Outsiders within: African American professors and their experiences at predominantly white universities, a narrative interview study Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Gold, Rachelle S.
    • Affiliation: School of Education
  • African American faculty who teach at predominantly white universities often experience challenges related to their minority status within the academy. National statistics of public and private universities indicate that the representation of these faculty members has remained steady over the last fifteen years at five percent. Federal equal opportunity statutes and university mission statements about diversity remain unfulfilled, and under-represented undergraduate and graduate students are less likely to enter the professoriate when they see so few faculty of color as role models. In a narrative interview study of sixteen professors, their experiences with isolation, committee responsibilities, retention, tenure, and promotion reviews, and suspicion about their scholarship were analyzed. Also, the attitudes or credos they developed about how to cope with institutional racism, mentoring junior faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and leaving a legacy for the future scholars of color were examined. Through the lens of Patricia Hill Collins’ Black Feminist Thought, the ways faculty understood how institutional racism manifested in their careers varied based on their academic training. Trends were examined based on academic discipline, how many years each had taught, and how each responded to subtle institutional racism. Humanities professors, because of their specialized training in close readings and argumentative skills, responded to institutional racism with written grievances, and employed their astute analytical skills to openly and boldly combat discrimination in their departments. Accustomed to criticizing other writers and thinkers both outside and within their disciplines, they carefully analyzed the objective and subjective evidence of mistreatment. Social science professors, because of their specialized training in careful observation and reflective analysis, responded to institutional racism by developing liaisons with white colleagues to overcome barriers or suspicious colleagues. Often engaged in inter-disciplinary within the social sciences, they were sensitive to how their own perspectives informed how they both asked and answered research questions. Science professors were less aware of the subtleties of discrimination and disparate treatment as a result of their intense focus on their experiments. Their disciplinary training and empirical methods superceded any cultural bias. Policy suggestions were made to increase retention and promotion of African American scholars.
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  • Eaker-Rich, Deborah
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  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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