Low diversity in staff draws unnecessary attention
Nidhi GotgiManaging Editor
POSTEDSeptember 8, 2015
Dallas Morning News article criticizes UTD faculty for not representing enough racial backgrounds to reflect growing student population
One of the things I like best about UTD is the diversity and open-mindedness of the people here. People of different backgrounds support each other in celebrating one another’s holidays, while professors and staff bring many interesting lines of thought to the table. I’ve never felt like I couldn’t approach them with my own perspectives.
So you can imagine my surprise when I read an article in The Dallas Morning News earlier this year that mentioned a UTD student who found it hard to relate to her professors because they were a different race than her. I’ve found the case to be the exact opposite.
The DMN article claims that the academic staff at UTD isn’t varied enough to meet the diversity goals that the university set for itself. The article states that this is expected to cause student retention rates to go down, especially for women and minority groups because they don’t have role models of the same gender or race to look up to.
I don’t believe that race has anything to do with being a role model. I’ve been inspired by each of my professors in a different way without ever considering where they’re from. It’s their level of professionalism, how knowledgeable they are, their accomplishments and the way they present themselves that cause me to respect them.
Having a different racial background than my professors has actually increased my opportunities at building a network with them, because what sets me apart gives me something to talk about. They’ve always been willing to listen.
Even though the numbers show that 65.1 percent of the faculty is white, a professor’s race has never registered in my mind when I’m in a class. I’ve tried to get to know each of my professors outside of the classroom setting and I’ve never had trouble finding common ground with them.
I particularly remember discussing going to an Indian wedding with one of my white male professors. He was intrigued by my descriptions and expressed an interest in what I had to say. He was culturally sensitive and asked the right questions. I respected him even more for being so receptive of my ideas, even though he wasn’t familiar with them.
It’s because of the supportive nature of the professors here that I don’t find it difficult to establish a group of mentors in my life, regardless of their race.
Out of the 17 classes I’ve taken, only six of my professors have been white males. More than half of them have been female. Incorporating global attitudes — especially on sensitive issues — was something all of my professors actively strived for. They encouraged conversations that allowed students from all walks of life to participate. They were conscious of the people they were influencing and acted accordingly. That’s what makes good role models.
Overall, even though the diversity of faculty and staff isn’t reflected in the numbers available to the public, the atmosphere at the university is much different. The attitudes and beliefs of those around me make me feel like I’m part of a community. The support system here is tight-knit and that helps us grow as a unit — the campus and each and every one of its students.