Presidential searches at colleges still favor white candidates, report says

This audio is generated automatically. Please let us know if you have any comments.

Diving Brief:

  • College presidents remain overwhelmingly white and male, and the search processes for these executives often reinforce racial barriers, a new report from the College Futures Foundation found.
  • The California-based foundation aims to improve college graduation in the state. He detailed in the report how even public higher education systems with racially diverse student bodies — like the University of California and California State University — have employed remarkably few leaders of color during their tenure. stories.
  • Only 11% of UC’s campus chancellors have been people of color since the system’s founding in 1868. And only 19% of Cal State’s campus presidents have been public servants of color since its inception in 1857.

Overview of the dive:

It’s well known that white males typically dominate college presidencies, and these ingrained expectations can drive candidates away from these positions. More than 80% of presidents were white in 2016, according to most national data recently available of the American Council on Education.

In the six years since the lobby group released the data, the United States has undergone racial reckoning spanning multiple aspects of American life. Despite increased attention to these issues, the College Futures report finds that little has changed to attract and hire more diverse prospects into leadership positions.

College Futures researchers interviewed a contingent of UC and California state officials and representatives from research companies. Bensimon & Associates, an organization dedicated to advancing racial equity, produced the report for the foundation.

Presidents of color within the two California systems said that during the interview process, they felt they had to prove they had “assimilated” and “speak white,” the report said.

Search committees would screen out applicants with accents, “voluminous hair” or “thick jewelry,” trustees told the foundation. Prospects said they felt they had to meet a white standard to be seriously considered.

These committees can exacerbate racial divisions in other ways. Search committees can isolate meetings from the public, allowing members to more freely express racism and sexism, the report says. Even if their comments are not explicitly discriminatory, they may show applicants who are women or racial minorities that they are not welcome.

Thus, administrators need to learn the “hidden agenda” of navigating presidential interviews and will likely need the support of others to do so, the report says. Presidents of color would enroll in executive leadership programs to get mentorship on this, while white presidents said they don’t need that coaching.

Executive Search Firms, increasingly used by colleges to land their next leaders, are doing little to ease those barriers, the report says. These companies tend to ignore the differing experiences between white candidates and other racial minorities and often rely on the same network of officials, who may be predominantly white, to find presidents.

Even though the research is rife with bias, companies “tend to believe that presidential research now occurs under ‘post-racial’ conditions, namely that racism and racial bias are no longer barriers to hiring people. university presidents,” the report said.

Boards of directors, which typically make final hiring decisions, also don’t prioritize racial and gender equity, he says.

Once leaders of color reach the presidency, they continue to face bias, sometimes in subtle ways, the report says. In one instance, a president of color said he was asked at a meeting of college executives what his role was at the institution.

“This seemingly innocent question is racial microaggression: Underlying it is the assumption that a person of color cannot be the president and therefore must be someone else,” the report said.

The foundation published an accompanying toolbox with suggestions on improving racial and gender equity in research processes. They include hiring race-conscious search firms, focusing on racial equity during those processes, and framing job descriptions to accommodate more diverse applicants.

“We realize that changing a process as large as the presidential search is not easy,” the researchers wrote. “The process is subject to policies, procedures and standards that have been in place for a long time and, in general, once something is institutionalized, reform is difficult.”

Leave a Reply