On Sunday, a fellow Trojan was a victim of a hate crime at Cardinal Gardens Apartments, where he was accosted simply because of his race. Racist incidents call not only for tolerance, but also for the reconstruction of a new campus climate without prejudice and discrimination. Clearly, there is a need for a strong minority voice at USC — perhaps the inclusion of more minority faculty members, specifically in predominantly white areas of scholarship — could be a step in the right direction.
The Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences has 452 tenured or tenure-track faculty — only 14 of whom are black, 15 of whom are Latino and two of whom are Native American. Evidently, the need for more minority professors is not an issue of representation or inclusion. Rather, it is a solution to a lack of academic and professional diversity, both of which disproportionately isolate minority students and disadvantage the collective student body. By actively maintaining a white faculty majority, the University inadvertently reinforces outdated and reductive racial tropes which exclude minorities from academic spaces.
In short, USC, like most other institutions of higher education, tokenizes the appointment of minority faculty, and by extension, tokenizes the admission of minority students. The sheer numbers alone suggest that both groups are included on campus as a formality, perhaps even to meet a hollow appearance of racial diversity.
Many — but not all — minority faculty teach courses that address diversity-related content at predominantly white institutions. By sectioning off minority professors to a specific discipline, such as Native-American history or sociology of racial and ethnic issues, the University creates a system that suggests that minority professors are only suited to cover issues that engage their minority experience.
While diversity-related study is certainly important, if the University truly cares to address racism and campus climate, it needs to provide comprehensive curricula that diversifies all areas of study, not just elective and general education courses. Ultimately, this better prepares students for work in complex and diverse communities and provides knowledge of history, science and art that supersedes the confines of Eurocentric teaching. The benefits of academic diversity begs the question: Why does USC have more minority faculty in the American studies and ethnicity major than it does in math?
In particular, minority faculty are an asset to subjects considered “non-diverse” because these professors provide nuanced and racially conscious perspectives, scholarship and research opportunities. Imagine taking a law class with a black and female tenure-track professor. The natural intersectionality of her academic experience could potentially expand her research and teaching to include diversity into the study of law. For example, rather than assess the criminal justice system’s treatment of plaintiffs in her research, she could use her racial background to diversify her work to specifically provide, as author Susan Mann suggests, “a cursory review of cases involving black female plaintiffs.” The discussion of race in general should not be limited to electives or GE courses alone; a different viewpoint simply allows for a more specific and in-depth analysis. Intersectionality is important because it provides resources for analysis and perspectives that address inherent discrimination and helps students understand how different identities impact access to opportunities and rights.
Representation and inclusion have a significant bearing on student engagement inside and outside of the classroom. Therefore, the presence of white-dominated faculty has serious repercussions for the quality of education, the social and cultural climate of campus life and the image of the University altogether. Minority faculty are an important mentoring resource for minority students, as they are inherently equipped to deal with issues of structural racism common in predominantly white institutions. Currently, there is not a strong enough pipeline for the recruitment and retention of minority faculty; in the same way, there are not enough mentors for minority students, and being a minority on a college campus comes with a host of social, economic and political disadvantages.
It is clear that USC needs to expand its recruitment and retention of minority faculty, and it needs to develop networking and mentoring tools for faculty. The lack of transparency on faculty demographics shows that perhaps USC has something to hide. Regardless, the stark numbers of minority faculty in Dornsife alone reveals its true colors as an institution not committed to diversity and inclusion.
Lida Dianti is a junior majoring in international relations. Her column, “That’s So Racist!,” runs Wednesdays.