MU hires record-breaking number of minority faculty

Friday, September 10, 2010 | 12:01 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — MU hired the largest number of underrepresented minority faculty this year, which is more than double the previous record.

New hires for the 2010-11 academic year include 15 underrepresented minority faculty — eight Hispanics and seven African-Americans — according to figures released Thursday. Underrepresented minorities include people of Hispanic, African-American and American Indian heritage.

The total number of MU faculty who are minorities was not immediately available.

The previous record for underrepresented minority faculty hires was seven in 2007. MU hired five in 2008 and four in 2009 amid a soft hiring freeze that continues.

Asian faculty are not considered underrepresented in higher education, according to an MU News Bureau release, but “they are considered to add to the diversity at the university.”

The same philosophy applies to female faculty in sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. This academic year, there were seven women hired in those fields, compared with two in 2009 and three in both 2008 and 2007.

The Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative, launched in 2006, has worked to create a more diverse, inclusive environment at MU through various programs and strategic planning. Faculty diversity has been the initiative’s top priority since its inception, said Chief Diversity Officer Roger Worthington, who leads the initiative.

Among the initiative’s efforts is to provide support across the university to help deans, department chairs and search committees in their efforts to increase diversity, he said.

“We provide both financial support and (help) people to recognize and understand best practices in recruitment efforts,” Worthington said. “We want to make sure that departments and colleges are actively working to bring highly qualified minority candidates into the applicant pool.”

This year’s increase in African-American hires helps offset a “revolving-door effect” created by faculty departures from 2006 to 2009, Worthington said. In that time, about 10 African-American faculty left the university for various reasons.

“We were only hiring enough underrepresented minority faculty during that time to replace people who were leaving or retiring or going someone else or for whatever reason,” Worthington said. “So we were remaining relatively constant.”

That the number of hires this year more than doubles the previous record is cause for celebration, said Harkiran Kaur, co-chairwoman of Four Front, an council of diversity-organization leaders at MU.

“That’s something everyone can feel proud of,” Kaur said. “But it doesn’t end here. We need to strive to top our numbers.”

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