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Faculty of Color

HCRL's picture

Obviously this past year has been quite eventful in terms of issues surrounding diversity, multiculturalism, and issues of access to power in and around the Bi-Co. For example, the killing of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and many other people of color by police sparked many important conversations and events about race in the Bi-Co. However, one race-related topic which I wish received more attention is the decreasing number of faculty of color at Haverford. Based on reading makalaforster’s post, it seems like this is also an issue at Bryn Mawr. However, I know very little about this topic at Bryn Mawr, so I am going to focus my post on Haverford.

Before I continue I should say that I am complacent as well, and am not nearly as knowledgeable about this issue, even on my home campus, as I should be. I have not pushed for this to be a big topic at Haverford, and have not been involved in organizing any formal discussions about this topic. To be entirely honest, it is unlikely that this will change, despite my belief in its importance. I realize that as I write the rest of this post, I am and will continue to be guilty of the same thing I am criticizing.

My knowledge on the decreasing number of faculty of color comes from a few conversations with friends, and also this Haverford Clerk article ( ). To sum the article up, it explains that Haverford has a similar percentage of faculty of color (22%) to other comparable liberal arts colleges (Swarthmore- 20%, Williams- 21%, and Wesleyan- 21%). However, Haverford’s number is shrinking while other colleges’ number is growing. Some attribute this to a small pool of applicants of color to choose from, while others blame the college for not being “aggressive about the commitment,” and supportive of the already employed faculty of color. It also speaks about the benefits of having many faculty of color, including viewing “curriculum from the voice of “the other”, the voice of the oppressed.” My perspective on this issue has not shifted too much from when I first learned about it. 

While I can’t speak about the hiring process, I can speak to the fact that I (and I am guessing many other students) do appreciate the diversity of opinions that a diverse body of faculty introduces. For instance, last year I took an anthropology class which was focused on a certain part of the world. The professor had lived in that region for most of their life, and their personal experiences greatly enriched the class (I believe more so than if they had just conducted their research there). I also find it a little ironic that Haverford so proudly states each year that it has accepted the most diverse class ever, yet is losing much of its racial diversity in faculty. I realize that diversity comes in many forms, but Haverford’s body of students of color is growing, and I wonder what those individuals  think when they see that more than ¾ of the school’s faculty is white.

On a different but related note, I wanted to comment that I really struggled to write this post. I thought about what we have been talking about in class, such as awareness of our own biases, positionality, privileges, etc. I know that as a white student this issue has not affected me as personally (and likely as profoundly) as it might affect a student of color. I also know that sentence sounds pretty self-righteous. I think I am struggling with how to be a good ally, and I am guessing this struggle is pretty large for teachers (such as Huang) who teach/taught predominantly students from a less privileged background than themselves. 


jccohen's picture


I appreciate your struggle to write about an issue that you're aware of and yet not as knowledgeable about or as fully impacted as you assume others to be.  And I'm somewhat perplexed by this sentence:  "I realize that as I write the rest of this post, I am and will continue to be guilty of the same thing I am criticizing."  Guilty of...exactly what?  not knowing or doing or being impacting enough?  To my mind, your raising these questions also operates in another way, perhaps an opposite way, making it significant to risk thinking aloud and in public (by which I mean here) about these issues.  And while I certainly don't want to diminish impact for other students, I also want to question your saying that this doesn't you as much as it does others; that is, I think that because the location of mainstream is in some ways a location of not-knowing, this renders the diversity of faculty as critical - though perhaps in some varied ways - for all...

asweeney's picture

I've thought about this as well! There used to be a class at Haverford called "Blacks and Jews in America." From what I've heard anectodaly, the class was INTENSE. People cried, challenged each other, spent hours after the class continuing to have conversations. The legacy of the class lived on for a long time. The professor who told me about it (and co-taught the course) really seemed to think that the class was a really valuable learning experience for all those involved--the class pushed people outside of their safe notions of what a classroom experience might feel like, and opened up spaces for conversations on campus that were student-facillitated. There were three professors who taught the class (one was a professor of color--the same professor who told me about it). Apparently, when it came time to teach the course again, two of the professors felt that the class had been too "controversial" to repeat despite the fact that so many students were asking for this course to be offered! Again, this is all based on anecdotes so I might have the story wrong. Still, I wonder if the concept of fearing controversy or imagining academia as being one exact thing restricts the school from moving in directions that might push students to engage in intense self-reflection. (and of course, we have the power to reflect critically without faculty support but wouldn't be amazing if we felt encouraged to do this by the faculty more often?) This same professor also told me about how there used to be a requirement that students take a core class that related to race and diversity in America before graduating. This requirement was eliminated in part because professors felt that only faculty of color really had the expertise to teach these kinds of courses and because faculty of color specilizing in fields that felt unrelated to these issues (as if anything is really unrelated!) didn't want to be pressured to represent people. While I understand hesitancy, I also feel that the hesitancy students feel from faculty or the administration to discuss these things might make students feel hesitant to engage themselves. James Baldwin says that "to act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger." If taking action on campus means embracing DANGER, where can students find the bravery if not from the model of those who have helped to shape and design this community before they were here and after they leave? I don't mean to take a sense of agency away from the students in shaping our own community for the four years we are here, but I can't help but feel that faculty play a bigger role than they know in communicating to students "how this community works" and therefore the role (or lacktherof) they will play while here.