On campus, ‘diversity’ is in the eye of the beholder


By Richard McGowan, Ph.D.

“Diversity is a central component of our academic mission at Indiana University Bloomington; our teaching, learning, scholarship, research and creativity are immeasurably enriched by students, faculty and staff with diverse experiences.” — First sentence, IU Bloomington’s Statement on Diversity from Bloomington Faculty Council.

For the last dozen or so years before retiring from Butler, I asked my students what word they heard more often than any other on campus. Consistently, the students responded with “diversity.” The students were on target then — and prescient to boot. The other day, the Butler business school sent out a notice, to wit:

“Dr. Brandy Mmbaga has accepted the role of Faculty Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). You may recall that Provost Barnett announced the creation and funding of these roles, one in each college, in May.”

The recipients of the notice were presumed to know what “diversity,” “inclusion” and “equity” meant. The school’s citizens, including its policymakers, were also presumed to value each of the concepts. They apparently also were resigned to the possibility that religious conviction is not similarly valued in DEI.

Of the approximately 325 faculty members, 25 to 30 percent held a graduate degree from a Big Ten school. The percentage is high considering the number of Ph.D.-granting institutions in the United States, let alone the world. A legitimate conclusion to draw from the data is that Butler could have been more diverse. I spoke to a dean about the huge imbalance favoring Big Ten Ph.D. holders but only three Catholic school Ph.D.s on the faculty. He said something like, “Well, there are a lot of Big Ten schools in the Midwest, where Butler is located.”

For the record, Notre Dame, Marquette, St. Louis University, Loyola University, the University of Dayton, Creighton University and the University of Detroit Mercy have at least six doctoral programs at their institution. All are Catholic schools, all are in the Midwest.

I offer the Butler data because Indiana’s schools of higher education show the same lack of diversity. Anyone can look at a college’s bulletin and find information about faculty members’ rank and degree.

Bulletins normally list a faculty member’s educational “pedigree.” My Butler entry read, “Richard McGowan, Instructor, B.A., Colgate 1971; M.A., Washington State University, 1976; Ph.D., Marquette University, 1985.”

The 2017-2018 college bulletin for IPFW (now PFW and IUFW) shows that 42 faculty members earned their last graduate degree from Indiana University or IUPU and that another 30 earned a graduate degree from Purdue University. As well, an additional 62 faculty members held a Ph.D. from a Big Ten school for a total of 134 Big Ten-educated faculty members. A total of nine faculty members held a Catholic school Ph.D. and one faculty member had a degree from Brandeis University, a school aligned with Jewish tradition. So much for diversity at the old IPFW.

Examining the IUPUI faculty list was more difficult because many faculty members chose not to reveal their educational pedigree. Nonetheless, scrolling through the list of faculty in the School of Liberal Arts for educational background revealed the same sort of pattern. Of the faculty members who provided their educational history, 35 graduate degrees were from an Indiana University school, either IU or IUPUI. Another 10 faculty members listed a Purdue degree and an additional 26 graduate degrees came from other Big Ten schools. It is worth noting that the faculty has 11 Ball State graduates.

One faculty member held a Ph.D. from the Catholic University of Louvain, another earned a Ph.D. at Loyola University and a third received a Ph.D. from Fordham University, all Catholic schools. In other words, Ball State provided more than three times the amount of faculty members from Catholic schools.

The situation at Indiana schools of higher education is problematic for at least two reasons. First, it is obvious that the schools could offer more diverse perspectives to students. Given the rhetoric out of educational leaders about diversity, the schools should offer more diverse perspectives to the students. Second, the criticism of ‘legacies,” i.e., those students who have an advantage in admissions because their parents or other relatives attended the school, appears misplaced. The amount of the Big Ten graduate degrees held by IU faculty suggests that legacies are a good thing. For the record: I think legacies do have a leg up if their relatives attended the school. They are more likely to do well and finish because their relatives “know the ropes,” as the popular expression would have it.

Faculty members from similarly situated schools will also “know the ropes.” However, it is a bit hypocritical to hire faculty members with connections to Big Ten schools and then criticize the same practice by undergraduate admittees.

Of course, the biggest problem may be bias by IU schools against those who earned a graduate degree from a religiously affiliated school. But, apparently, some adverse bias is okay, diversity be damned.

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