The lack of black female professors at Winthrop challenges the university’s diverse image
Winthrop University is praised for its diverse student population and is ranked well above the national average for ethnic diversity at universities. But when looking at Winthrop’s faculty, there is a lack in diversity, especially when it comes to female African-American professors.
According to Winthrop’s Common Data Set for 2017-2018, the university has a total of 561 instructional faculty members. Of those 561, only 86 belong to a minority group, and fewer than that are black women.
The lack of professors who are black women leaves many students without the opportunity to have a professor who looks like them. It also gives more responsibility to the few African-American professors on campus.
Dr. Sherell Fuller, Director of Teaching Fellows and assistant professor, said that during her time as the first African-American in her department at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, many minority students took notice and looked to her as an adviser.
“Not only did I see the impact in my classes, but I also found myself serving as an unofficial mentor for many students of color, even those not in my major area,” Fuller said.
Randi Moultrie, a junior mass communication major, says that having a professor that looks like you could have a positive impact.
“Having someone that relates to you, more than just teaching you, but understanding different aspects of you could be beneficial to students,” Moultrie said.
It is debated why Winthrop lacks in the number of black female professors. Junior Lydia Robinson thinks Winthrop could do more to diversify the staff.
“They can definitely reach out, put out job alerts or whatever, but I’m not sure if the professors aren’t actually applying; therefore there aren’t any African-American professors to hire,” Robinson said.
Fuller was impressed with Winthrop’s high minority population and the number of first generation college students. She believes that when recruiting, universities need to be intentionally recruiting minority faculty members to make a difference.
“I have often heard that ‘we don’t get qualified minority candidates.’ Candidates are out there, we just have to be intentional about seeking them out,” Fuller said.
Some academic departments are in the process of hiring new professors. Next semester, there may be new and diverse faculty faces on campus.