‘DEEPLY ROOTED IN OUR MISSION’

‘DEEPLY ROOTED IN OUR MISSION’: Vita C. Rabinowitz, the City University of New York’s Interim Chancellor, told a City Council hearing that more than half of the system’s college Presidents were black or Latino, even as she acknowledged that when it came to black faculty, ‘we are by no means where we want to be and where we need to be on this.’ She is flanked by Lehman College President Jose Luis Cruz and Kingsborough Community College President Claudia Schrader.

Though the City University of New York has launched several initiatives over the past few years to diversify faculty among its 25 colleges and graduate-school programs, the number of black employees has remained flat, City Council Members Inez Barron and Bob Holden lamented at a Sept. 27 hearing on the issue.

Though minorities comprised 36 percent of CUNY staff, between fall 2010 and fall 2017, the number of black faculty inched from 933 to 941, making up 12.3 percent of CUNY’s workforce. And though 44 percent of the staff hired during the 2016-2017 school year were non-white, just 15 percent were black.

‘Not Where We Want to Be’

 “Hiring faculty of color is deeply rooted in our mission,” said Interim Chancellor Vita C. Rabinowitz, who previously served as University Provost. “We know that we are by no means where we want to be and where we need to be on this.”

Ms. Rabinowitz mentioned that half of the CUNY college Presidents were black or Latino, including Lehman College’s José Luis Cruz and Claudia Schrader—who stepped into the role at Kingsborough Community College less than a month earlier—both of whom accompanied her. They highlighted scholarship funds and professional development programs that they claimed were critical to hiring and promoting black and Latino faculty. But the number of recently-appointed non-white educators varied greatly from school to school: 83 percent of new staff members at CUNY School of Medicine were white, and 69 percent were at Hunter College, Ms. Barron noted.

In addition to the fact that some campuses were far more diverse than others, the faculty’s make-up also varied depending on seniority. At Lehman College, half of Lecturers and 47 percent of Assistant Professors were non-white but only 18 percent of Professors were minorities. There were no black, Asian or Latino Distinguished Professors.

Ms. Barron noted the lack of diversity in CUNY’s central offices and among university Deans. “Those are the levels that implement the programs you say are important,” she said. “It’s great to have minority Presidents, but it’s got to be significantly represented above and trickle down below.”

‘Need to Look Within’

Mr. Holden, who taught at CUNY’s City Tech and served on its appointment committee for 20 years, said that during his tenure, he and his team received little help from the administration when it came to seeking non-white candidates. He mentioned that though the school had about 100 adjuncts, it was difficult to hire them because CUNY administrators often looked out-of-state.

“If the university is serious about hiring black faculty, then they need to look within, at their adjunct staff,” he said.

The CUNY officials also addressed the state of African and African-American studies offered at its campuses. The subjects were offered as majors at five of the senior colleges and as minors at three other campuses, and more than 6,000 students took courses in these programs, up 18 percent from 2013. Ms. Barron questioned how it was determined whether a field of study would be offered as a major; the officials said that it was up to the school’s President, and that departments were required to have at least five full-time faculty members.

But Arthur Lewin, a Professor of Black and Latino Studies who has worked at Baruch College since 1979, said that his department had been “dismantled,” and was down to just three Professors. 

‘Deliberate Destruction’ 

“We [have witnessed] the slow, deliberate destruction of the Black and Latino Studies Department through unaddressed attrition,” he said. Mr. Lewin explained that Baruch had made it very difficult for faculty to get tenure, putting more pressure on them and becoming more critical of their research as their deadline approached.  “They’re leaving because they’re not getting tenure,” he said. “With Black and Latino Studies faculty, you publish and you still perish.”

And the staff that left were not replaced: he noted that in six years, the school had hired three black full-time faculty members out of 119 appointments.

Ms. Rabinowitz admitted that retention was a problem among black educators. “We know that faculty of color, including black faculty, leave CUNY at higher rates than white faculty do,” she said.

Dionne Bennett, an Assistant Professor in African American Studies at City Tech, noted that when black faculty were replaced, it was often at a lower level. 

‘Not in Senior Levels’ 

“It looks like you have the bodies, but you don’t have them moving into the senior levels that have the influence to change the culture at the institution,” she said.

Ms. Bennett also noted that the African-American Studies Department was often where black faculty were funneled, putting “enormous pressure” on it to retain them.

She emphasized how critical it was to have strong African-American Studies programs. “People act like this is just good for black people. African-American studies is good for America, it is good for democracy, and it is good for everybody.”


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(3) comments

patfrazier

Wish they'd do the same analysis on the MTA

siide

Concur

GreggMorris

I really regret that I didn't attend this committee meeting. I missed an opportunity to ask the Acting Provost of CUNY if there is a Teaching While Black dynamics at Hunter College where she was the Provost, missing an opportunity to recall for her our discussion about a big brouhaha in the Department of Film and Media Studies fueled by racism and bigotry in that department where I am an award-winning tenured assistant professor who teaches journalism. Well, I plan to make up what I missed. This matter should not be swept under the rug or go quietly into the night.

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