Cuts Disproportionately Hurts Faculty of Color

The past two weeks have presented a maelstrom of criticism as the Emory community has reeled from the unexpected cuts to various departments.  It has become clear that the effects of these cuts will be felt across the campus and not solely in the departments which are named in Dean Forman’s plan.  One of the greatest effects, however—the removal and/or redistribution of departments and programs with the greatest numbers of faculty and graduate students of color and with some of the most demonstrable commitments to and engagements with critical race scholarship—has barely been touched upon.

According to Emory’s 2009 Diversity profile report, only 7 departments reported over 25% faculty of color.  Of these 7 departments, 4 are up for cuts.  These include The Department of Education Studies (45.5% faculty of color), Physical Education (25% faculty of color), Russian and East Asian Languages (40% faculty of color), and Spanish and Portuguese (46% faculty of color).

What is even more shocking is that, in this 2009 report, a whopping 25% of all faculty of color come from the four departments named above.  Of these 21 faculty of color, only 5 had tenure in 2009.  Which means a solid 75% of the faculty of color in the above mentioned departments are likely to lose their jobs.  Even tenured faculty, all nationally and internationally renowned scholars, are unlikely to stay.  Which is to say that these cuts, in addition to terminating departments, are essentially terminating roughly 25% of the faculty of color.

What’s more, these numbers say nothing of the graduate students in the effected departments.  Although the demographic numbers for graduate students in individual departments are not readily available, a quick perusal of student profiles in the ILA and the DES, for example, makes clear that these departments have a strong commitment to and support of not only of engagements with scholarly projects on race and racism but also of graduate students of color, regardless of their interest.

To be sure, Emory has made clear commitments to diversity within the college.  In recent years, Emory has stepped up recruitment of African American and Latino undergraduate students.  Emory continues to reach out to high school students of color through programs such as Éxito Emory and The Essence of Emory Program.  And just last year Emory boasted over 51% non-white students in its first year class.

Similarly, Emory has endeavored to build a more diverse faculty in its hiring practices.   This year Philosophy hired its first African American scholar who works directly on philosophies and politics of race.   My own department, WGSS, has recently announced that we will be hiring a scholar of Black Feminist Thought to fill the recent gap in our program.

While these are all important commitments, what do they mean when departments such as the ILA or DES, with such a strong and prominent commitment to critical race studies and to scholars of color, can so quickly be deemed inessential?

A central theme in the justifications of these cuts has been an investment in a vision of Emory’s future.  But we must ask: where is “diversity” in this vision? What is this future when programs in which diversity is not a goal for tomorrow but a well achieved practice of today are no longer deemed essential? The disproportionate effect these cuts will have on faculty and graduate students of color and on critical race scholarship at Emory is not only disappointing, it is downright deplorable.

Mairead Sullivan is a Graduate Fellow in the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.