrace the belief that diversity is an indispensable component of academic excellence.” ACES Plus, so called, announced in July 2022, is an ACES program for mid-career faculty. It makes more direct appeals for minorities only to apply—and Richard Lowery, a professor at UT-Austin, has brought suit against the program for violating Texas law. The case is pending.
Both universities have long pursued equity programs without achieving equitable results. According to UT’s diversity dashboard, the number of black professors has declined in several fields. In law, the number of black faculty dropped from 11 in 2009 to ten in 2021. It went from 24 to 18 in education during that span. On the other hand, some areas saw dramatic increases. In the liberal arts, black faculty numbered 30 in 2009 but had grown to 43 in 2021, and business administration saw the number go from eight to 14 over that period. Still, only 3.6 percent of UT professors are black. Only 3 percent of the faculty at A&M are black, a percentage basically unchanged since 2010 (and the percentage of black undergraduates fell between 2010 and 2020).
Other large, public Texas universities don’t make as much of achieving faculty equity. Texas Tech, the University of Houston, the University of North Texas—none has adopted such radical equity programs. Less than ten of the 29 other university strategic plans even mention faculty equity; and those mentions tend to be perfunctory and aspirational. Faculty equity programs seem to be luxuries of universities like UT and A&M that are awash in cash.
The failure of equity programs at UT and A&M and the perfunctory equity programming among Texas’s “other” universities comes from the same root: the paucity of available black Ph.D.s. Nearly every vice president or provost-level DEI officer in the Texas system is a black woman—they could have gone into academics but instead went into DEI administration. Perhaps they did it for the money. Several high-level DEI administrators in Texas earn more than $250,000 annually. The National Science Foundation recognizes that only around 6 percent of Ph.D.s are black. Many fields annually have no black Ph.D.s, while many more produce only a few.
Large corporations compete with government agencies, the nonprofit sector, school districts, universities, and others to attract black Ph.D.s. Nearly every Fortune 500 company, every government bureaucracy, and every prestigious university has a DEI plan in place to identify and recruit them. Corporations and the nonprofit world pay far better than American universities, so universities operate at a structural disadvantage. The supply for black Ph.D.s simply does not meet the overwhelming demand.
Equity programs serve a dual purpose for top-tier universities. They might, possibly, help to recruit more black faculty members. But more importantly, the search-committee training, job-search manipulations, and oversight from diversity officers acclimate faculty’s submission to DEI ideology, while chasing off faculty who embrace meritocratic ideas. All must pretend that it is the university’s fault that there are so few black faculty members—and the ubiquity of these programs helps perpetuate the lie.
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