Part 2: Color in the Ivory Tower

This frank conversation about the state of diversity at Pitzer College and in higher education was led by Pitzer Associate Dean and Professor Adrian Pantoja. Panelists included: Ahmed Alwishah, professor of philosophy; Mita Banerjee, professor of psychology; Muriel Poston, professor of environmental analysis; Maria Soldatenko, associate professor of Chicana/o-Latina/o transnational studies; and Linus Yamane, professor of economics. The progas was introduced by Brandon Kyle, Pitzer College director of alumni and family engagement.

Transcript

Brandon Kyle: Greetings, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us this afternoon. My name is Brandon Kyle. I am the Director of Alumni and Family Engagement here at Pitzer College, and I’d like to welcome you to part two of our four-part conversation, “True Equity: Color in the Ivory Tower.” Part two is a joint collaboration between [email protected] and the President’s Racial Justice Initiative. Today’s discussion will be moderated by none other than Professor Adrian Pantoja. Adrian is a Professor of Political Studies and Chicano Studies and one of the Associate Deans of Faculty here at Pitzer. He is also the chair of President Oliver’s Racial Justice Initiative. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, he is a proud Pitzer parent of an alumnus and a current student. Professor Pantoja’s teaching and research revolves around Latino populations with a focus on their voting behavior and political attitudes. His insight into today’s discussion is both invaluable, thought-provoking, and of course, timely. So, without further ado, I will pass it over to Professor Pantoja. Thank you, Adrian.

01:07
Adrian Pantoja: Thank you for that introduction, Brandon. Let me jump in and introduce our distinguished panelists. We have five faculty, Pitzer faculty, here with us today. All of them have a strong record and strong commitment to faculty diversity. This is an opportunity to get their thoughts on the state of diversity not only in their disciplines, but also at Pitzer College. So, in alphabetical order, I’ll start with Ahmed Alwishah. Ahmed is professor of philosophy; he’s been here since 2009. His specialization is Islamic philosophy, medieval philosophy, philosophy of religion, and Islamic theology.

We have Mita Banerjee. Mita is professor of psychology; she’s been here since 1992. Her specialization is socio-economic development, social cognition, risk and resilience in childhood, parent-child emotion, interactions, HIV AIDS, and children’s storybooks.

We have with us Muriel Poston, professor of environmental analysis, who has been here since 2012. Her research focuses on broadening participation of underrepresented students and faculty in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the STEM disciplines. She’s interested in doing work and does work in undergraduate biology education with a particular interest in effective pedagogical practice for student success in introductory courses, and she also does research in plant systematics.

We have Maria Soldatenko, professor in the Intercollegiate Department of Chicano-a/Latino-a Studies, who’s been here since 1998. Her specialization is in gender, race and class, feminist theory, women and economic development, Chicana feminist epistemology, gender violence, and Latina activism.

Finally, we have Professor Linus Yamane, professor in economics, who’s been here since 1988. His specialization is macroeconomics, Japanese economy, econometrics, and labor economics.

Let’s jump into today’s discussion on the state of faculty diversity at Pitzer and the discipline. So, in the United States, we know that the country is changing demographically, the composition of the student population is changing, it’s diversifying very rapidly. Yet the state of faculty diversity is lagging behind those changes. In fact, in the United States, less than a quarter of all faculty in higher education are faculty of color, so it’s a very small percentage. I thought that Pitzer was doing better in terms of faculty diversity. Yet, in the wake of the George Floyd murder, the Black Student Union and the Intercollegiate Department of Africana Studies sent a letter to the community discussing issues of anti-Blackness at The Claremont Colleges. And one of the solutions they proposed for addressing that is hiring more Black faculty. In the aftermath of the violence in Atlanta and the growing racism and violence directed at Asians, Asian Americans, Asian American faculty also, and staff, wrote a letter to the community about anti-Asian American prejudice at The Claremont Colleges. And again, one of the solutions there was increasing the number of Asian, Asian American faculty at the college. And so for the community, for those who are new to these types of discussions, why is it important to have ethnic racial diversity among the faculty? And I’ll just put that out to the panelists. Anybody want to start? Why is faculty diversity important?

05:06
Maria Soldatenko: Yes, I just want to briefly say that it is important because everybody benefits: students benefit, the college benefits, society benefits, of having diversity. For years, we have been excluding people of color from higher education. I think the problems starts where we don’t have a lot of students going for graduate degrees, so that our universities and colleges can claim that there are not enough people out there that they can hire. Every time that colleges start diversity programs also, they don’t usually work as we who defend diversity expect them to work. That is, progress for diversity in universities should have intentionality. At the end of the day when they get doing hirings, the intentionality of diversifying the faculty should be at the forefront, not should be like, if you get a person of color; no, from the very start, that should happen. And you see it, how students learn a lot, students just interacting with other, students of color, are seeing faculty of color teaching them, that is why African Americans and Asian Americans right now are asking to have more faculty, because actually, as students seeing themselves represented among the faculty makes a difference to them, to their lives and to what they can become later on. So, I think that if there is no representation, or faculty of color among the faculty, or if it is minimal, the students get that message that they don’t belong as students of color in particular.

Adrian Pantoja: There’s a lot there to unpack, Maria, thank you for that. Others want to unpack some of those things, add to that discussion?

06:57
Mita Banerjee: If I could add to it. Professora Soldatenko really did a beautiful job, especially talking about the importance of representation, what that means to our students. But I guess I would just also say that the project of decolonizing the curriculum, decolonizing the academy, offering a non-Western kind of lens in thinking about our disciplines, about the academy, about how we govern ourselves, I think that’s really crucially important. And that’s not going to happen without that sort of intentionality, and that’s not going to happen without support and without creating a place in a space where people feel more comfortable pushing things forward. I also always think about, Professor Emeritus Fairchild used to say, we need a college that looks like the world, not just the United States, but looks like the world. And we’re moving closer in that direction, but I think we still have a ways to go in reflecting the communities and the populations. We’ll see things have changed in 30 years. I’ve been here and Linus has been here, Professor Yamane has been here, but things have gotten more subtle in terms of the barriers. And so, I know that’s one of the questions you have, that we can look forward to, but there’s progress, but there’s always steps backwards as well.

Adrian Pantoja: Isn’t science science, and philosophy philosophy, and math math; why do we need diversity in those fields?

08:34
Muriel Poston: For exactly the same reasons Maria outlined, that brings not only and particularly, I think, in the STEM disciplines, for students to see the representation in front of them, becomes fundamentally important. And as we have more and more students of color choosing to enter STEM fields, it becomes important to think about how we at Pitzer can have the impact we should on the recruitment of STEM faculty in the sciences, which is complicated because in some ways, it’s one step removed from what we do specifically at Pitzer. But I would advocate that’s true within our social science frame at Pitzer as well. And I just did a quick back of the envelope calculation for African American faculty, or at least those that have identified in some respects with that, as part of that or as part of the African diaspora and I would say, actually, Pitzer is doing relatively well compared to other institutions. Because even though our student population is less than 5% from the African diaspora, our faculty population is around 10%. Now, we don’t all end up in the same space-time continuum. Why? Because it is Pitzer, after all, but I do think that’s a significant imprint on the college that we perhaps have not come together at this point in time, given that impact of last summer, the summer of ’20, in ways that could have if COVID had not been present to make that much more complicated. But I think the recruitment of our pre-tenure faculty of color has been significant. And there are long serving faculty of color, Laura Harris and Professor Tongun being two classic examples. So, I do think we have an arc of memory, which is always important as an institution. But I would say one of our challenges is simply in representation of the student population, as well as the faculty population packed in the STEM disciplines.

Adrian Pantoja: It’s an interesting perspective on this discussion. Ahmed?

11:09
Ahmed Alwishah: So, I thought I’m in agreement with my colleagues on this issue. And we just, we had to be inspired to increase the number of faculty, but let me give a different reason. It’s more related to the content of the curriculum itself. And let me be more precise and give a concrete case. Think about in philosophy, for example, we have now as the most popular branches, philosophy of race, and we need to be able to basically, if we want to hire in the future, we really look to have a faculty of color to teach that course. And it’s not just because the content and the quality they bring, it’s the experience of a faculty of color is unique in some way. Let’s reflect on our experience teaching and we will see basically, when you come in teaching in the classroom, and you provide examples related to you, something really has a content within your life, students would pay a great deal of attention, because here is like they are, not you just represents statistics and data and these things, these abstracts, and students, quite frankly, nowadays, with the technology, they can find these things everywhere. So, we’re just not… if we address the case of George Floyd today, we can provide them with all the statistics about police brutality, and so and so on. But when you bring to the case life, like when you bring in, present yourself from these things, in my experience, it means more to the student, and in different content, I see my students, they gravitate more toward that, and they want to inquire further information about these things.

So my point is the quality of experience that faculty of color brings to education itself is unique. So that adds to the creativity aspect of education and no longer is just people master the content of the subject matter and bring it and present it to the student. Do you have a more dynamic classroom when you have faculty of color representing cases related to her life or his life? I do remember one time, when I was teaching philosophy of race, and I for some reason, for my previous years, I was hesitant to bring any case about my life. I quite frankly was shy to bring that, to be the faculty of color in the classroom or somehow, I have some cases. But at that point, I felt like I had to make that case. So I brought the case when I was traveling for a conference with my daughter and my wife, and somehow I had my daughter for a while while my wife went to the restroom. And she was crying because there is this a separation anxiety as at that time. And so, there’s two white people came and approached me and they said, “Is this is your daughter?” because she has white skin. So, this issue of color is immediately, I mean, that’s the case when I start to bring in my students to the problems and the politics of the race and so many the complexities of this, it came in from a different fashion and different things. So again, I think by reflecting on our experience, we see the value of faculty of color.

Adrian Pantoja: Yet there’s that’s symbolic representation, but also that substantive, the content is critical to that. Linus?

14:51
Linus Yamane: Yes, I certainly agree with everything that everyone has said. I’ll just add that diversity is important for so many different reasons. But one is that it affects the kinds of questions the discipline asks. And so in my own work, I write papers on the mark of discrimination that Asian Americans face in the US. And to be honest, there are, I must say, three or four economists in the entire country that work on this issue, which is to say that most people don’t care about Asian Americans, they don’t care about the discrimination that they face. Nevertheless, it’s a real experience for a large segment of the population. And if we want to come up with good policies for the diverse world that we live in, we need to understand the experiences of everybody in the society. And so, if you don’t have a diverse field, diverse college, you’re not going to learn about what’s really going on in the world around us. And that’s certainly one reason why we need to have more diversity. I mean, not just in economics, but at Pitzer and everywhere.

Adrian Pantoja: I’m going to jump to the third question that I have here because I also want to open this up to questions from the audience. I bet quite a few people have some questions that they would like to pose to you. What is the state of diversity in your disciplines? We each represent various disciplines, the humanities, the social sciences, interdisciplinary work, the STEMs, economics. Tell me about the state of the discipline, the state of diversity in your discipline. How diverse are these disciplines in the consortium, and how diverse is your field group?

16:43
Maria Soldatenko: Could I say something, because I teach in ethnic studies, we are totally integrated. We are the model for the university, I think. Because Chicano Studies, Latino Studies, of course, because it is important to talk about the experience of a particular group. We have to, and we want to have students exposed to our culture and history, and to be represented at all levels; how we think, what we see, what we have lived, our lived experiences, our philosophy of life, all that comes into play. It’s easy to say where we are diversified. We have problems if we start having white faculty members in ethnic studies, we would lose what we are all about, right? The university is majority white-dominated and male as well. We already see the statistics and who predominates in universities and colleges and who has the power. It’s not us, it’s not people of color, it’s not women. This I didn’t mention, and when I was hired at Pitzer, I came both for women’s studies and ethnic studies. They hired me to do both things, which shows you the lack of respect of the institution to gender feminist studies. After I went and “divorced” and went to ethnic studies only, they didn’t hire anybody. It’s always a charity of the faculty in the college that comes up to make up for the lacking of respect, understanding of what gender feminist studies is as an institution. When it comes to diversity, women also come into play, especially one if I want to teach feminism of color and intersectionality. At Pitzer, it’s like, we lost the light, that’s fine. We don’t care. Sum zero point, since we’re talking about the advances, I’m talking about where we’re going backwards, and that’s why I know the fields that comes to mind.

Adrian Pantoja: And again, you represent a number of fields, both your training as a sociologist, you’ve been in Gender/Women’s Studies and Chicano Studies so you have this perspective of these different disciplines so we can come back to some of those, your experiences, in those disciplines. What about the other disciplines that are represented here?

19:21
Muriel Poston: So actually, it’s been quite interesting over the arc of my academic career because women were underrepresented in the biological sciences when I was in graduate school. Now we are the majority of the doctoral recipients. The interesting thing is we’re the super majority of the Baccalaureate recipients and master’s recipients and chemistry is not far behind; it just tipped to 50% of doctoral recipients as well. So, the issue of gender and the STEM disciplines is now much more complex than it was before. Now, clearly this axiom that we don’t see women at senior ranks because they have not moved up sufficiently, I agree with Maria that is not necessarily because they do not have the capacity or have not served a much longer time in mid-career ranks than their male counterparts. And that issue and COVID has had a substantial impact on the progress of women in the last 18 months, with regard to their publication rate, and also in their teaching, and will obviously impact their academic careers moving forward. In the context of race and ethnicity, it was kind of disturbing to me when I gave a talk maybe three or four years ago, to realize that the proportional representation for African American women in the biological sciences was exactly the same as it was when I got my degree. The proportion, there are many more African American women in the biological sciences, because there are many more doctoral degrees being received in the biological sciences, but it still is less than 5%. And that means that the progress because there are simply more people going into the field and receiving advanced degrees, means that our progress has been somewhat stalled.

Adrian Pantoja: That’s a very interesting perspective in terms of dramatic changes along the dimension of gender. But when you intersect that with race, it’s a static test.

21:41
Muriel Poston: And the place that you see that, I’m glad Mita lit up next, because in psychology, the impact has not only been with respect to gender, but there’s been an impact on salary and compensation as well.

Adrian Pantoja: Let’s segue into psychology. Mita?

22:03
Mita Banerjee: I would say it’s a mixed picture, depending also on the subfields. So social psychology, I think, led the way. Social psychology was always from early on, I think, also, because of things that people study, they study the construction of race and gender and those social dynamics and inequalities. And so, there was a large number of African American psychologists, Black community, connected to psychology. There were Latinx faculty in social psychology, but I would say developmental, clinical, and social psych are some of the areas that are quite diverse and in terms of who is getting degrees and who is being hired as faculty members. I think that’s true. I would say we still struggle when it comes to neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, and just straight up cognitive, experimental psychology. And those are areas that are not as diverse. I will give us some kudos, then, that if I think about our field group, our last three hires, and with some intentionality, we have hired superb colleagues, and all three of them are superb colleagues of color. And our last hire was an African American neuroscientist.

And so again, given the numbers, I think, really being proactive and seeking out, and I know that’s going to be another one of your questions, how do those hires, but I feel like we are a pretty diverse field group. But it was pretty intentional, at least on some of our parts, I won’t say it was unanimous, but on some of our parts, I think there was really a sense that we wanted to go in that direction, we wanted to make sure that those sub areas, and are representative for our students, and also that our students see themselves in the faculty and our students feel comfortable then having those discussions about can I go on to graduate school? How do I do that and have the kind of training that is in the lab sort of training, real world training, and then really this kind of heart-to-heart and you’re going to walk a path that I walked before and let me share with you. That’s our mixed picture in psychology.

Adrian Pantoja: Yeah, I need to go back; being an undergraduate first-generation college student and not realizing that within these disciplines, there are subfields and those subfields vary dramatically in terms of experiences and who the mentors are, and gender diversity, racial ethnic diversity within those subfields. What about philosophy and economics? I’m curious to hear where those disciplines are in terms of diversity.

24:52
Linus Yamane: I don’t think economics looks good at all and I don’t think it’s changed much over time, either because overall because most college students in the United States are female, but 70% of economics majors are male. There’s a lack of diversity there, and then among 20% or so of college students in United States are minority students, only about 11 or 12% of econ majors are minority students in the United States. Asian, both male and female, are overrepresented given their numbers, and white males are overrepresented, but every other group is underrepresented in the field of economics. So white females, so many Latinos, Blacks, Native Americans, are well underrepresented. And then once you go up, the numbers get even worse because Asians, Blacks, Latinos are less likely to get PhDs in the field of economics than white males in particular.

Adrian Pantoja: What about in the Consortium? Mita alluded to in psychology, the field group, but also in the Consortium, psychology has done a better job to some degree. What about economics at Pitzer and the Consortium?

26:12
Linus Yamane: At Pitzer, we don’t have any white males in our field group, and haven’t had any for a while. But overall, I think there must be about 50 economists in Claremont, and I would guess the vast majority are white males. There are plenty of white males, they’re just not at Pitzer, at least in economics.

Muriel Poston: I was just going to ask Linus a question if I could. Any other of the sister colleges as diverse as Pitzer within economics?

Linus Yamane: No; no.

Adrian Pantoja: And I wanted to come back to the question of why that’s the case; what has Pitzer done right and where do we still need to do some more work? What about philosophy?

27:02
Ahmed Alwishah: The state of diversity in philosophy is not good, too. The majority of the faculty are white within the 5Cs. At Pitzer, we have just two faculty, so it is a really small discipline. And by and large, if you look to graduate school, it is also well known that philosophy is more or less a discipline for white, less diverse people and people of color. But that has started changing and I attribute that to the fact the focus on philosophy and all the graduate schools has been more or less on the Western tradition, Western philosophy, that’s number one, and also focused on the Anglo-Saxon tradition, it’s more specific. So it’s very close, and probably one of the least disciplines that has interdisciplinarity within it, unlike psychology and sociology and other disciplines where you tend to break out from your discipline. So, we’ll focus on Western tradition and we’ll focus on the Anglo-Saxon tradition and even not on the continental tradition, which most likely, if you open it to the continental philosophy, you will get faculty of color or people more interesting in this regard. So, I believe that the attraction is not there for people of color to come to philosophy and do something really they are passionate about. And there is some crisis in our community, but it is starting to change, as I mentioned. The philosophy of race now is a really important topic in the field, so we see that.

And if I may, just quickly bridge between the previous question and the recent one. So if we want to increase the diversity of faculty of color in our listings, this is really a cycle. You need to basically, how you do that, you need to, like what Maria said, you need to inspire students. Well, in order to inspire students, you have to hire faculty. And if you don’t inspire students, then most likely this student will go and choose a different type of field and they don’t go to graduate school. So, you start ending the cycle of lack of faculty of color by hiring, by getting this initiative and hiring faculty of color, and that will inspire a student to go to graduate school to be like the professor that taught them and inspired them, so they can go to graduate school. So, we break the cycle, the anti-cycle by doing that.

Adrian Pantoja: So, the role models are pivotal and maybe that the philosophy of race is going to provide a crack in the wall or the ceiling and that could start bringing in more philosophers into…

30:06
Ahmed Alwishah: That’s really the hope is to bring in more. Recently, we hired one faculty in Claremont at CMC, a new faculty, a faculty of color to teach philosophy of race. So that’s really a good progress. But within the 5Cs again, the largest is white men, white males.

Adrian Pantoja: So let’s talk about the barriers. All of you are veterans, you’ve been here a long time and you’ve been looking at this puzzle for a long time. If somebody wants to diversify the field, wants to bring more faculty of color to Pitzer College, what do you see is the biggest barrier to accomplishing that?

30:57
Maria Soldatenko: Well, I don’t belong to sociology or other departments. But I have been on the Diversity Committee where I get a chance to see what candidates they bring to interview. And part of the Diversity Committee’s job when I have been there is to see that the pool of candidates that they bring is diverse. And it is a big battle with most of the faculty I have worked with in the past, to get them to see that they need to have a diverse faculty. To them, diverse means that they are all white, and they come from Ivy Leagues. Most of my experience has been fighting for more inclusivity and actually pay attention to those who didn’t have the chance to go to Harvard or to go to the best colleges as the way in which academia has constructed this hierarchy. And to also understand that people of color come with a particular deep experience and a particular training that is combined and that makes them much more interesting. But people don’t get it; people totally, this means that there is white privilege or white hierarchy in academia, they play the card that we are neutral and objective. We’re just looking at who’s qualified and what’s not. And I think it’s beyond that, because they already have bias against people of color. And that is why for all the time that I have been there in the Diversity Committee over the years, maybe I saw one Black candidate, maybe I saw one, two Latinos because the line called for Latinos, and yet in their search of Latinos, that come with that specialty it was very skewed. It was like they couldn’t see beyond because they don’t recognize us as part of our [inaudible], as people of color. I think they claim to be neutral, objective, I’m color blind, because everybody has equal opportunity. No, no, no, no, no, it is very different and it is problematic to me. I was very frustrated over the years, I had fights with a lot of people, because I tried to diversify the faculty against their will. Part of my experience has been very good at making people upset.

33:23
Adrian Pantoja: But the biggest barrier you’re noting are your own colleagues, folks here who, for whatever reasons, have blinders on or are practicing what I can understand the sociologists call colorblind racism. And there is this bias at The Claremont Colleges toward the Ivy Leagues. Well, if you come from an Ivy League, you’re better somehow and therefore, that’s what we want to bring in. And yet many faculty of color are at premier universities, University of Michigan, UCLA, and somehow those can get overlooked under the guise of merit. Other barriers, what would it have been…

34:13
Mita Banerjee: I’d like to add to that, and maybe go into our history and remind us, we suspended our affirmative action program, right? And we did that because there were too many people like me, there were too many Asian Americans, according to some of our colleagues. And I will say, not to get into the history too much, but it was across the street, that the alarm was sounded at Keck that Pitzer has already met and exceeded its affirmative action expectations and what we were doing was illegal. Thankfully, it took some time, but we got folks like Kimberly Crenshaw and others in here saying, No, no, no, no, we didn’t violate anything. As a private college, we have every right to try to make ourselves as diverse and we had clear articulation of that when we would do searches, and we have goals. But nonetheless, we suspended the affirmative action program for multiple years before we put something else in place. So, I think that really needs to be recognized that that happened at Pitzer. And that should never have happened at Pitzer, but it did happen. I have had occasion to be on APT [Appointments, Promotion and Tenure Committee] too many times maybe, and see searches there and to be [inaudible]. And then of course, we’ve done searches in our field. So exactly what you were saying, Adrian, it’s that the more subtle kind of conversation like, “Oh, who mentored them?” “Oh, that’s a fantastic mentor, where did they go to school?” and that sort of pedigree lineage. That kind of language that is very loaded, and very racially loaded. But many people in the room having the conversation don’t recognize that; they don’t understand that. And they don’t understand by elevating certain candidates, they are missing out on other incredibly important diverse candidates who didn’t have the opportunities to go to Harvard and Yale and those kinds of places. And you have to have a real deep understanding of inequalities in order to appreciate that. And I would say, it’s not the case that to a person when we’re doing searches, people have that deep understanding. And then you have Maria in the room trying to help people have that understanding. But often it becomes an oppositional kind of moment. So, I would say those are some of the barriers. We are more comfortable in the academy with white folks teaching Latin American Studies and Africana Studies, than we are with people from those diasporas in those communities. And that’s just the ugly truth of it.

36:44
Muriel Poston: What Mita says is true, and I think that’s because Pitzer has had a history of recruiting faculty based on a credentialing pattern that may not be, historically, have been as inclusive as possible, and a sense of relegating public universities as lesser than, although anybody that’s put the University of Michigan out to the side, it’s just well, we won’t go there. But I do think that there are places where we have not had the impact we should, and we do not serve in a diversity committee capacity, and Keck Sciences is one. The diversity in Keck Science now is primarily among the pre-tenure faculty, they do not have any faculty from the African diaspora, they have continued to hire any faculty representing that racial demographic as visitors, but not as tenure or tenure track lines. And they, only senior colleagues that are there, at least (I may be on thin ice here, but I’ll say it), I think are Asian. And that, I think, represents its own challenging dynamic in the sense of what folks are comfortable with. When they do searches within Keck Science, and how we might have an impact on that, particularly with the changes coming to Keck, is something we should be taking up. Because we have an increasing student population interested in the sciences, who are not having the opportunity to be mentored, as perhaps we might hope.

38:37
Ahmed Alwishah: I think one way to increase that is to target certain institutions where faculty of color exist, or from basically the graduate students or they have a rich, rich, diverse program. So that would be a good way to recruit more faculty to Pitzer. But I want to say, and so what my advice is, basically the extra mile, we have to go the extra mile, in order to do that. It’s not just post the position in certain places and waiting for the quality of certain faculty will come to us and we expect those people who came from Yale or Harvard or [inaudible], and we let them in on Western equality, but we got to really go this extra mile and recruit people in certain institutions and look for that quality in ourselves.

But I want to remind ourselves to say during the interview, it’s likely the faculty of color or the person of color, is less prepared than the white person. And that’s really kind of like most of the cases on let’s prepare for the interview. And this has to do with the graduate school because they don’t really invest a great deal on the graduate students to prepare them for the interview. And I see many cases of that. And it’s really a terrible thing to do in graduate school, they don’t have that investment on the undergrad and graduate students to prepare them for the interview. And this is a crucial thing. So, you will see most of them, they have their hesitation, they have also, being a faculty of color, you have a lot of psychological anxiety in the sense of facing these certain things. But in terms of the preparation, I think graduate school should do more work, and more to prepare the students of color to go and face these types of interviews.

I saw last year, for example, at Pomona, a faculty of color was brilliant, was excellent in every single thing, but there is a certain thing that they have not really prepared that person for the interview, for certain things. And that really, we have to work on that. And we have to keep it in our mind what they did in their graduate school, were they not prepared well? So, we take that in our consideration instead of just looking for, “Oh, this person responded perfectly for this question, or this person has a clear idea about these things.” Because quite frankly, sometimes the interview is just a game. You master it and in so many ways you respond to the right thing, you get the correct things but at the end of the day, that really does not show the quality of the person itself. So there is something we need to remind ourself of.

Adrian Pantoja: In terms of the intentionality or going the extra mile and broader understandings of qualifications; while there might not be as much bias in terms of the graduate pedigree, I do see it in terms of undergrads; that is, if you’re going to teach at The Claremont Colleges, if you came from a liberal arts college, you get these extra points. And we know liberal arts colleges are probably some of the least diverse colleges in the country. So, you get that cycle of people hiring people that look like them. Linus, what are your thoughts in terms of some of the biggest barriers that you’ve seen?

42:13
Linus Yamane: Pitzer College used to be a member of the Consortium for Faculty Diversity, it used to be called the Consortium for Stronger Minority Presence in Liberal Arts Colleges or something, they changed the name, but I thought it was really good when we were a member of it. And for some reason, we’re not a member anymore. But it’s basically a group of liberal arts colleges that work together to increase the diversity of our faculties. A lot of minority students don’t know about liberal arts colleges; a lot of people in general don’t know about liberal arts colleges. And they did a good job of getting the word out and saying that this is a good career, working in small liberal arts colleges, and so I’d really push for having Pitzer become a member again, and using that to help bring faculty of color to Pitzer.

Muriel Poston: The last faculty member who came from the consortium was African American and was in environmental analysis.

43:15
Adrian Pantoja: So, there are resources out there that folks may not be aware of, and those need to be brought to the forefront. And this discussion is helping to do that. I also appreciate some of the not so pretty history at Pitzer College, the suspension of our affirmative action policy, the lack of diversity in some of the areas in STEM that has not done a good job in terms of faculty diversity. And I will say that some of the most heated debates I’ve had at this college, you might even say shouting exchanges that I had, were over issues of faculty diversity. So, it’s not everyone’s on board, and we’re all very supportive of diversifying the college; you do have these challenges.

Let me go with one final question and I want to open it up to the audience. And the final question I have is, what should we be doing differently at Pitzer College? Linus already mentioned one of these programs, but what else should we be doing in terms of continuing this path forward?

44:34
Muriel Poston: Well, I thought Mita had, earlier on, was the intentionality of the recruitment. Because if you craft the ad, if you do the outreach to the graduate programs, and if you pay attention at professional meetings to folks that are students, graduate students, postdocs that are coming along and connect with them, it helps to give you a much greater pool of potential candidates when you are able to recruit. And I think those are the kinds of practices, institutions that have been somewhat successful in diversifying their faculty, have been able to leverage in significant ways. And so I think that those are practices that are well known to many institutions, but ones that we might not practice as intentionally as I think psychology has, and the recruitment of their last three faculty members.

45:36
Maria Soldatenko: And also, we need following what Mita and everybody else has said, and Muriel, that we need an active administration of this college to do the work. When I have the fights in APT about diversity and who came in the pool, and who was immediate, who was excluded from it, and there was no support. I expected the dean and others to step in and speak up, too. No, it was accepted; we are not doing their job, we don’t care. We are here in this APT meeting deciding who is coming. When I’m bringing a case that no, you’re missing out, boy, you’re missing out in terms of diversity. So, leaving it to field groups is already messed up. Because we know with some field groups, they resist to have a diverse field group. And you can see the landscape; look around, look around and who is missing, who is all white, or has one token, and they don’t want anybody else because they feel they have done their job. So, I think it comes from above. It starts with the president and the rest of the administration and insist, these are the rules we’re following. But if we just come to APT, by the time they are making the decision of who they are hiring and say, we did everything you told us, and we didn’t find anybody, anybody that we like, but this person that really doesn’t meet the criteria of bringing minority faculty members, right? And look in terms of the numbers, and also the geographic location. We are in California, we should have more Latinos in California, right? And when they cut affirmative action back in the day, you will look at the demographic impact. Who’s there? Who’s there? When we talk about race, and I know it is very important that Black Lives Matter and it’s become very salient. But usually in colleges, when they think about race, they only think about Black. They don’t think Asian or Latinos, or American Indians. It becomes about as “Okay, well, let’s think of race as being a Black person,” which I support, I’m not against it. But I think that it’s this binary in which they only see white and Black. And that is problematic, because according to where you live in and where the university is, and colleagues that are coming to these colleges, then the college should be starting to think in more complex ways about race and ethnicity. But usually, they want to solve it with let’s bring in a Black person.

48:21
Mita Banerjee: I think we have to also consider what we used to call target of opportunity, those target positions, whether it’s at the field group level, or APT, talking in terms of faculty lines. So we don’t have any Native faculty. So how do we build, first of all, a community that can support that, and so that if that person comes that they will be nourished and nurtured here, as opposed to feel like they are having to fight the entire academy. And so, I think we have things to think about there, but also field groups making a decision like OS [Organizational Studies] did to target a position and not do a full search, but to bring in particular people of color who we think will be a good fit. And so, I think we need to do that more. Talk about University of Michigan, my alma mater, they were doing that 30 years ago pretty well and did a really good job in a lot of departments of bringing in folks and people I know got hired in those positions. And I think we need to figure out how we can do that more and to have the strategic planning between field groups and faculty lines and when new lines come available.

49:32
Adrian Pantoja: I was going to say there’s a lot there and meet in terms of the target of opportunities. Since I’ve been here, I came here in 2006, I’ve only seen that used once. At other institutions, there are practices of cluster hires. I’ve never seen any type of cluster hire, there probably never has been a cluster of hire at Pitzer College. And there was another point in terms of…

Muriel Poston: Adrian, I have a question. Has Pitzer ever turned down a search because it did not have a diverse pool?

Mita Banerjee: They’ve said they would, they’ve threatened it, but then they haven’t at least in my 29, 30 years.

Muriel Poston: I think that’s a telling thing. If we’re truly committed, we would have said, you have major recommendations, and I think it really does fall on the administration to say we won’t accept it.

50:34
Ahmed Alwishah: And that’s really the APT has the power to do that. It is not the field group who decided these things. May I add on a couple things? One thing is basically to open a new line, design to recruit faculty of color. That could be another thing, especially if we, I mean we have a financial limitation at Pitzer. But in the future, if we really put our effort to create a baseline and specifically designed to recruit faculty of color, that will be good. Another thing is, I will think, is basically diversify your curriculum. And by doing so that has more potential to bring more faculty of color. So, thinking about, for example, the cases of replacement position; a replacement position, we have this propensity to think a replacement position has to be duplicated. But it shouldn’t be duplicated, it should be like, this is an opportunity for the field group to consider the possibility of bringing more diverse subject matters which allow more diverse faculty of color to join and to have that cases. So that could be something we should think along the line for the future.

51:48
Adrian Pantoja: You brought up the other point that Mita had mentioned that I was having a hard time recalling, and that was the allocation of lines. There’s a lot of discussion that Pitzer is going to be growing, expanding its student population, expanding its faculty lines, and those are very coveted. How do we then begin thinking about the allocation of those lines? And what Muriel noted in terms of stopping searches? Has that ever happened? I think Maria is one of those persons that has tried to stop a search through the Diversity Committee; sending letters, but people have not exercised that prerogative.

Let me open it up to Q&A. There’s a few here in the chat, and a couple are asking about the role of alumni. What can alumni do to hire and help keep faculty of color? And what could alumni do to shut down a search? So alumni, do they have a role to play? Would you want them to have a role to play? Thoughts on that?

52:58
Maria Soldatenko: I do, but usually they are confidential.

Muriel Poston: Not necessarily, alumni serve on the Board of Trustees. I think these are issues that can be brought before the Board. Because ultimately, if the administration is going to have the responsibility of disrupting a search, it would be the Board that could hold them accountable and alumni can leverage in that capacity, regardless of financial capacity, because I noticed there were a couple of comments about that. There was one question, Mita, that went directly to you, about white supremacist hiring practices. Do you see that one? She was definitely giving a shout out to Mita.

53:47
Mita Banerjee: Give a shout out to me? But I think that’s a Pitzer alum and student and friend of mine, too, I would say. I think we touched a little bit on that when we’re talking about the hiring practices. And I would say you don’t see full-on white supremacist hiring practices on our campus, but you see those subtle ways of kind of furthering those white supremacist goals. So, I think that that’s kind of the place where we live as a college and where we need to try to really stand up more, decide that we’re going to… I’ve been in the room and on APT when we have those conversations about, “Should we stop the search?” then everybody pussyfoots around, like, “Oh, but this poor field group has worked so hard,” and it’s like, we need to make the tough calls. And I think, especially when we feel like the goals are not being met of trying to diversify the college and diversify fields, often it’s one of those things where the fields that are diverse are really good at seeking out more diversity and the fields that have been closed off to diversity are really the difficult ones to get inroads into. So I don’t know if that answers that question; I can’t see her, but she’s here somewhere. That’s my take, but others, if you want to jump in on that one or the other questions there.

55:13
Adrian Pantoja: There’s some questions about the role of student protests in faculty diversity. And I opened up this discussion by discussing the letters that were submitted by the Black Student Union calling for greater representation of African American faculty, the letters by Asian staff, Asian American staff, faculty, about greater representation; so that political pressure, is it useful? Is it helpful? Does it work?

55:41
Linus Yamane: Yes, I think it’s critical. And I think if you look at the history of The Claremont Colleges, all the good changes that I’ve seen were the result of student protests. So Pitzer students took over Broad Hall, years ago, they’ve taken over Alexander Hall. And every time they do that, they don’t get everything they asked for, but they get the college moving in that direction. And so, the positive impacts, I credit, the students for all the good things that have happened over the last several decades.

56:13
Ahmed Alwishah: And they’ve done it across all the major universities, not just at Pitzer, like Yale and others, that protests had a tremendous influence on making these decisions and these changes. So it’s absolutely helpful. It’s not just helpful, actually, that’s the reason why we are discussing it.

Mita Banerjee: A year or two before I was hired, and Linus will remember this because he was probably one of the faculty supporters for the students who were pushing for… we have a center for Asian Pacific American students, and for Asian American Studies, so it was really the students pushing for that. And so, I was lucky to come into a situation where there were many students who were like, “Welcome. We’ve been fighting for more Asian American faculty and for more focus on Asian American Studies.” And so that was even in more recent years… (it’s 30 years ago, it’s not recent). But I would say that our students continue to push the envelope in that way. And the question about alums, I think we need to, when we’re posting searches, to share that more broadly with alums. Early on, maybe even when we’re framing those applications, or those postings because they have come through grad school more recently, they have networks. And so, I think alums can be really helpful in pointing us to, “Well, here are some places. And here’s some names of people who can really connect you with diverse candidates.” So, I think we underuse our alums; the resource is there.

57:45
Adrian Pantoja: That a great way to end this discussion, and I’d love to go on. But mobilize, mobilize, mobilize the power of our students, the power of the alumni. Get involved, stay engaged, hold us accountable, hold the college accountable, hold the faculty, hold all of us accountable to what is happening at Pitzer College.

So with that, I’d like to thank all of the panelists for this wonderful discussion. And I look forward to continuing these discussions and ultimately implementing policies and strategies for continuing this work. So thank you, everyone, and have a wonderful evening.

  • Transcript: Color in the Ivory Tower

    Brandon Kyle: Greetings, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us this afternoon. My name is Brandon Kyle. I am the Director of Alumni and Family Engagement here at Pitzer College, and I’d like to welcome you to part two of our four-part conversation, “True Equity: Color in the Ivory Tower.” Part two is a joint collaboration between [email protected] and the President’s Racial Justice Initiative. Today’s discussion will be moderated by none other than Professor Adrian Pantoja. Adrian is a Professor of Political Studies and Chicano Studies and one of the Associate Deans of Faculty here at Pitzer. He is also the chair of President Oliver’s Racial Justice Initiative. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, he is a proud Pitzer parent of an alumnus and a current student. Professor Pantoja’s teaching and research revolves around Latino populations with a focus on their voting behavior and political attitudes. His insight into today’s discussion is both invaluable, thought-provoking, and of course, timely. So, without further ado, I will pass it over to Professor Pantoja. Thank you, Adrian.

    01:07
    Adrian Pantoja: Thank you for that introduction, Brandon. Let me jump in and introduce our distinguished panelists. We have five faculty, Pitzer faculty, here with us today. All of them have a strong record and strong commitment to faculty diversity. This is an opportunity to get their thoughts on the state of diversity not only in their disciplines, but also at Pitzer College. So, in alphabetical order, I’ll start with Ahmed Alwishah. Ahmed is professor of philosophy; he’s been here since 2009. His specialization is Islamic philosophy, medieval philosophy, philosophy of religion, and Islamic theology.

    We have Mita Banerjee. Mita is professor of psychology; she’s been here since 1992. Her specialization is socio-economic development, social cognition, risk and resilience in childhood, parent-child emotion, interactions, HIV AIDS, and children’s storybooks.

    We have with us Muriel Poston, professor of environmental analysis, who has been here since 2012. Her research focuses on broadening participation of underrepresented students and faculty in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the STEM disciplines. She’s interested in doing work and does work in undergraduate biology education with a particular interest in effective pedagogical practice for student success in introductory courses, and she also does research in plant systematics.

    We have Maria Soldatenko, professor in the Intercollegiate Department of Chicano-a/Latino-a Studies, who’s been here since 1998. Her specialization is in gender, race and class, feminist theory, women and economic development, Chicana feminist epistemology, gender violence, and Latina activism.

    Finally, we have Professor Linus Yamane, professor in economics, who’s been here since 1988. His specialization is macroeconomics, Japanese economy, econometrics, and labor economics.

    Let’s jump into today’s discussion on the state of faculty diversity at Pitzer and the discipline. So, in the United States, we know that the country is changing demographically, the composition of the student population is changing, it’s diversifying very rapidly. Yet the state of faculty diversity is lagging behind those changes. In fact, in the United States, less than a quarter of all faculty in higher education are faculty of color, so it’s a very small percentage. I thought that Pitzer was doing better in terms of faculty diversity. Yet, in the wake of the George Floyd murder, the Black Student Union and the Intercollegiate Department of Africana Studies sent a letter to the community discussing issues of anti-Blackness at The Claremont Colleges. And one of the solutions they proposed for addressing that is hiring more Black faculty. In the aftermath of the violence in Atlanta and the growing racism and violence directed at Asians, Asian Americans, Asian American faculty also, and staff, wrote a letter to the community about anti-Asian American prejudice at The Claremont Colleges. And again, one of the solutions there was increasing the number of Asian, Asian American faculty at the college. And so for the community, for those who are new to these types of discussions, why is it important to have ethnic racial diversity among the faculty? And I’ll just put that out to the panelists. Anybody want to start? Why is faculty diversity important?

    05:06
    Maria Soldatenko: Yes, I just want to briefly say that it is important because everybody benefits: students benefit, the college benefits, society benefits, of having diversity. For years, we have been excluding people of color from higher education. I think the problems starts where we don’t have a lot of students going for graduate degrees, so that our universities and colleges can claim that there are not enough people out there that they can hire. Every time that colleges start diversity programs also, they don’t usually work as we who defend diversity expect them to work. That is, progress for diversity in universities should have intentionality. At the end of the day when they get doing hirings, the intentionality of diversifying the faculty should be at the forefront, not should be like, if you get a person of color; no, from the very start, that should happen. And you see it, how students learn a lot, students just interacting with other, students of color, are seeing faculty of color teaching them, that is why African Americans and Asian Americans right now are asking to have more faculty, because actually, as students seeing themselves represented among the faculty makes a difference to them, to their lives and to what they can become later on. So, I think that if there is no representation, or faculty of color among the faculty, or if it is minimal, the students get that message that they don’t belong as students of color in particular.

    Adrian Pantoja: There’s a lot there to unpack, Maria, thank you for that. Others want to unpack some of those things, add to that discussion?

    06:57
    Mita Banerjee: If I could add to it. Professora Soldatenko really did a beautiful job, especially talking about the importance of representation, what that means to our students. But I guess I would just also say that the project of decolonizing the curriculum, decolonizing the academy, offering a non-Western kind of lens in thinking about our disciplines, about the academy, about how we govern ourselves, I think that’s really crucially important. And that’s not going to happen without that sort of intentionality, and that’s not going to happen without support and without creating a place in a space where people feel more comfortable pushing things forward. I also always think about, Professor Emeritus Fairchild used to say, we need a college that looks like the world, not just the United States, but looks like the world. And we’re moving closer in that direction, but I think we still have a ways to go in reflecting the communities and the populations. We’ll see things have changed in 30 years. I’ve been here and Linus has been here, Professor Yamane has been here, but things have gotten more subtle in terms of the barriers. And so, I know that’s one of the questions you have, that we can look forward to, but there’s progress, but there’s always steps backwards as well.

    Adrian Pantoja: Isn’t science science, and philosophy philosophy, and math math; why do we need diversity in those fields?

    08:34
    Muriel Poston: For exactly the same reasons Maria outlined, that brings not only and particularly, I think, in the STEM disciplines, for students to see the representation in front of them, becomes fundamentally important. And as we have more and more students of color choosing to enter STEM fields, it becomes important to think about how we at Pitzer can have the impact we should on the recruitment of STEM faculty in the sciences, which is complicated because in some ways, it’s one step removed from what we do specifically at Pitzer. But I would advocate that’s true within our social science frame at Pitzer as well. And I just did a quick back of the envelope calculation for African American faculty, or at least those that have identified in some respects with that, as part of that or as part of the African diaspora and I would say, actually, Pitzer is doing relatively well compared to other institutions. Because even though our student population is less than 5% from the African diaspora, our faculty population is around 10%. Now, we don’t all end up in the same space-time continuum. Why? Because it is Pitzer, after all, but I do think that’s a significant imprint on the college that we perhaps have not come together at this point in time, given that impact of last summer, the summer of ’20, in ways that could have if COVID had not been present to make that much more complicated. But I think the recruitment of our pre-tenure faculty of color has been significant. And there are long serving faculty of color, Laura Harris and Professor Tongun being two classic examples. So, I do think we have an arc of memory, which is always important as an institution. But I would say one of our challenges is simply in representation of the student population, as well as the faculty population packed in the STEM disciplines.

    Adrian Pantoja: It’s an interesting perspective on this discussion. Ahmed?

    11:09
    Ahmed Alwishah: So, I thought I’m in agreement with my colleagues on this issue. And we just, we had to be inspired to increase the number of faculty, but let me give a different reason. It’s more related to the content of the curriculum itself. And let me be more precise and give a concrete case. Think about in philosophy, for example, we have now as the most popular branches, philosophy of race, and we need to be able to basically, if we want to hire in the future, we really look to have a faculty of color to teach that course. And it’s not just because the content and the quality they bring, it’s the experience of a faculty of color is unique in some way. Let’s reflect on our experience teaching and we will see basically, when you come in teaching in the classroom, and you provide examples related to you, something really has a content within your life, students would pay a great deal of attention, because here is like they are, not you just represents statistics and data and these things, these abstracts, and students, quite frankly, nowadays, with the technology, they can find these things everywhere. So, we’re just not… if we address the case of George Floyd today, we can provide them with all the statistics about police brutality, and so and so on. But when you bring to the case life, like when you bring in, present yourself from these things, in my experience, it means more to the student, and in different content, I see my students, they gravitate more toward that, and they want to inquire further information about these things.

    So my point is the quality of experience that faculty of color brings to education itself is unique. So that adds to the creativity aspect of education and no longer is just people master the content of the subject matter and bring it and present it to the student. Do you have a more dynamic classroom when you have faculty of color representing cases related to her life or his life? I do remember one time, when I was teaching philosophy of race, and I for some reason, for my previous years, I was hesitant to bring any case about my life. I quite frankly was shy to bring that, to be the faculty of color in the classroom or somehow, I have some cases. But at that point, I felt like I had to make that case. So I brought the case when I was traveling for a conference with my daughter and my wife, and somehow I had my daughter for a while while my wife went to the restroom. And she was crying because there is this a separation anxiety as at that time. And so, there’s two white people came and approached me and they said, “Is this is your daughter?” because she has white skin. So, this issue of color is immediately, I mean, that’s the case when I start to bring in my students to the problems and the politics of the race and so many the complexities of this, it came in from a different fashion and different things. So again, I think by reflecting on our experience, we see the value of faculty of color.

    Adrian Pantoja: Yet there’s that’s symbolic representation, but also that substantive, the content is critical to that. Linus?

    14:51
    Linus Yamane: Yes, I certainly agree with everything that everyone has said. I’ll just add that diversity is important for so many different reasons. But one is that it affects the kinds of questions the discipline asks. And so in my own work, I write papers on the mark of discrimination that Asian Americans face in the US. And to be honest, there are, I must say, three or four economists in the entire country that work on this issue, which is to say that most people don’t care about Asian Americans, they don’t care about the discrimination that they face. Nevertheless, it’s a real experience for a large segment of the population. And if we want to come up with good policies for the diverse world that we live in, we need to understand the experiences of everybody in the society. And so, if you don’t have a diverse field, diverse college, you’re not going to learn about what’s really going on in the world around us. And that’s certainly one reason why we need to have more diversity. I mean, not just in economics, but at Pitzer and everywhere.

    Adrian Pantoja: I’m going to jump to the third question that I have here because I also want to open this up to questions from the audience. I bet quite a few people have some questions that they would like to pose to you. What is the state of diversity in your disciplines? We each represent various disciplines, the humanities, the social sciences, interdisciplinary work, the STEMs, economics. Tell me about the state of the discipline, the state of diversity in your discipline. How diverse are these disciplines in the consortium, and how diverse is your field group?

    16:43
    Maria Soldatenko: Could I say something, because I teach in ethnic studies, we are totally integrated. We are the model for the university, I think. Because Chicano Studies, Latino Studies, of course, because it is important to talk about the experience of a particular group. We have to, and we want to have students exposed to our culture and history, and to be represented at all levels; how we think, what we see, what we have lived, our lived experiences, our philosophy of life, all that comes into play. It’s easy to say where we are diversified. We have problems if we start having white faculty members in ethnic studies, we would lose what we are all about, right? The university is majority white-dominated and male as well. We already see the statistics and who predominates in universities and colleges and who has the power. It’s not us, it’s not people of color, it’s not women. This I didn’t mention, and when I was hired at Pitzer, I came both for women’s studies and ethnic studies. They hired me to do both things, which shows you the lack of respect of the institution to gender feminist studies. After I went and “divorced” and went to ethnic studies only, they didn’t hire anybody. It’s always a charity of the faculty in the college that comes up to make up for the lacking of respect, understanding of what gender feminist studies is as an institution. When it comes to diversity, women also come into play, especially one if I want to teach feminism of color and intersectionality. At Pitzer, it’s like, we lost the light, that’s fine. We don’t care. Sum zero point, since we’re talking about the advances, I’m talking about where we’re going backwards, and that’s why I know the fields that comes to mind.

    Adrian Pantoja: And again, you represent a number of fields, both your training as a sociologist, you’ve been in Gender/Women’s Studies and Chicano Studies so you have this perspective of these different disciplines so we can come back to some of those, your experiences, in those disciplines. What about the other disciplines that are represented here?

    19:21
    Muriel Poston: So actually, it’s been quite interesting over the arc of my academic career because women were underrepresented in the biological sciences when I was in graduate school. Now we are the majority of the doctoral recipients. The interesting thing is we’re the super majority of the Baccalaureate recipients and master’s recipients and chemistry is not far behind; it just tipped to 50% of doctoral recipients as well. So, the issue of gender and the STEM disciplines is now much more complex than it was before. Now, clearly this axiom that we don’t see women at senior ranks because they have not moved up sufficiently, I agree with Maria that is not necessarily because they do not have the capacity or have not served a much longer time in mid-career ranks than their male counterparts. And that issue and COVID has had a substantial impact on the progress of women in the last 18 months, with regard to their publication rate, and also in their teaching, and will obviously impact their academic careers moving forward. In the context of race and ethnicity, it was kind of disturbing to me when I gave a talk maybe three or four years ago, to realize that the proportional representation for African American women in the biological sciences was exactly the same as it was when I got my degree. The proportion, there are many more African American women in the biological sciences, because there are many more doctoral degrees being received in the biological sciences, but it still is less than 5%. And that means that the progress because there are simply more people going into the field and receiving advanced degrees, means that our progress has been somewhat stalled.

    Adrian Pantoja: That’s a very interesting perspective in terms of dramatic changes along the dimension of gender. But when you intersect that with race, it’s a static test.

    21:41
    Muriel Poston: And the place that you see that, I’m glad Mita lit up next, because in psychology, the impact has not only been with respect to gender, but there’s been an impact on salary and compensation as well.

    Adrian Pantoja: Let’s segue into psychology. Mita?

    22:03
    Mita Banerjee: I would say it’s a mixed picture, depending also on the subfields. So social psychology, I think, led the way. Social psychology was always from early on, I think, also, because of things that people study, they study the construction of race and gender and those social dynamics and inequalities. And so, there was a large number of African American psychologists, Black community, connected to psychology. There were Latinx faculty in social psychology, but I would say developmental, clinical, and social psych are some of the areas that are quite diverse and in terms of who is getting degrees and who is being hired as faculty members. I think that’s true. I would say we still struggle when it comes to neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, and just straight up cognitive, experimental psychology. And those are areas that are not as diverse. I will give us some kudos, then, that if I think about our field group, our last three hires, and with some intentionality, we have hired superb colleagues, and all three of them are superb colleagues of color. And our last hire was an African American neuroscientist.

    And so again, given the numbers, I think, really being proactive and seeking out, and I know that’s going to be another one of your questions, how do those hires, but I feel like we are a pretty diverse field group. But it was pretty intentional, at least on some of our parts, I won’t say it was unanimous, but on some of our parts, I think there was really a sense that we wanted to go in that direction, we wanted to make sure that those sub areas, and are representative for our students, and also that our students see themselves in the faculty and our students feel comfortable then having those discussions about can I go on to graduate school? How do I do that and have the kind of training that is in the lab sort of training, real world training, and then really this kind of heart-to-heart and you’re going to walk a path that I walked before and let me share with you. That’s our mixed picture in psychology.

    Adrian Pantoja: Yeah, I need to go back; being an undergraduate first-generation college student and not realizing that within these disciplines, there are subfields and those subfields vary dramatically in terms of experiences and who the mentors are, and gender diversity, racial ethnic diversity within those subfields. What about philosophy and economics? I’m curious to hear where those disciplines are in terms of diversity.

    24:52
    Linus Yamane: I don’t think economics looks good at all and I don’t think it’s changed much over time, either because overall because most college students in the United States are female, but 70% of economics majors are male. There’s a lack of diversity there, and then among 20% or so of college students in United States are minority students, only about 11 or 12% of econ majors are minority students in the United States. Asian, both male and female, are overrepresented given their numbers, and white males are overrepresented, but every other group is underrepresented in the field of economics. So white females, so many Latinos, Blacks, Native Americans, are well underrepresented. And then once you go up, the numbers get even worse because Asians, Blacks, Latinos are less likely to get PhDs in the field of economics than white males in particular.

    Adrian Pantoja: What about in the Consortium? Mita alluded to in psychology, the field group, but also in the Consortium, psychology has done a better job to some degree. What about economics at Pitzer and the Consortium?

    26:12
    Linus Yamane: At Pitzer, we don’t have any white males in our field group, and haven’t had any for a while. But overall, I think there must be about 50 economists in Claremont, and I would guess the vast majority are white males. There are plenty of white males, they’re just not at Pitzer, at least in economics.

    Muriel Poston: I was just going to ask Linus a question if I could. Any other of the sister colleges as diverse as Pitzer within economics?

    Linus Yamane: No; no.

    Adrian Pantoja: And I wanted to come back to the question of why that’s the case; what has Pitzer done right and where do we still need to do some more work? What about philosophy?

    27:02
    Ahmed Alwishah: The state of diversity in philosophy is not good, too. The majority of the faculty are white within the 5Cs. At Pitzer, we have just two faculty, so it is a really small discipline. And by and large, if you look to graduate school, it is also well known that philosophy is more or less a discipline for white, less diverse people and people of color. But that has started changing and I attribute that to the fact the focus on philosophy and all the graduate schools has been more or less on the Western tradition, Western philosophy, that’s number one, and also focused on the Anglo-Saxon tradition, it’s more specific. So it’s very close, and probably one of the least disciplines that has interdisciplinarity within it, unlike psychology and sociology and other disciplines where you tend to break out from your discipline. So, we’ll focus on Western tradition and we’ll focus on the Anglo-Saxon tradition and even not on the continental tradition, which most likely, if you open it to the continental philosophy, you will get faculty of color or people more interesting in this regard. So, I believe that the attraction is not there for people of color to come to philosophy and do something really they are passionate about. And there is some crisis in our community, but it is starting to change, as I mentioned. The philosophy of race now is a really important topic in the field, so we see that.

    And if I may, just quickly bridge between the previous question and the recent one. So if we want to increase the diversity of faculty of color in our listings, this is really a cycle. You need to basically, how you do that, you need to, like what Maria said, you need to inspire students. Well, in order to inspire students, you have to hire faculty. And if you don’t inspire students, then most likely this student will go and choose a different type of field and they don’t go to graduate school. So, you start ending the cycle of lack of faculty of color by hiring, by getting this initiative and hiring faculty of color, and that will inspire a student to go to graduate school to be like the professor that taught them and inspired them, so they can go to graduate school. So, we break the cycle, the anti-cycle by doing that.

    Adrian Pantoja: So, the role models are pivotal and maybe that the philosophy of race is going to provide a crack in the wall or the ceiling and that could start bringing in more philosophers into…

    30:06
    Ahmed Alwishah: That’s really the hope is to bring in more. Recently, we hired one faculty in Claremont at CMC, a new faculty, a faculty of color to teach philosophy of race. So that’s really a good progress. But within the 5Cs again, the largest is white men, white males.

    Adrian Pantoja: So let’s talk about the barriers. All of you are veterans, you’ve been here a long time and you’ve been looking at this puzzle for a long time. If somebody wants to diversify the field, wants to bring more faculty of color to Pitzer College, what do you see is the biggest barrier to accomplishing that?

    30:57
    Maria Soldatenko: Well, I don’t belong to sociology or other departments. But I have been on the Diversity Committee where I get a chance to see what candidates they bring to interview. And part of the Diversity Committee’s job when I have been there is to see that the pool of candidates that they bring is diverse. And it is a big battle with most of the faculty I have worked with in the past, to get them to see that they need to have a diverse faculty. To them, diverse means that they are all white, and they come from Ivy Leagues. Most of my experience has been fighting for more inclusivity and actually pay attention to those who didn’t have the chance to go to Harvard or to go to the best colleges as the way in which academia has constructed this hierarchy. And to also understand that people of color come with a particular deep experience and a particular training that is combined and that makes them much more interesting. But people don’t get it; people totally, this means that there is white privilege or white hierarchy in academia, they play the card that we are neutral and objective. We’re just looking at who’s qualified and what’s not. And I think it’s beyond that, because they already have bias against people of color. And that is why for all the time that I have been there in the Diversity Committee over the years, maybe I saw one Black candidate, maybe I saw one, two Latinos because the line called for Latinos, and yet in their search of Latinos, that come with that specialty it was very skewed. It was like they couldn’t see beyond because they don’t recognize us as part of our [inaudible], as people of color. I think they claim to be neutral, objective, I’m color blind, because everybody has equal opportunity. No, no, no, no, no, it is very different and it is problematic to me. I was very frustrated over the years, I had fights with a lot of people, because I tried to diversify the faculty against their will. Part of my experience has been very good at making people upset.

    33:23
    Adrian Pantoja: But the biggest barrier you’re noting are your own colleagues, folks here who, for whatever reasons, have blinders on or are practicing what I can understand the sociologists call colorblind racism. And there is this bias at The Claremont Colleges toward the Ivy Leagues. Well, if you come from an Ivy League, you’re better somehow and therefore, that’s what we want to bring in. And yet many faculty of color are at premier universities, University of Michigan, UCLA, and somehow those can get overlooked under the guise of merit. Other barriers, what would it have been…

    34:13
    Mita Banerjee: I’d like to add to that, and maybe go into our history and remind us, we suspended our affirmative action program, right? And we did that because there were too many people like me, there were too many Asian Americans, according to some of our colleagues. And I will say, not to get into the history too much, but it was across the street, that the alarm was sounded at Keck that Pitzer has already met and exceeded its affirmative action expectations and what we were doing was illegal. Thankfully, it took some time, but we got folks like Kimberly Crenshaw and others in here saying, No, no, no, no, we didn’t violate anything. As a private college, we have every right to try to make ourselves as diverse and we had clear articulation of that when we would do searches, and we have goals. But nonetheless, we suspended the affirmative action program for multiple years before we put something else in place. So, I think that really needs to be recognized that that happened at Pitzer. And that should never have happened at Pitzer, but it did happen. I have had occasion to be on APT [Appointments, Promotion and Tenure Committee] too many times maybe, and see searches there and to be [inaudible]. And then of course, we’ve done searches in our field. So exactly what you were saying, Adrian, it’s that the more subtle kind of conversation like, “Oh, who mentored them?” “Oh, that’s a fantastic mentor, where did they go to school?” and that sort of pedigree lineage. That kind of language that is very loaded, and very racially loaded. But many people in the room having the conversation don’t recognize that; they don’t understand that. And they don’t understand by elevating certain candidates, they are missing out on other incredibly important diverse candidates who didn’t have the opportunities to go to Harvard and Yale and those kinds of places. And you have to have a real deep understanding of inequalities in order to appreciate that. And I would say, it’s not the case that to a person when we’re doing searches, people have that deep understanding. And then you have Maria in the room trying to help people have that understanding. But often it becomes an oppositional kind of moment. So, I would say those are some of the barriers. We are more comfortable in the academy with white folks teaching Latin American Studies and Africana Studies, than we are with people from those diasporas in those communities. And that’s just the ugly truth of it.

    36:44
    Muriel Poston: What Mita says is true, and I think that’s because Pitzer has had a history of recruiting faculty based on a credentialing pattern that may not be, historically, have been as inclusive as possible, and a sense of relegating public universities as lesser than, although anybody that’s put the University of Michigan out to the side, it’s just well, we won’t go there. But I do think that there are places where we have not had the impact we should, and we do not serve in a diversity committee capacity, and Keck Sciences is one. The diversity in Keck Science now is primarily among the pre-tenure faculty, they do not have any faculty from the African diaspora, they have continued to hire any faculty representing that racial demographic as visitors, but not as tenure or tenure track lines. And they, only senior colleagues that are there, at least (I may be on thin ice here, but I’ll say it), I think are Asian. And that, I think, represents its own challenging dynamic in the sense of what folks are comfortable with. When they do searches within Keck Science, and how we might have an impact on that, particularly with the changes coming to Keck, is something we should be taking up. Because we have an increasing student population interested in the sciences, who are not having the opportunity to be mentored, as perhaps we might hope.

    38:37
    Ahmed Alwishah: I think one way to increase that is to target certain institutions where faculty of color exist, or from basically the graduate students or they have a rich, rich, diverse program. So that would be a good way to recruit more faculty to Pitzer. But I want to say, and so what my advice is, basically the extra mile, we have to go the extra mile, in order to do that. It’s not just post the position in certain places and waiting for the quality of certain faculty will come to us and we expect those people who came from Yale or Harvard or [inaudible], and we let them in on Western equality, but we got to really go this extra mile and recruit people in certain institutions and look for that quality in ourselves.

    But I want to remind ourselves to say during the interview, it’s likely the faculty of color or the person of color, is less prepared than the white person. And that’s really kind of like most of the cases on let’s prepare for the interview. And this has to do with the graduate school because they don’t really invest a great deal on the graduate students to prepare them for the interview. And I see many cases of that. And it’s really a terrible thing to do in graduate school, they don’t have that investment on the undergrad and graduate students to prepare them for the interview. And this is a crucial thing. So, you will see most of them, they have their hesitation, they have also, being a faculty of color, you have a lot of psychological anxiety in the sense of facing these certain things. But in terms of the preparation, I think graduate school should do more work, and more to prepare the students of color to go and face these types of interviews.

    I saw last year, for example, at Pomona, a faculty of color was brilliant, was excellent in every single thing, but there is a certain thing that they have not really prepared that person for the interview, for certain things. And that really, we have to work on that. And we have to keep it in our mind what they did in their graduate school, were they not prepared well? So, we take that in our consideration instead of just looking for, “Oh, this person responded perfectly for this question, or this person has a clear idea about these things.” Because quite frankly, sometimes the interview is just a game. You master it and in so many ways you respond to the right thing, you get the correct things but at the end of the day, that really does not show the quality of the person itself. So there is something we need to remind ourself of.

    Adrian Pantoja: In terms of the intentionality or going the extra mile and broader understandings of qualifications; while there might not be as much bias in terms of the graduate pedigree, I do see it in terms of undergrads; that is, if you’re going to teach at The Claremont Colleges, if you came from a liberal arts college, you get these extra points. And we know liberal arts colleges are probably some of the least diverse colleges in the country. So, you get that cycle of people hiring people that look like them. Linus, what are your thoughts in terms of some of the biggest barriers that you’ve seen?

    42:13
    Linus Yamane: Pitzer College used to be a member of the Consortium for Faculty Diversity, it used to be called the Consortium for Stronger Minority Presence in Liberal Arts Colleges or something, they changed the name, but I thought it was really good when we were a member of it. And for some reason, we’re not a member anymore. But it’s basically a group of liberal arts colleges that work together to increase the diversity of our faculties. A lot of minority students don’t know about liberal arts colleges; a lot of people in general don’t know about liberal arts colleges. And they did a good job of getting the word out and saying that this is a good career, working in small liberal arts colleges, and so I’d really push for having Pitzer become a member again, and using that to help bring faculty of color to Pitzer.

    Muriel Poston: The last faculty member who came from the consortium was African American and was in environmental analysis.

    43:15
    Adrian Pantoja: So, there are resources out there that folks may not be aware of, and those need to be brought to the forefront. And this discussion is helping to do that. I also appreciate some of the not so pretty history at Pitzer College, the suspension of our affirmative action policy, the lack of diversity in some of the areas in STEM that has not done a good job in terms of faculty diversity. And I will say that some of the most heated debates I’ve had at this college, you might even say shouting exchanges that I had, were over issues of faculty diversity. So, it’s not everyone’s on board, and we’re all very supportive of diversifying the college; you do have these challenges.

    Let me go with one final question and I want to open it up to the audience. And the final question I have is, what should we be doing differently at Pitzer College? Linus already mentioned one of these programs, but what else should we be doing in terms of continuing this path forward?

    44:34
    Muriel Poston: Well, I thought Mita had, earlier on, was the intentionality of the recruitment. Because if you craft the ad, if you do the outreach to the graduate programs, and if you pay attention at professional meetings to folks that are students, graduate students, postdocs that are coming along and connect with them, it helps to give you a much greater pool of potential candidates when you are able to recruit. And I think those are the kinds of practices, institutions that have been somewhat successful in diversifying their faculty, have been able to leverage in significant ways. And so I think that those are practices that are well known to many institutions, but ones that we might not practice as intentionally as I think psychology has, and the recruitment of their last three faculty members.

    45:36
    Maria Soldatenko: And also, we need following what Mita and everybody else has said, and Muriel, that we need an active administration of this college to do the work. When I have the fights in APT about diversity and who came in the pool, and who was immediate, who was excluded from it, and there was no support. I expected the dean and others to step in and speak up, too. No, it was accepted; we are not doing their job, we don’t care. We are here in this APT meeting deciding who is coming. When I’m bringing a case that no, you’re missing out, boy, you’re missing out in terms of diversity. So, leaving it to field groups is already messed up. Because we know with some field groups, they resist to have a diverse field group. And you can see the landscape; look around, look around and who is missing, who is all white, or has one token, and they don’t want anybody else because they feel they have done their job. So, I think it comes from above. It starts with the president and the rest of the administration and insist, these are the rules we’re following. But if we just come to APT, by the time they are making the decision of who they are hiring and say, we did everything you told us, and we didn’t find anybody, anybody that we like, but this person that really doesn’t meet the criteria of bringing minority faculty members, right? And look in terms of the numbers, and also the geographic location. We are in California, we should have more Latinos in California, right? And when they cut affirmative action back in the day, you will look at the demographic impact. Who’s there? Who’s there? When we talk about race, and I know it is very important that Black Lives Matter and it’s become very salient. But usually in colleges, when they think about race, they only think about Black. They don’t think Asian or Latinos, or American Indians. It becomes about as “Okay, well, let’s think of race as being a Black person,” which I support, I’m not against it. But I think that it’s this binary in which they only see white and Black. And that is problematic, because according to where you live in and where the university is, and colleagues that are coming to these colleges, then the college should be starting to think in more complex ways about race and ethnicity. But usually, they want to solve it with let’s bring in a Black person.

    48:21
    Mita Banerjee: I think we have to also consider what we used to call target of opportunity, those target positions, whether it’s at the field group level, or APT, talking in terms of faculty lines. So we don’t have any Native faculty. So how do we build, first of all, a community that can support that, and so that if that person comes that they will be nourished and nurtured here, as opposed to feel like they are having to fight the entire academy. And so, I think we have things to think about there, but also field groups making a decision like OS [Organizational Studies] did to target a position and not do a full search, but to bring in particular people of color who we think will be a good fit. And so, I think we need to do that more. Talk about University of Michigan, my alma mater, they were doing that 30 years ago pretty well and did a really good job in a lot of departments of bringing in folks and people I know got hired in those positions. And I think we need to figure out how we can do that more and to have the strategic planning between field groups and faculty lines and when new lines come available.

    49:32
    Adrian Pantoja: I was going to say there’s a lot there and meet in terms of the target of opportunities. Since I’ve been here, I came here in 2006, I’ve only seen that used once. At other institutions, there are practices of cluster hires. I’ve never seen any type of cluster hire, there probably never has been a cluster of hire at Pitzer College. And there was another point in terms of…

    Muriel Poston: Adrian, I have a question. Has Pitzer ever turned down a search because it did not have a diverse pool?

    Mita Banerjee: They’ve said they would, they’ve threatened it, but then they haven’t at least in my 29, 30 years.

    Muriel Poston: I think that’s a telling thing. If we’re truly committed, we would have said, you have major recommendations, and I think it really does fall on the administration to say we won’t accept it.

    50:34
    Ahmed Alwishah: And that’s really the APT has the power to do that. It is not the field group who decided these things. May I add on a couple things? One thing is basically to open a new line, design to recruit faculty of color. That could be another thing, especially if we, I mean we have a financial limitation at Pitzer. But in the future, if we really put our effort to create a baseline and specifically designed to recruit faculty of color, that will be good. Another thing is, I will think, is basically diversify your curriculum. And by doing so that has more potential to bring more faculty of color. So, thinking about, for example, the cases of replacement position; a replacement position, we have this propensity to think a replacement position has to be duplicated. But it shouldn’t be duplicated, it should be like, this is an opportunity for the field group to consider the possibility of bringing more diverse subject matters which allow more diverse faculty of color to join and to have that cases. So that could be something we should think along the line for the future.

    51:48
    Adrian Pantoja: You brought up the other point that Mita had mentioned that I was having a hard time recalling, and that was the allocation of lines. There’s a lot of discussion that Pitzer is going to be growing, expanding its student population, expanding its faculty lines, and those are very coveted. How do we then begin thinking about the allocation of those lines? And what Muriel noted in terms of stopping searches? Has that ever happened? I think Maria is one of those persons that has tried to stop a search through the Diversity Committee; sending letters, but people have not exercised that prerogative.

    Let me open it up to Q&A. There’s a few here in the chat, and a couple are asking about the role of alumni. What can alumni do to hire and help keep faculty of color? And what could alumni do to shut down a search? So alumni, do they have a role to play? Would you want them to have a role to play? Thoughts on that?

    52:58
    Maria Soldatenko: I do, but usually they are confidential.

    Muriel Poston: Not necessarily, alumni serve on the Board of Trustees. I think these are issues that can be brought before the Board. Because ultimately, if the administration is going to have the responsibility of disrupting a search, it would be the Board that could hold them accountable and alumni can leverage in that capacity, regardless of financial capacity, because I noticed there were a couple of comments about that. There was one question, Mita, that went directly to you, about white supremacist hiring practices. Do you see that one? She was definitely giving a shout out to Mita.

    53:47
    Mita Banerjee: Give a shout out to me? But I think that’s a Pitzer alum and student and friend of mine, too, I would say. I think we touched a little bit on that when we’re talking about the hiring practices. And I would say you don’t see full-on white supremacist hiring practices on our campus, but you see those subtle ways of kind of furthering those white supremacist goals. So, I think that that’s kind of the place where we live as a college and where we need to try to really stand up more, decide that we’re going to… I’ve been in the room and on APT when we have those conversations about, “Should we stop the search?” then everybody pussyfoots around, like, “Oh, but this poor field group has worked so hard,” and it’s like, we need to make the tough calls. And I think, especially when we feel like the goals are not being met of trying to diversify the college and diversify fields, often it’s one of those things where the fields that are diverse are really good at seeking out more diversity and the fields that have been closed off to diversity are really the difficult ones to get inroads into. So I don’t know if that answers that question; I can’t see her, but she’s here somewhere. That’s my take, but others, if you want to jump in on that one or the other questions there.

    55:13
    Adrian Pantoja: There’s some questions about the role of student protests in faculty diversity. And I opened up this discussion by discussing the letters that were submitted by the Black Student Union calling for greater representation of African American faculty, the letters by Asian staff, Asian American staff, faculty, about greater representation; so that political pressure, is it useful? Is it helpful? Does it work?

    55:41
    Linus Yamane: Yes, I think it’s critical. And I think if you look at the history of The Claremont Colleges, all the good changes that I’ve seen were the result of student protests. So Pitzer students took over Broad Hall, years ago, they’ve taken over Alexander Hall. And every time they do that, they don’t get everything they asked for, but they get the college moving in that direction. And so, the positive impacts, I credit, the students for all the good things that have happened over the last several decades.

    56:13
    Ahmed Alwishah: And they’ve done it across all the major universities, not just at Pitzer, like Yale and others, that protests had a tremendous influence on making these decisions and these changes. So it’s absolutely helpful. It’s not just helpful, actually, that’s the reason why we are discussing it.

    Mita Banerjee: A year or two before I was hired, and Linus will remember this because he was probably one of the faculty supporters for the students who were pushing for… we have a center for Asian Pacific American students, and for Asian American Studies, so it was really the students pushing for that. And so, I was lucky to come into a situation where there were many students who were like, “Welcome. We’ve been fighting for more Asian American faculty and for more focus on Asian American Studies.” And so that was even in more recent years… (it’s 30 years ago, it’s not recent). But I would say that our students continue to push the envelope in that way. And the question about alums, I think we need to, when we’re posting searches, to share that more broadly with alums. Early on, maybe even when we’re framing those applications, or those postings because they have come through grad school more recently, they have networks. And so, I think alums can be really helpful in pointing us to, “Well, here are some places. And here’s some names of people who can really connect you with diverse candidates.” So, I think we underuse our alums; the resource is there.

    57:45
    Adrian Pantoja: That a great way to end this discussion, and I’d love to go on. But mobilize, mobilize, mobilize the power of our students, the power of the alumni. Get involved, stay engaged, hold us accountable, hold the college accountable, hold the faculty, hold all of us accountable to what is happening at Pitzer College.

    So with that, I’d like to thank all of the panelists for this wonderful discussion. And I look forward to continuing these discussions and ultimately implementing policies and strategies for continuing this work. So thank you, everyone, and have a wonderful evening.