UC Diversity Initiative Aims To Increase Faculty Employment of Underrepresented Groups


Alondra Sierra
Isla Vista Beat Reporter

The University of California announced on Sep. 26 that it will dedicate more than $7 million in funds per year to enhance faculty diversity across all UC campuses, releasing a report that same day showing an increase of women in faculty, but a significantly low percentage of underrepresented groups.

The UC Board of Regents gathered at UCLA during a two-day meeting to review the status of faculty diversity and discuss methods to improve on the poor number of underrepresented groups laid out in the Annual Accountability Sub-Report on Diversity.

In a span of 17 years, ladder-rank faculty, or those who are appointed a professorship, from domestic underrepresented groups increased less than three percent. This made up a total of 7.7 percent of faculty systemwide. The report includes African Americans, Hispanic/Latino(a)s, and American Indians in their definition of underrepresented groups (URGs).

Since 2016, the UC system has received $2 million per year from the California State Legislature to advance systemwide faculty diversity. The funds are allocated across all 10 UC campuses through a competitive process in which each campus submits a proposal for a project that promotes and supports faculty diversity on their own campus.

Last year, UC Santa Barbara’s Economics Department was awarded $500,000 for their project “Advancing Faculty Diversity: Piloting Best Practices on UC Campuses.”

The project, led by Department of Economics Chair Kelly Bedard, welcomed nine new recruits from underrepresented backgrounds to UCSB’s faculty: five assistant professors in the Department of Economics, two additions to the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, and a faculty member for the Department of Black Studies and the Department of Philosophy.

UCSB was also awarded $75,000 last month for a pilot program that aims to manage faculty retention and academic climate issues that women and diverse groups often face in the College of Engineering and the Department of Physics.  

In many departments, a goal was set in 2015 to hire more female and African American tenure faculty, according to Ricardo Alcaíno, Director of Equal Opportunity and Discrimination Prevention Office (EODP) at UCSB.

However, UCSB tenure faculty in the STEM departments are disproportionately male, as is true across the entire UC STEM faculty. With women currently making up 13 percent of tenure faculty at the College of Engineering, the newly funded project hopes to launch a team-mentoring program and workshops focused on inclusion and equity.

But the process of diversifying faculty is by no means immediate.

Due to a low turnover rate of ladder-rank faculty — for instance, a UC professor serves an average of around 30 years before they retire and the position becomes available — the UC would have to hire at double the national availability rate to see results as soon as 2021.

Not to mention that the UC must also work on issues regarding retention of underrepresented faculty. Maria Herrera-Sobek, Associate Vice Chancellor of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, told The Bottom Line that a major issue is keeping faculty at UCSB and from taking offers at other prestigious universities.

With more funds, however, both Alcaíno and Sobek believe that progress will be made in diversifying UCSB’s faculty for the better of the entire campus.

Diversity initiatives are “not only for social justice, but also to ensure we are attracting and promoting the best qualified faculty within our state, our nation, and across the world,” Alcaíno said.