University Senate approves resolution to better support women faculty of color

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Amal Younis

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by Jadyn Brandt, Senior Staff Writer

A resolution to hire and support more women faculty of color was approved to the University Senate on May 5.

The resolution — titled “Creating a More Equitable and Welcoming Environment for Women Faculty of Color” — was submitted on the same day by Nola Butler-Byrd, a counseling and school psychology professor at San Diego State. 

The resolution was approved with 48 in-favor, one opposed and 11 abstaining.

“Women Faculty of Color (WFC) make significant contributions to the SDSU community, but are often not valued for their contributions,” the resolution states. “WFC are frustrated, traumatized and demoralized by this treatment. Their struggle negatively impacts their health and well-being and ​contributes to their already large workloads.”

The resolution argues women faculty of color face struggles that include a longer time to reach promotions and tenure compared to their white counterparts, as well as underrepresentation and lower pay.

The resolution calls for fair compensation, promotion processes and support, fair retention and a supportive work environment and community culture.

Although the resolution focuses specifically on women faculty of color, Butler-Byrd said it will benefit all faculty. 

“I think (the resolution) would create a more welcoming environment for everybody,” Butler-Byrd said. “(Women faculty of color) are the first ones to get hit because we are in the more vulnerable position. But the issues that we put forward are issues that affect other faculty as well.

“By raising these issues up and starting to address them with WFC they will also greatly benefit all of the faculty, students and the community. When we all take care of each other we all tend to do a lot better than when we don’t.”

The resolution also reported an imbalance in the racial student-to-faculty ratio.

According to the resolution, although students of color make up 47% of SDSU’s student population, women faculty of color made up only 19% of tenure-track faculty. Additionally, 86% of African American faculty report spending more time on university service than research, while only 36% of white faculty reported doing so. 

Butler-Byrd said these numbers are a result of the university’s lack of women faculty of color and of the burden placed on WFC to aid minority students in ways other faculty members cannot. 

She said ensuring all faculty and staff had experience dealing with a diverse student body was an important part of supporting WFC.

“What happens many times is that diverse students come looking for support from faculty of color,” she said. “That’s why (women faculty of color) end up working with so many students. It’s not just a matter of hiring more women faculty of color, it’s also working with all faculty to be more culturally responsive and inclusive.”

SDSU is working to aid these faculty members through their Building on Inclusive Excellence program, Butler-Byrd said. The program works to ensure incoming faculty have experience dealing with a diverse range of students and the problems they may encounter.

According to the university, the program requires tenure-track faculty candidates to meet at least three of the program’s eight criteria

“The criteria do not require the candidate to identify as part of an underrepresented population,” the university said. “Instead the criteria are designed to assess the candidate’s demonstrated commitment to serving and/or addressing issues related to underrepresented populations.”

Moving forward, the Committee of Women Faculty of Color consulted during the writing of the resolution will reconvene to determine priorities, Butler-Byrd said. 

From there, the prioritized items will be passed to the University Senate’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, who will work with the university to implement those items.

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