Just around one in five Ohio University faculty members is a person of color.

Disproportionate DEI

Published April 18, 2024

Disproportionate DEI

Faculty, student demographics spark campus discourse

By Jackson McCoy and Disha Hoque | For The Post

Edmond Y. Chang notices each time he crosses paths with another person of color on the Athens campus.

“As a queer person of color, everywhere I go I'm always super mindful of what my surroundings are like,” Chang, an associate professor of English, said. “Do I see people that look like me? Do I see people that are doing things that I think are aligned with the interests that I have?”

The answer to Chang's questions lies in the university's demographic statistics.

The numbers

According to OU’s website, OU employs 191 full-time faculty members of color on the Athens campus — a slight increase from previous academic years. During the 2022-23 academic year, that number was 178, and during the 2021-22 academic year, it was 184.

Conversely, there are currently 649 full-time white faculty members on the Athens campus. That is an increase from the 602 white faculty members during the 2022-23 academic year.

For regional campuses, the discrepancy is greater. At the OU Chillicothe campus this year, there are 28 full-time white faculty members compared to three full-time faculty members of color. On the OU Eastern campus, there are 16 full-time white faculty members and two full-time faculty members of color. At the OU Lancaster campus, there are 26 full-time white faculty members and three full-time faculty members of color. OU Southern’s campus has 23 full-time white faculty members and three full-time faculty members of color. Similarly, Zanesville’s regional campus has 25 full-time white faculty members and six faculty members of color.

According to OU’s Diversity Dashboard, there are currently 1,471 enrolled Black students, 1,182 Hispanic students, 534 Asian American students, 29 Alaskan Native/Native American students and 15 Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students across all campuses. In comparison, there are approximately 21,400 white students enrolled.

Black students make up around 5.4% of the undergraduate population across all campuses while just 3.6% of full-time faculty are Black. Asian American students make up 2% of the student population compared to 10.2% of full-time faculty. Hispanic students make up 4.3% of the student population, barely surpassing full-time faculty with 4.1%. Alaska Natives, Native Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders each make up less than 1% of both the student and faculty populations.

Just over 78% of students enrolled across all OU campuses in 2024 are white, and white university employees make up 76.7% of full-time faculty on the Athens campus.

Those percentages are on par with neighboring universities including Kent State University and the University of Dayton, according to their respective websites. Additionally, OU provides the most up-to-date public data. However, the racial disparity among students and faculty is more drastic than other schools such as Cleveland State University and the University of Cincinnati.

Faculty reactions

Eddith Dashiell, director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, said those numbers stem from a multitude of causes, beginning with the region in which the University is located.

Being a predominantly white university in a predominantly white area, OU’s appeal to students of color is becoming increasingly challenging to encourage, Dashiell said.

“We need more diverse faculty,” she said. “We need them. That is if we want to attract diverse students.”

Senior Director of Communications Dan Pittman said the university offers financial support for students living around Athens through programs like the Appalachian and Urban Scholars Program and the newly created President’s Opportunity Promise Award, OU President Lori Stewart Gonzalez’s new scholarship investment guided toward students in Athens and surrounding counties.

Dashiell, who also serves as co-chair of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Scholarship Committee, said scholarships have been a drawing factor for students from underrepresented groups in the past. However, 10 E.W. Scripps School of Journalism scholarships have been paused by the University, part of a total of $450,000 in scholarship gift agreements that have been paused due to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s interpretation of the Supreme Court’s ruling on affirmative action, according to a previous Post report.

Those journalism scholarships alone awarded students around $40,000 at the 2023 E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Awards Banquet.

At the March 4 Faculty Senate meeting, university President Lori Stewart Gonzalez said she did not want to pause scholarships, but that the process was necessary to comply with state and federal restrictions.

“For us, it's that sadness, I would say, over what we have to do to comply in this era that we're in where some of the bedrock values are challenged by political positions,” Gonzalez said in a previous Post report.

Dashiell said OU’s compliance with Yost’s interpretation could set a harmful precedent surrounding diversity in public institutions.

“To me, that is just a backward way of saying we are not interested in diversity,” Dashiell said. “There’s no way you can convince me that you are focused on diversity initiatives on one hand but taking away the diversity scholarships on another.”

Along with scholarships being an enticing factor for students of color, Chang said having faculty available from similar backgrounds could also draw student interest.

“I knew coming in I was a diversity hire,” Chang said. ”I was going to be a visible person on campus that students will, even if they don't engage with me, at least they see me. That's part of why I'm doing this, this is why I'm here, this is why I'm a professor, this is why I do this work.”

Janice Collins is an associate professor of broadcast journalism with a specialization in marginalized communities. She said faculty motivation is necessary to bring diverse faculty to a college campus.

“It's important for the entire community to see proactive, positive leadership that is more of bringing people together in peace and transforming what we have now into something better,” she said. “Leadership is imperative to bring out the best in Ohio University.”

OU has previously created initiatives to attract more diversity among faculty members.

The Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Accessibility & Belonging (DEIAB) Faculty Affairs Council works to “cultivate a commitment to recruiting, developing, and retaining diverse faculty” and initiates projects to facilitate diversity and inclusion efforts within the university faculty.

There are five total diversity initiatives focused on supporting university employees listed on the Executive Vice President and Provost’s website: the Inclusive Pedagogy Academy, the Diverse Faculty Mentoring Program (DFMP), OU’s membership with the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD), the DEIAB Faculty Affairs Council and the Center for Teaching, Learning and Assessment.

Despite faculty DEI programs, Collins said students of color can still feel isolated going to a public university when diversity is lacking in the faculty or student body.

“(Students of color) can be a little uncomfortable, a little scared,” Collins said. “‘What does that mean for me? How am I going to be treated?’ I think that in a public university, administrators should go out of their way to make sure that everyone feels welcome.”

Collins emphasized the safety concerns that students of color may have. According to a previous Post report, a group of students filed a report to OUPD for racist aggravated menacing in December 2023.

“Because of some of the other racist incidents that have taken place at Ohio University, I'm not sure if they feel comfortable speaking out,” Collins said. “Students need to have a voice. Sometimes they need guidance, and I think that's where we come in as faculty to help guide them to make sure everything's OK and everything's fair.”

Pittman said OU is committed to creating an inclusive and safe space for people of color. He said the university gives OU students and employees expectations of respectful discussion through the Make Respect Visible initiative. The university also has a way for people to share concerns of discrimination or harassment through the Student Affairs office, he said.

“Together, we can connect individuals from a variety of backgrounds – from down the street and around the world – to a university community focused entirely on their success and deeply committed to delivering value, through both affordability and experiences that promise a return on the investment,” Pittman said in an email.

Student experiences

Outside of administrative initiatives, BIPOC, or Black, Indigenous and other People of Color, student support often comes through organizations and conversations with other students.

Joi Foy, a junior studying journalism, currently serves as the president of the Black Student Communication Caucus (BSCC) and Ebony Minds, a student organization that spreads awareness for Black women’s issues. She is also the membership chairman for Alpha Kappa Alpha, a historically Black sorority and the oldest Greek-letter organization established by Black collegiate women.

Foy said the Black student experience on campus heavily relies on the support from fellow students of color.

“The core of (the OU Black community) is that everybody is so tight-knit,” said Foy. “It’s a very close community and we have learned to really lean on each other.”

Foy said a lack of diversity on campus contributes to a lack of resources for multicultural organizations compared to other organizations.

“(Black students) only make up about 5% of the campus,” she said. “Therefore our alumni reach and who we can go to for these funds is very limited to us.”

Foy also said she frequently sees Black students holding multiple executive positions due to the limited number of Black students on campus.

“What you see within the Black community is a lot of burnout,” Foy said. “You see a lot of people getting overwhelmed and sometimes having these mental crises because these organizations are run by the same 5-10 people.”

Anna Scheurman, a freshman studying nursing, serves as co-director of diversity and inclusion for OU’s chapter of Alpha Delta Pi. She speaks highly of OU’s nursing school faculty but said more diverse professors could foster more ideas.

“(A diverse nursing faculty) would be a very good tool to have because (people of color) experience things in a different way,” said Scheurman. “It just brings a new insight.”

“I’ve listened to people talk about diversity here for 32 years, and the questions haven't changed,... There are times when they talk about diversity and I think they forget I'm even in the room.”-Eddith Dashiell

Pittman said there are still multiple ongoing investments ensuring that OU’s academic departments are inclusive to underrepresented groups. He emphasized the DFMP and the university’s partnership with the NCFDD as continual efforts to support and retain faculty members of color.

Ongoing suppression

Despite university efforts, people of color in executive roles can still feel disregarded in DEI conversations. Dashiell said that has happened in her own experience as a leading faculty member at OU.

“I’ve listened to people talk about diversity here for 32 years, and the questions haven't changed,” Dashiell said. “There are times when they talk about diversity and I think they forget I'm even in the room.”

Faculty members of color who encounter challenges with DEI practices face a dilemma of whether they should speak out, Chang said.

“The people who are the most impacted by the DEI concerns are also the people who are the ones that have to speak up the most,” Chang said. “(They) are also the ones that usually are impacted the most by whether or not they feel like they can actually speak freely.”

Dashiell said there is still uncertainty on the status of the paused diversity scholarships and that communication has been avoidant.

“I only can speak for the school of journalism,” Dashiell said. “I don't know what's going on across campus because even now if I ask a question of scholarships and financial aid they won't answer me directly. They'll send the answer to the dean and have the dean explain to me what the status is.”

In the face of adversity, faculty members remain passionate about the need for representative faculty.

“I would like to see more faculty of color in my hallways,” Chang said. “I would like to see more diverse students in my classes, and I hope we get there.”

AUTHOR: Jackson McCoy and Disha Hoque

EDITOR: Alex Imwalle

COPY EDITOR: Addie Hedges