Today there are more than 33,000 African Americans teaching full-time at colleges and universities in the United States. But the progress into faculty ranks is so slow that, at the current rate, it will take about a century and a half for the percentage of African-American faculty to reach parity with the percentage of blacks in the nation’s population.
Over the years this journal has given major attention to institutional efforts that bring more black students to their campuses. But of equal importance to the progress of blacks in higher education is the presence of black faculty.
Black faculty members are important role models and mentors to black students. A critical mass of black faculty members on campus tends to have a major positive impact on efforts to recruit black students to a college campus. Not to be overlooked, too, is the fact that black faculty often offer students a different perspective on racial and social issues which can enrich the education process.
According to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education, in 2003 there were 33,137 African Americans serving in full-time faculty positions at colleges and universities in the United States. They made up 5.3 percent of all full-time faculty in American higher education. Thus, while blacks are 12 percent of the total enrollments in higher education, the black presence in faculty ranks is less than half the black student enrollment figure.
In considering these statistics it is important to note that approximately 60 percent of all full-time faculty at the nation’s historically black colleges and universities are black. The thousands of black faculty members at these institutions mean that the African-American percentage of the total faculty at the nation’s predominantly white institutions is significantly less than the 5.3 percent total for full-time faculty nationwide.
The U.S. Department of Education data also shows that while blacks are increasing their numbers in holdings of faculty posts, the progress has been slow. A quarter-century ago in 1981, blacks were 4.2 percent of all full-time faculty in American higher education. Today, as stated earlier, the figure is 5.3 percent.
If we were to project into the future the progress blacks have made into full-time faculty positions over the past quarter-century, we find that it would take about 140 years before the percentage of black full-time faculty equaled the current percentage of the black population in the United States.
Black Faculty Are Scarce in Full Professor Positions