Johns Hopkins Gazette: November 6, 1995

On Staff:
Conference Focuses Talk On Minority Hiring, Retention

     Hopkins, like many other colleges and universities, is
committed to further developing a culturally diverse workforce.
And those in leadership roles understand there's a big difference
between seeking it and having it. At the first major public event
sponsored by the Black Faculty and Staff Association last
Wednesday, the emphasis was on how to make the leap from the
former to the latter.

     The afternoon-long conference was anchored by a live
videoconference titled "Creative Ways of Finding and Keeping
Faculty and Administrators of Color." Sponsored and produced in
Washington by the academic journal Black Issues in Higher
Education and broadcast to more than 200 institutions nationwide,
the panel discussion was hosted by civil rights leader and former
state legislator Julian Bond and featured experts in the field of
institutions and diversity issues. 

     More than 100 deans, faculty members, administrators and
staff attended the conference, which was sponsored by the BFSA
with the support of the Homewood academic and student deans and
Peabody director Robert Sirota.

     "This conference is right on target," said Provost Joseph
Cooper in remarks prior to the satellite broadcast. "While we
have made great strides in [recruiting and retaining people of
color], more needs to be done, and we now need to develop a
cohesive strategy to realize the promise we have made to
ourselves and to our society.

     "We live in troubled times in which alienation is growing.
And I think universities, as cultural institutions, have a
special responsibility to advance the qualities and values we
hold dear as a nation. If we can't make progress, who can?" he

     Alison Pullins has been steadily making progress. The Human
Resources manager for the School of Continuing Studies, Pullins
is president of the BFSA. She and the executive officers have
been doing a lot of listening to faculty and staff since the
organization formed in April and have identified a baseline, of
sorts, from which progress in recruitment, advancement and
retention of blacks as well as Asians, Hispanics and Native
Americans can be measured. 

     Projecting a bar graph drawn from information reported in
the Jan. 12, 1995, university Affirmative Action Report, she
noted that of the 2,088 full-time people of color employed
throughout Hopkins, 4.4 percent make up the total number of
employees in executive or management positions, and 84.6 percent
of service and maintenance jobs are held by people of color.
Among the faculty, 14.1 percent are minorities, as are 12.3
percent of the professional (PCN 300) staff, 28.8 percent of the
technical and paraprofessional staff and 19 percent of the craft
positions. The current payroll information identifies a total of
1,538 full-time university-wide employees as African American. 

     The BFSA, whose membership is open to anyone at the
university, wants fundamentally to keep issues relating
specifically to African Americans on the administration's front
burner while serving as a resource for faculty and staff and as a
forum for discussion of a wide range of issues, including those
involving other underrep-resented groups.

     A significant portion of the videoconfer-ence addressed the
purpose and problems associated with hiring minority faculty. And
for most of the panelists, the answer--beyond basic employment--
was students.

     Minority faculty bring new perspectives to the classroom,
the panel said, by expanding the scope of what gets into the
classroom. As one panelist suggested, in a world being brought
together in complex ways in large part by a push for a global
economy, new subjects will have to be introduced. And people of
color are likely to be the ones to embrace--or promote--these
subjects, which often look at non-Western cultures and societies
and the way they interact with each other and with the West.

     Faculty--and staff--of color are also essential for
nurturing a culturally diverse student body, they agreed, because
they make their presence known and felt as role models, not just
in the classroom but within the social framework of the
university. On the Homewood campus, there are more than 30 ethnic
and cultural student organizations. 

     But recruiting and retaining people of color, especially
faculty, is not just a matter of good intentions. One problem
discussed by the panel was that women and minorities can
increasingly look to a wide range of professions in which to make
their careers. To become an academic, one must spend years in
preparation--in many cases racking up huge student loans--and
then cast their fate to the peculiarities of the tenure system.
So the qualified pool of candidates is not growing in proportion
to the number of institutions who are eager to recruit them, they

     The BFSA conference ended with an hour-long discussion,
which, in part, raised a sense of frustration that the ongoing
discussions of diversity were not necessarily leading anywhere.
Participants wanted to formulate steps to move the
intellectualizing toward action, Pullins said. Although no firm
proposals were decided upon, there was a call for deans to be
held accountable for helping to ensure that their divisions
continue to make every effort to hire and retain people of color.

     Someone brought up the idea of a racism reporting system
similar to the sexual harassment hotline managed by Human

     "There have been some reported cases of overt racism,"
Pullins said, "but most cases manifest in subtle and often
unconscious ways." She points to a typical example of
stereotyping in which a black man is followed through a parking
lot because someone thinks he's going to steal your car and it
turns out he's also an employee. "That sort of thing," she said.

     As much as implementing specifics, Pullins places great
importance on changing attitudes about the importance of
acknowledging and placing a well-defined, communicated value on
cultural diversity.

     "If we learn and practice valuing diversity, we will
differentiate [Hopkins] from our competitors, and our customers
will take notice," Pullins told the audience. "That is why we
view this videoconference as an opportunity to discuss ways to
attract and retain people of color and better assure that Hopkins
remains viable in the 21st century."

     Participants' comments and conference evaluations will be
synthesized, Pullins said, and the results will be sent to the
university leadership.

     To become a BFSA member, contact the treasurer, William
Caffee III, at (410) 516-8367. 

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