Where Are The Black Professors?

SJU’s Faculty Diversity Problem


At the beginning of every semester over the past four years, I’ve found myself wondering whether I would have another black professor. Not six, not five, not even three; just one — one black professor that I could racially relate to. But as I’m three weeks into my last semester of undergrad, I’ve realized that there are no semesters left to continue wondering. And I would have to face the fact that out of the 40 professors that I had over the years, only one was black, and I will never forget her.

Do you remember touring St. John’s University’s Queen’s campus for the first time? The Student Ambassador telling you the history of the college and showing you all the buildings and places to eat. 

Well, the one thing they highlighted which sold me as a prospective student was their claims to continue making diversity among students and faculty a main priority. SJU even has a university inclusivity statement dedicated to this mission — and an Equity and Inclusion Council whose tasks include “recruit[ing] and retain[ing] faculty, administrators and staff from historically underrepresented groups” to “foster[ing] a more inclusive campus climate.” You would think diversity would be the least of SJU’s problems because of all the committees and promises. But those committees and promises only seem to serve one purpose: to just exist. 

As of fall 2018, St. John’s University Office of Institutional Research reported that only 29 percent of SJU’s full-time faculty were people of color. But as highlighted in the Torch last semester, “Few Faculty Members of Color,” the diversity among faculty dropped when three professors quit. And although each had their own reasoning for leaving, at least two seemed to point to an issue they had with the lack of diversity among faculty. This led me to believe that if professors themselves have issues with the lack of diversity, then should “where are the black professors” even be a question?

It’s clear that SJU has a diversity problem amongst its faculty. And every time I’m in a classroom, I’m reminded of this problem. 

I understand SJU’s effort, but what is effort without results? It’s 2020; diversity is more important than ever and people need to see themselves represented in their communities. There’s absolutely no excuse for another student to go through their entire undergrad without having more than one black professor. 

Last year on behalf of SJU, St. John’s President Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw said that the hiring process also depends on the support of “the student body to encourage diversifying the campus in terms of both gender and race.” 

Well, despite SJU’s hiring freeze, as someone who is a part of the student body, I am encouraging more efforts toward hiring black professors. Now it’s your move.