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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

What Counts as Racial Diversity at UMass?

What Counts as Racial Diversity at UMass?

The March 11, 2004 story in The Mass Media on student and faculty diversity disturbed me. At CPCS we are proud of our commitment to racial diversity. We are aware that in the last two years, especially because of the strong early retirement incentives, we have lost many faculty, including many faculty of color, and we have been given no replacement lines to hire new faculty. So, we would expect quantitative measures of the diversity of our faculty might not be quite as favorable as they have been in the past. But, using reasonable measures, CPCS can still be quite proud of the diversity of its faculty.

Counting all full and part-time lines, according to the report quoted in The Mass Media, in 2003, 39% of the CPCS faculty were faculty of color. However, the report prepared for the Faculty Council by Professor Celia Moore, Chair of the Faculty Council, and Chair of the NEASC self-study, uses misleading (and flawed) calculations to conclude that CPCS is less diverse than popularly believed. Further, the misleading conclusions about CPCS in the report’s summary are the ones that are quoted in The Mass Media article. Also, the report actually contains tables that answer relevant questions about faculty diversity, but these are ignored in the written summary.

Moore is quoted as having prepared the report in order to “put the facts on the table.” In fact, in spite of the losses that CPCS has suffered, we are still quite diverse on a variety of reasonable measures. (For those interested, you can obtain a copy of the original report from your Faculty Council representative, or from me). CPCS has even increased in diversity on the measure used in Table 3-the percent of each college’s faculty who are faculty of color. However, the key quantitative measure that Moore uses to back up her assertion that CPCS is less diverse (Table 5-the percent of all UMB faculty of color who teach at each college), does not measure anything that illuminates the issue of diversity in any way, at any of the colleges.

Let me discuss in detail why Table 5 does not answer any meaningful question about diversity. The Mass Media article quotes p. 5 of Moore’s report, summarizing a part of this table, which states that there “has been a 9% reduction in the proportion of UMass Boston tenure-line faculty of color who are affiliated with CPCS.” This figure is, in fact, wrong according to Table 5-the decrease is a 9 percentage point decrease, not a 9 percent decrease. This figure is, also, in fact, a useless measure with which to examine diversity at each of the colleges within UMass Boston. It is totally misleading to compare the portion of total UMB faculty of color each college has without also taking into account the relative size of each of the colleges.

A simplified example will illustrate this even for those readers who feel uncomfortable with quantitative reasoning. Assume there are only two colleges at UMB, and one of them, CPCS, had only 15 faculty, all of whom were faculty of color, and the other college, CAS, had 700 faculty, 35 of whom were faculty of color. The measures that Moore calculates in Table 5 would show that CPCS had only 30% of all the faculty of color at UMB, while CAS had 70% of all the faculty of color at UMB. Does this percent calculation give you any meaningful information about diversity at CPCS, at CAS or at UMB? (The calculations in her Table 3, on the other hand, would measure, in this hypothetical case, that 100% of the CPCS faculty were people of color, while only 5% of the CAS faculty were people of color.)

Moving back to the actual data from Moore’s report, if she wanted to make Table 5 useful, she would need to also include the percent of total UMB faculty at each college. Further, her summary would highlight the meaningful quantitative measure of racial diversity-the internal diversity of each college. Comparison of % of all UMB faculty, % of all UMB faculty of color, by college, and % of faculty of color within each college, 2003 (all full and part-time faculty lines).

In the case of CPCS, although in 2003 our college only had 7.5% of all UMB faculty, and in spite of our faculty of color retirements, we had 17% of all UMB faculty of color, a measure which certainly shows great strength in terms of a quantitative look at faculty diversity. Further, CPCS continues to have the largest percent of faculty of color, comparing the racial diversity internal to each college.

In that same article, a number of professors are quoted critiquing Moore’s analysis as omitting important issues, such as the lack respect and recognition that various faculty of color experience, and the marginalization of entire departments like CLA’s Africana Studies. I agree that any serious examination of racial climate on campus must consider these important qualitative factors. However, as a Professor of Quantitative Reasoning and Arguments, I agree with Moore that the quantitative facts are important. But, these “facts” must be found through investigating the answers to meaningful questions about whatever topic one is researching.

In addition to the measurement problems discussed above, there are concerns I have about the kinds of quantitative information missing from this report. A detailed quantitative analysis of faculty diversity at UMB might pay more attention to the differences in which groups of faculty of color comprise diversity at the various colleges. A detailed quantitative analysis of racial climate might even disaggregate data by departments to look at faculty diversity across the majors in each college. A detailed quantitative analysis would also include data on the losses of faculty of color, perhaps disaggregated by reasons for leaving. Also, although the report briefly looks at student diversity, it omits completely any mention of administrative diversity. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, which would require a committee to study the original data from the OIRP. This is meant to alert readers of The Mass Media, the Faculty Council, and the UMB community that this report presents a flawed, misleading version of “the facts” Moore wants to put on the table. Table 5 of this report does not belong on any table because it tells us nothing meaningful about diversity at UMB. Calculating the percent of total UMB faculty of color at each college, without comparing that measure to the percent of total UMB faculty at each college, is totally misleading. Omitting the significant measure of racial diversity-the diversity internal to each college-from the report’s summary, is totally misleading.

And, this situation is of more concern than just this flawed, misleading Moore report. I would argue that this kind of sloppy use of data points to a kind-of anti-intellectualism, fueled by a “might makes right” ideology that we have seen on this campus during the last few years. I would further argue that this kind of sloppy reasoning is being used to undermine the university’s urban mission. In another memo (not publicly released since the dorms seemed to be taken off the table), I analyzed the sloppy analysis and use of data by Chancellor Gora to support the need for dormitories on campus. In a number of memos (now retired) CPCS Academic Dean Marie Kennedy analyzed the sloppy use of data by Provost Fonteyn about CPCS’s travel spending. I suspect readers from other colleges could provide other examples. It seems like those in power in this university have left the realm of studied academic argument. Instead, their arguments prevail because they have economic and political power in our context. But, the emperors’ arguments are naked and count less.