African-Americans make up about 5 percent of faculty

OnTay Johnson

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Originally Published February 16, 2006

Only about 5 percent of CSUN’s full-time faculty is African-American, according to a Fall 2005 Institutional Research profile.

According to the most recent 2005 profile, CSUN has 42 African-Americans in its full-time faculty, according to the IR profile. The report showed that there are about 840 full-time faculty at CSUN.

Some CSUN professors and administrators believe the university could do more to increase the number of African-American professors.

“Nobody is going to feel good about it,” Tom Spencer-Walters, chair of the Pan-African Studies Department, said of the percentage of African-American professors teaching at CSUN.

Spencer-Walters said one of the reasons given to him and other professors from administrators about the low percentage of African-American instructors is a lack of qualified individuals available for the positions at the university.

“But I think that if the faculty heads were more creative enough and resourceful enough they could find qualified individuals,” he said.

Jo Ann Fielder, director of Equity and Diversity, said her department’s job is to make sure students, staff and faculty know that if they feel the university is at fault or if they feel underrepresented in regard to their race, religion and gender, they could file a complaint.

“We just make sure (African-Americans) know we have positions, and once they know, we make sure they have equitable opportunity when they apply,” she said.

Fielder added that her department’s job is not to ensure that only African-Americans take advantage of available positions, adding that her job, however, is to make sure all people are aware that opportunities for employment exist.

Some professors believe that the employment of African-American professors is essential to students’ education at CSUN.

“It’s valuable, not only for black students but for all students. Because there are so many offensive acts – intentional and not intentional – in this country and we need it,” said Rosentene Purnell, PAS professor.

Purnell said the reason there are so few black professors is due to lack of classes.

“There are constraints built in that keep departments (like PAS) from flourishing,” she said.

Purnell said the classes are not developed enough and students do not know their need for the courses, adding that the reason classes are cancelled is due to low enrollment. She said opportunities for professors to teach diminish when classes are cancelled.

“Students need to have a demonstrated need for courses,” she said. “It’s just like if you don’t know what vitamins you need to take to be healthy, and if you knew you needed them you would include them in your diet.”

Spencer-Walters said that about half of the African-American professors at CSUN teach in the PAS Department.

PAS has nine full-time faculty professors and 10 to 15 part-time faculty members, he said.

Spencer-Walters said he is unsure of the increase in the total number of African-American professors at CSUN since he first started more than 20 years ago.

“Its hard to tell,” he said. I know departments in my college that have never had any black person, and for the last 10 to 15 years haven’t had a black professor.”

Spencer-Walters said he and his colleagues talk about this all the time in meetings, but he thinks it’s difficult for others to understand.

OnTay Johnson can be reached at city@csun.edu.