Angela Davis spoke on campus this past weekend, and that’s a big deal, because she represents what Chapman lacks. For someone so renowned for her activism on gender and racial equity to speak at a campus where 117 of 7,020 students are black (according to a student headcount last fall), her presence is meaningful.
Just over 1 percent of Chapman students identify as being black or African American – compared to 52 percent of students, or 3,696, who are white.
In addition to having very low diversity in our student body, Chapman also has mostly white faculty and administrators. In fall 2017, there were only nine faculty members who identified as black, which has been the case for the last four years.
“We don’t have a very large African American representation on campus in general, not just among our administrators,” said President Daniele Struppa. “(That) partly is a reflection that there is not a very large African American presence in the county.”
But Chapman doesn’t just hire from Orange County – some faculty have gone to extreme lengths to advocate for the hiring of Michael Moses and Katharine Gillespie, who have previously worked at Duke University and University of Miami, respectively. Their professorships are partly funded by the controversial Charles Koch Foundation. The English department voted against hiring these professors, and then they were hired in the business school last fall.
These are known as “stretch hires,” which is when a university seeks a specific person with a well-established reputation for a position, instead of conducting an open job search.
Chapman goes out of its way to hire certain people from around the country. So why can’t more of these stretch hires be black or African American professors and administrators?
Struppa points to a lack of opportunities for black people to obtain doctorate degrees in the 1980s, and also the long process necessary to move up the ranks at a university. To become president, you typically have to be provost for up to eight years. To be provost, you need five to 10 years of experience as a dean. To be a dean, you need to be a full professor. This means that the people who are now qualified to be administrators probably were in school in the 1980s.
While that may be true, there are plenty of young black educators ready to be hired. In 2016, it was estimated that 8.2 percent of black people older than 25 hold an advanced degree. That means there are more than 2 million black people who hold a master’s degree or a doctorate, according to the U.S. Census.
Quaylan Allen, a professor in the Attallah College of Educational Studies, said that being one of the few black faculty at Chapman is not the easiest role to play, “but it’s the work we have to do.” Allen holds three degrees: a bachelor’s degree, a masters of education and a doctorate.
Some black students told The Panther this week about the culture shock they feel at Chapman when they sit in the Attallah Piazza and realize they’re the only black person there. Some told us stories about their feelings of isolation being the only black person in a class. One said that being a minority student at a predominantly white campus makes feeling connected more difficult, because “you’re already the underdog.”
Allen said he wants to serve as a role model and a leader for other students of color.
“I want to be in spaces where many black people are not allowed or have access to, to advocate for the change that is necessary,” he said.
The more professors and faculty like Allen who are hired, the more Chapman will advance. Students should have the right to learn and grow surrounded by people who look like them. Maybe one day Chapman will have a truly representative faculty and student body, but until then, we have to take a note from Davis’ April 14 talk, and fight not just for diversity and inclusion – but for justice.