Faculty Diversity and Schools

Sam Mendazibal

Above: Sam Mendazibal of Bolivia and the chairman of the Foreign Language Department chats with me after playing  basketball with students during a recent campus retreat.

I received an email today from a group looking to organize a sub meeting on independent school campus diversity; one of the topics to be addressed is that of comfort at traditionally conservative affluent schools. I found it interesting that in the letter, it noted that a number of black faculty members tend to have attended private schools themselves, though many such as myself received a great deal of financial help from the school in order to attend.  Because I have been active in this type of work over the course of ten years, I suspect my name was recommended either by an upper-school administrator or by a distant colleague that heard a conference presentation I gave on this subject.

Many minority faculty members and school administrators discuss the hiring of  minority candidates in two terms: comfort and fit; however, both terms can mean different things to schools and minority faculty members. Houston Christian has a fair number (though not an astronomical)  of minority teachers — which is great seeing that we are an upper school only. I have found that minority  faculty members offer a different voice on matters of socioeconomic status, race, and perspective; still, the ideology of most on my campus is conservative — which is a bit unusual. Being a conservative faculty member, in my opinion, has nothing to do with faith. All HCHS faculty members are Christian. I find this piece of information below to be interesting as it relates to ideology and independent schools:

People of color, be they African American, Native American, Asian, Middle Eastern or whatever ethnic group, have spent years discovering their roots, developing a keen pride in their heritage, and accepting who they are. So don’t expect the current crop of prospective faculty to fit into your conservative profile. Many of them will not, and, frankly, I don’t think they should even try! Is that shocking? Is that unacceptable to you and your clientele? Then, perhaps, diversity is really not for you. If a turban or a dashiki pants suit offends, then so will diversity! Diversity by definition implies that the status quo will be upset.

The book  Colors of Excellence is the leading authority on this topic. I have read it a number times. It is one that is always discussed at the annual People of Color Conference held by the National Association of Independent Schools. Moreover, it serves as a great comfort to many teachers of color with its countless anecdotes from other faculty members of color regarding their own experiences in independent schools. Regardless of what some might say, only those of a particular minority group can fully understand the social construction in existence that might or might not promote a level of comfort.  I am looking forward to working with other teachers of color and addressing the continual challenges of diversity in the 21st century.

Visit the People of Color link here for more information on the annual meeting.

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5 thoughts on “Faculty Diversity and Schools

  1. …of course my concern is that schools only pretend to be interested in diversity. It is hard to believe that schools look to attract faculty members that think in a different way or who look differently for the sake of diversity. All too often it seems that boards are caught up in money and image at such schools. A school would have to be very sure of its own identity to select a “true” diverse group of people to represent the campus. I do not know about you, but I have found some schools to do nothing but try to create robots. If that fails, well there is the door.

  2. Another issue of course is that of cultural supports. On my campus, we have people who are not just your typical protestant or catholic. Religion always complicates diversity issues.

  3. Hey Carson,
    So in my Hums course we read a great secondary source called “Humanism and the Culture of Renaissance Europe” by Charles Nauert. Anyway, it really seems to disagree with Burkhardt, which if I recall correctly was the main source you used to teach Humanism in Euro. Anyway, thought it might be of interest to you.

    P.S. I’m in History of the 1960’s this semester and I think you’d greatly approve.

  4. To me a teacher is a teacher, a good teacher is a good teacher, a bad teacher is a bad teacher, a nice teacher is a nice teacher and so on and so on.

    I find the desire to have a diverse faculty to be unnecessary. Hire a teacher for being a good, nice, fair, organized, etc. teacher. If they happen to be a minority (I hate using that word) awesome, if their white cool.

    If I was in charge of hiring a teacher I would choose the teacher who best fits the job. Black, white, asian, hispanic, whatever. If the one with the best back round and qualifications was Black, I’d hire him or her. Same thing if they were white, same thing if they were asian, same thing if they were hispanic. And likewise I would deal with each the same if they broke school policy. But why hire or seek to hire someone specifically out of wanting to be “diverse”? It seems to me that would be hiring only to look a certain way. Hire someone for their hard work, intelligence, and qualifications, not race.

  5. Pingback: Christian Schools « The Professor

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