University curriculum and faculty increasingly struggle to keep up with the diversity of the modern student body. In other words, students spend too much time learning about dead white males, as the common criticism runs. Although most college students are no longer young white men, the majority of the classes still hold to a very limited scope.
Despite its all-male student body at the college’s founding, 58.8% of the students at Saint Peter’s are now women. According to a study done from North Dakota State University, women only make up 24% of full professors nationwide, and the Department of Education states that white professors still make up 70.7% of those employed in postsecondary institutions. Saint Peter’s is a little more even when it comes to their professorial staff: 52 male professors and 49 female.
Furthermore, diversity at Saint Peter’s has exploded past even the national average in terms of ethnicity. However, the number of full-time professors from minority groups does not reflect the high percentage of these groups in the student body. While Hispanic students make up the largest percentage of the Saint Peter’s student body, this is among the smallest group of professors, with only two female and one male Hispanic professor.
“Ideally, every professor could teach any subject to every ethnicity and every gender,” said Fatima Shaik, a Black American professor of communications. “But in reality, these aren’t part of [everyone’s] everyday conversations. I’ve lived it and taught it.”
Shaik, who began her education in the segregated South, formed a group with the other 12 black women in her high school to study the works of writers who composed a world more similar to hers than those one they read in their curriculum. Shaik has since brought the study of Black literature and film to Saint Peter’s.
However, Saint Peter’s diversity also still works within the traditional university subjects. Dr. Kristina Chew is a Chinese American Classics professor. “I do think that the students enrolled in my Classics (Latin, ancient Greek, classical civilization) are definitely diverse and lend a very unique perspective on the study of the ancient world,” said Chew in an email interview, especially given that studying a subject like Classics tends to be associated (historically and traditionally) with a far less diverse population of individuals.”
Chew continues, “The extent to which one sees individuals representing different diversities — ethnic, religious, LGBT — on campus varies.”
Colleges nationwide need to take a closer look at both their faculty and their student body, to see whether they match. If students feel detached from the works of the dead white men they’re studying, their grades and their satisfaction with the university are likely to reflect that detachment.
Although Saint Peter’s commitment to diversity is admirable, they’d do better to remember this the next time a spot opens up in the faculty. The expansion of diversity in student body needs to be reflected in the professorial staff.