It matters who is in the room

I am finally through the most demanding months associated with my current academic appointment, and have been working on the planned entry on how mentoring networks can help address the complex interplay of promotion, tenure and privilege in the academy.

But, for the moment, I am stopping to write about reflections from my recent trip to the Southern Sociological Society meetings.  I was fortunate with my travel connections and was able to arrive in time for the following session:

Session 121.  Recruiting and Retaining Faculty of Color (Co-sponsored by the Committee on Racial and Ethnic Minorities and SWS-South). 

The session was a panel discussion.  Members of the panel included Anthony Peguero, Virginia Tech University, Ray Block, University of Wisconsin, La Cross & NCFDD, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Duke Universiy, and Shauna Morimoto, University of Arkansas.  Each spoke of personal experiences as faculty of color, and broader perspectives on recruitment, retention, and mentoring.

I will not attempt to summarize the many important points made by the panel members.  However, one clear theme in the discussion addressed the isolation that faculty of color experience in many tenure track positions.   It is reflected in many dimensions of formal and informal interactions and the lack of department and campus mentoring.  It is complicated by the fact that too many faculty of color hires originate from special “opportunity” initiatives.   And much more.

But, what became clear from the discussion was a broad agreement that the majority faculty in sociology departments generally fail to acknowledge, much less address, these issues.

A simple scan of the room provided a pronounced affirmation of the assessment of the panel.  I would estimate that 90 percent of the many persons in attendance in this session were faculty and students of color.

If we are going to build the base for meaningful change, it matters who is, and who is not, in the room.

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