Grawemeyer Hall on UofL campus | Photo by Joe Sonka

As the University of Louisville’s student body becomes more diverse, the number of African-American faculty members is not keeping pace, according to an Insider Louisville analysis.

UofL has struggled to retain minority faculty over the past five years, Provost Beth Boehm told trustees last Thursday. According to an internal study requested by the school’s board of trustees, UofL has only slightly increased the number of minority faculty between 2013 and 2018. 

The total number of full-time faculty stayed roughly the same — 1,774 in 2013 to 1,776 in 2018 — and UofL’s faculty makeup saw a small drop in white professors and marginal increases in minorities, according to Boehm’s presentation.

White professors continued as a clear majority, holding around 71 percent of UofL’s full-time faculty positions, while African-Americans, who made up 5.6 percent of the faculty in 2013, accounted for 5.8 percent in 2018, according to the university.

The diversity of UofL’s faculty has shifted slightly over the past five years. | Graphic by Olivia Krauth

In comparison, UofL’s freshman class in fall 2018 had roughly double the percentage of African-Americans than the faculty. Around 10.8 percent of the fall 2018 class identified as solely African-American, according to UofL data. Another 7 percent of the class identified as two or more races, with an unknown amount of them identifying themselves black.

African-American faculty saw the least growth among racial minorities from 2013 to 2018, according to data from Boehm’s presentation. Asian professors claimed an extra 1.3 percentage points, rising to 13.4 percent of faculty, and those identifying as Hispanic jumped 3.2 percentage points, to 5.8 percent.

Those minority student groups and white students are more in sync with related faculty numbers. Roughly 71 percent of the fall 2018 class is white, the same as white professors. The Hispanic student-professor balance is similar, with 6.4 percent of the fall class identifying as Hispanic. There are roughly three times more Asian professors than Asian freshmen, who account for 4.4 percent of the class, according to UofL data.

The diversity of UofL’s freshman class in fall 2018 compared to the professors teaching them. | Graphic by Olivia Krauth

Although the university continues to struggle to increase the number of full-time African-American professors it employs, UofL tied for the best university for African-American students in a University of Southern California study released in September. Researchers gave UofL an A grade for its black-faculty-to-black-student ratio.

UofL has the second-highest number of black faculty in the state, behind Kentucky State University, Boehm said. The issue is “not as bad” as some have suggested, she said Thursday, but there is still room for improvement.

From January to October 2018, 17 African-American professors left the university, according to an article from The Louisville Cardinal. Of those, 12 were on a tenure track.

African-American faculty is the minority least likely to be tenured or on a tenure track, according to data released last fall. Around two-thirds of African-American faculty were tenured or on the path to it in 2013, and the figure jumped to 76.6 percent in 2017.

Only those falling into the “other” category, which included anyone who didn’t specify a race, fared worse — 73 percent were tenure-track by 2017. Statistics for white tenure-track faculty were not included in the study, and no tenure-related data was included in Thursday’s presentation. 

It can be difficult to increase the number of tenured professors of color quickly because of how long the tenure process can take, Boehm said Thursday.

Thursday’s findings built on data released in the fall. Trustees asked for more information and the answer to one question: Why are professors, and specifically black ones, leaving?

Often, Boehm said Thursday, professors find leadership roles and higher salaries at other universities or in the private sector. Only “a few” faculty of color left because of a negative climate, she added.

One former colleague making under $70,000 at UofL got hired at a different university making double that, she said. After continued budget cuts, it is difficult for UofL to pay competitive salaries without cutting into other parts of department budgets, she added.

But one potential way to retain faculty of color is to find more leadership opportunities for them, and make more internal hires, Boehm said.

The findings come as UofL President Neeli Bendapudi, the school’s first president of color, develops a strategic plan for the university. Part of that, she has said, is improving diversity.

Neeli Bendapudi | Courtesy of UofL

Shortly after Boehm’s presentation, Bendapudi shared a timeline for developing that strategic plan. It includes three work groups, one each tasked with making UofL a “great place” to learn, work and invest.

While Bendapudi has repeatedly stressed the importance of inclusion and diversity as a fourth pillar to her vision for the university, there isn’t a workgroup assigned to tackle that. None of the short descriptions included in a handout about the plan specifically address diverse in any of the groups, either.

“Diversity, in general, will certainly be part of the strategic planning process,” a UofL spokesman, John Karman, said in an email. “Improving faculty diversity will be part of that discussion.”

Of the 13 people named or involved with the plan’s executive committee, only two are minorities: Bendapudi and her chief of staff, Michael Wade Smith. Group chairs have not been named yet.

Bendapudi hopes to implement the plan in August.

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Olivia Krauth
Krauth reports on education in Louisville, including JCPS, the University of Louisville and state policy. Before joining Insider Louisville, she covered technology and business as a reporter at TechRepublic. She also spent time on the data team at the Austin American-Statesman in Texas as a Dow Jones intern. Krauth graduated from UofL, where she was an award-winning editor of The Louisville Cardinal and obtained a degree in investigative journalism with a minor in Russian studies. Email Olivia at [email protected]