Faculty faculty diversity

by Our View

When R. Kevin LaGree became president of Simpson College in 1999, he paid a lot of attention to Simpson’s diversity – or lack of diversity. In a Sept. 9, 1999 interview with The Simpsonian, he said increasing the college’s diversity was one of his goals as president.

“It’s important for students to … learn of a world different from their own,” LaGree said.

But is Simpson’s diversity really on the rise?

According to statistics kept by the Academic Dean’s office, in LaGree’s first year as president, the 1999-2000 school year, the college had two full-time minority faculty members. They made up 2.5 percent of the faculty.

In 2004-2005, Simpson has four full-time minority faculty members. That equals 4.6 percent of the faculty.

There’s another angle on the diversity issue at Simpson. Nearly 60 percent of the college’s freshman class is female, but only 34.5 percent of Simpson’s full-time faculty is female.

In fact, the number of tenured male faculty members is 42, while the total number of women at Simpson with tenure is 14. That’s a 3:1 ratio.

The college is working to balance these numbers. In 1999, there were 80 full-time faculty positions, and at the beginning of the 2004-2005 school year, there were 87. Six of the professors hired to fill the seven new positions were women.

However, there’s still a large gap in the ratio of women to men who teach here.

There are nearly twice as many men as there are women at the front of our classrooms.

And for every racial minority who teaches here, there are 21 white faculty members.

There is exactly one full-time female minority who teaches at Simpson College.

More than 58 percent of Simpson’s student body is female: The make-up of the full-time teaching faculty should more accurately reflect the make-up of the student body.

According to the college’s public-record tax returns, the five highest-paid professors at Simpson are white men. These professors have given years of loyalty to the college and deserve their high salaries, but the lack of diversity is a good example of the college’s values.

At the same time, Simpson has only one female coach and nine female assistant coaches. Luther has five female coaches, Coe four, Buena Vista and Loras three and Cornell has two. Simpson ties with Central and Dubuque for the lowest number of female coaches in the conference. Simpson needs to refocus, not only on diversity among academic staff, but on diversity in all areas.

A liberal-arts education is supposed to be well-rounded, so Simpson should practice what it preaches by working harder to promote diversity in its own faculty and coaching staff.

Admittedly, it may be hard to convince any talented professor or coach to move to land-locked central Iowa to teach, but Simpson is in dire need of a renewed focus on diversity.

Rather than just striving to maintain it’s 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio, Simpson should be conscious of its disparity in diversity.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to set a goal for increasing diversity: the hiring process is slow and new positions aren’t often added. Therefore, it’s hard to set a specific target and a target date. Instead, Simpson should take one step at a time.

The first step will be considering diverse and female candidates as members of the faculty and administration retire.