Ivory’s tower

The people running UNC Chapel Hill.

By race/ethnicity, the state of North Carolina is 22% Black, 7% Latino, 2% Asian and 2% American Indian. So who are the faculty and top administrators on the campus? The latest report from the diversity office provides an overview.

In his cover memo, Chancellor Holden Thorpe says he places a “high value on diversity,” but concedes that the report “reveals that we need new ideas, innovative strategies and continued attentiveness if we are to achieve our vision for a diverse and inclusive university.”

Among the faculty and administration, there is indeed little recent progress to report. In the last 4 years, for example, 4.5% of the new faculty hired have been African American. In the last year, 4 out of 107 new faculty hires were Black.

Here are the breakdowns for current top administration — vice chancellors their associates, associate provosts, deans and their associates (I added in Thorp, though he wasn’t counted in the report) — and the tenure/tenure-track faculty by rank.

The White and male skews are much stronger at the higher levels of the faculty, so that more than 90% of the full professors are White and 69% are men as well. It might appear, then, that the “pipeline” is working, so that the greater diversity at the lower ranks will filter up over time. And that’s probably true to some degree. But the unmoving numbers among new faculty hires are not inspiring for that approach.

Note also that Asians — especially men — are overrepresented as professors but underrepresented in top administration, a common pattern in which they fill the ranks of professional and managerial jobs, but not management.


As it happens, we are in the process of forming a search committee in our department, and as a potential member I am required to take a new online training which represents part of the university’s response to this challenge. It only takes a few minutes to complete. But on reviewing this article by Alexandra Kalev and colleagues, I am reminded that diversity training is the least effective of the three major approaches to managerial integration, showing virtually no benefit in promoting women and minorities to management. By comparison, reducing isolation through mentoring programs is more effective, but the most effective approach (in the private sector, at least), is one that assigns direct responsibility for diversity, and holds people accountable for the result. In other words, when diversity is “everyone’s responsibility but no one’s primary responsibility,” little is accomplished.

We have an office of diversity and multicultural affairs, so it is someone’s primary responsibility. But among our university faculty, I believe, this is largely not the case. Department chairs and faculty — who are primarily responsible for faculty hiring decisions — are not systematically evaluated or rewarded on the basis of their performance on diversity goals.

3 thoughts on “Ivory’s tower

  1. Hi, Phillip:

    Wonderful blog. I won’t pretend to understand every graph and chart, but I do appreciate the message and work.

    I happen to have a very good friend on the faculty of Wayne State University–incidentally, where I am going for graduate studies. She is brilliant and versatile and really an exceptional professor. And like many of the other women at Wayne State, she has hardly any representation in the administration.

    Why is it that academia, a supposedly progressive field, is so resistant to putting women in roles of administration? My friend tells me that if she were to marry and have children, her chances at becoming chair or even getting tenure are lessened. She believes there is data to support this.

    More importantly, why aren’t male colleagues willing to support professors who are female and demand fair representation? And if public universities make all salaries public knowledge, shouldn’t that be enough evidence that women in academics are not only under-represented among administration but are also paid far less than male counterparts?

    Thanks again for the great post.


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