Despite commitments to diversity laid out in a 2007 statement, Claremont McKenna College has only one black professor: Marie-Denise Shelton, professor of modern languages and literature.
“I find [the presence of only one black professor] to be extremely problematic, especially when the school preaches all of these things about being diverse, talking about inclusivity, wanting to be more [open] and accepting to people from various backgrounds,” Robert Cain CM ’21 told TSL.
Cain recently wrote an opinion column for The CMC Forum on the topic, in which Shelton said CMC is doing a disservice to its students by not diversifying its faculty.
“Faculty from diverse backgrounds bring a special perspective to the disciplines that they teach, and it seems like the college is denying students access to these different perspectives by not hiring a diverse faculty,” she said to Cain.
Shelton declined TSL’s requests for additional comment.
CMC has the smallest proportion of faculty members of color of any of the 5Cs, at 19.9 percent. Pitzer College has the highest percentage, 34.5 percent, followed by Pomona College with 33.8 percent, Harvey Mudd College with 25.2 percent, and Scripps College with 25 percent, according to the Common Data Set information for each school.
Regarding black professors in particular, in 2016 — the most recent year for which data from the Integrated Postsecondary Data System (IPEDS) survey was available — Pitzer had four, or 4.6 percent; Scripps had four, or 4.55 percent; Pomona had nine, or 4.25 percent; HMC had three, or 3.03 percent; and CMC had three, or 1.79 percent. Only one of these three — Shelton — remains at CMC.
In fall 2015, 3 percent of all full-time faculty at degree-granting postsecondary institutions nationwide were black, according to IPEDS. Meanwhile, 12.3 percent of the U.S. population is black and 9.3 percent of Los Angeles County residents are black, according to the Census Bureau.
CMC is aware of and working to address the lack of diversity in its faculty, Dean of the Faculty Peter Uvin said.
“New faculty members are hired by academic departments, with support from the dean of the faculty,” Uvin wrote in a statement emailed to TSL. “The college is committed to the 2007 statement on diversity approved by the faculty and board of trustees. Last year, we took stock and observed that over the past decade our efforts have not produced the results we want.”
Uvin wrote that CMC has been working to improve its marketing and recruiting practices for faculty and has provided education to search committees on implicit bias.
According to ASCMC Diversity and Inclusion Chair Maya Love CM ’20, who was quoted in Cain’s column, diversifying the faculty is a difficult prospect.
“It’s tricky because the process of hiring more teachers requires a lot of resources and organization behind the scenes,” Love told Cain. “I think where we can improve as a community is linking the dialogue between what administration [wants to see] and what students want to see. Having students in the conversation for hiring and the courses offered on campus can only add to the success of a new or evolving program.”
Cain said he believes that factors across CMC contribute to its hiring trends.
“I don’t think any one person is solely responsible for the lack of black professors. I would just say it’s a collective failure on the institution’s part,” he told TSL.
CMC’s 2007 diversity statement, posted on its diversity and inclusion web page, says “the College should recruit a faculty of increased balance and diversity of gender, race, ethnicity, and age.”
Uvin urged students to be a part of the process to increase faculty diversity.
“Please attend the job talks of new hire candidates, speak with department chairs, and also consider working in academia,” he wrote. “It is imperative to increase the pool of talented diverse scholars. That said, our work has just begun. A lot more remains to be done. The faculty and I are very interested in hearing everyone’s voices; keep talking to us.”