Terri Givens

by Terri E. Givens

Support for diversity and inclusion underpins everything we do at CHEL. Two of the most important issues facing higher education leaders today are the increasing diversity of students entering college, and the ongoing lack of diversity of the faculty. 

Despite efforts by many universities to diversify and change their hiring practices, the percentage of black faculty has actually declined, as noted in the Hechinger Report. In a report from ACE, it is clear that the diversity of the faculty is not keeping up with the diversity we see in our students:

“While black students comprise about 12 percent of college and university enrollment, fewer than half that proportion of faculty are black. Fewer than 5 percent of faculty are Hispanic, compared to 16 percent of students.”

 Academic leaders must understand the impact that past policies, or lack of policies, as well as institutional racism have had on the current situation for faculty of color. There are many ways to work towards developing policies that will support faculty from diverse backgrounds as well as the diverse students who are the present and future of our institutions. 

The first step is awareness. Actions around recruiting and retaining faculty of color must be supported at every level of a campus, from the department level up to the office of the president. Specific steps must be taken to address the ways that scholars of color are excluded from hiring processes and often left to fend for themselves after they are hired. Many institutions have adopted new practices designed to support faculty of color, such as those described by Perry Green of Adelphi University in an article in Inside Higher Ed.

As another example, too many institutional leaders are unprepared for dealing with racist incidents on their campuses. In these situations, black faculty often bear the burden of working with students and other faculty in the absence of action by campus leaders. There have been a series of racist incidents on college campuses where administrators have been unable to communicate in a meaningful way with students, for example, the crisis at the University of Missouri in 2015-16, which led to the resignation of the system president. 

Another ACE report, Speaking Truth and Acting with Integrity: Confronting Challenges of Campus Racial Climate, uses the University of Missouri crisis and the way they recovered from it as a case study in ways that campus leaders should deal with a “campus racial crisis”:

“Like many universities, the leadership of the University of Missouri was ill-prepared to adequately address these incidents in a thoughtful and timely manner. The board, president, and administrative team had built too little capacity around racial fluency and crisis management, and offered limited coordination and communication on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues. As a result, both graduate and undergraduate students across the university began organizing protests and demonstrations to hold leaders accountable for neglecting student concerns.”

The recommendations in this report can help campus leaders avoid crises and find ways to proactively support their faculty and students. However, more recent examples, such as the resignation of Jamie Riley, University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa’s assistant vice president and dean of students, and the response to an attack on a black student at the University of Arizona, have led to student protests and concerns about free speech and the role of campus police. 

These types of incidents are an indication that there are more lessons to be learned, and more campus leaders need to be proactive in dealing with issues of race on campus. More resources for addressing these issues are listed below.

About the author:

Terri Givens, Founder & CEO

Dr. Terri E. Givens is the Founder and CEO of The Center for Higher Education Leadership (CHEL). She was the former Provost at Menlo College in the San Francisco Bay Area; Professor of Government and European studies at The University of Texas at Austin; Vice Provost overseeing undergraduate curriculum and spearheading global initiatives as its chief international officer. She formed CHEL to provide academic leaders with information and a supportive community for improving management and leadership skills in an environment of changing demographics, financial challenges, and advances in educational technology. CHEL was born of Terri’s experiences navigating these fields and learning along her journey through academe, from professor to vice-provost and provost at universities in Texas and California.


ACE Report, 2019, Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education. 

ACE Report, 2019, Speaking Truth and Acting with Integrity: Confronting Challenges of Campus Racial Climate.

Interview with Julie J. Park on her book, Race on Campus: Debunking Myths with Data (Harvard Education Press) https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/10/23/author-discusses-her-new-book-about-race-campus-and-misconceptions-race-campus

Shaun R. Harper and Charles H. F. Davis III. AAUP Academe, November-December 2016, “Eight Actions to Reduce Racism in College Classrooms: When professors are part of the problem.”

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