FSU Sees Historic Increase in Minority Enrollment, Yet Faculty Diversity Remains Constant
Currently, Frostburg State University is experiencing some of the highest rates of minority enrollment in the history of the school. However, the rate of minority faculty members remains at relatively low numbers, and students are beginning to notice the issue. Director of the Student Diversity Center Robin. V. Wynder gave some insight on this issue.
“It’s sad; there was a point that there were close to three dozen black faculty and staff,” Wynder said. “We do have African staff as well as Asian American and Hispanic, but we had black faculty members, a black Liberian; we also had black members in student’s affairs offices and in residence life. Unfortunately, that really is not the case now.”
According to Wynder, one of the potential reasons for this change in faculty diversity includes lower income levels.
“The pay is appropriate for the region, but why would you come here and make $50,000 when you could go to College Park and make $100, 000,” Wynder said. “While this pay scale involves everybody, black faculty members specifically with terminal degrees are in high demand.”
She also stated that many young, single black professionals that are recruited to the school have a hard time finding a social scene in Western Maryland. As a result, many of these professors become “suitcase professionals” and spend their time commuting which can become weary.
As a previous student of FSU, Wynder has seen the changes that the school has experienced over the years first-handily.
“I came here as a student, and when I came there were around fifty black students, but then fifty of us came in at one time so we doubled the population.” Wynder said. “And the schools population was around 2,500 around then, so we weren’t even around one percent at that time. But the population has changed tremendously since that time, and the numbers continue to increase along with the identities of the campus population.”
Some of the reasons for this increase in black minority students were intentional recruitment efforts and word-of-mouth referrals. However, FSU’s Hispanic and Asian American populations remain low even with the growth in international studies acting as a large part in the diversification of the campus population.
In addition, Wynder admits that her job has evolved over the years and that her office was originally created with the sole purpose of providing support to racial minority students that were coming to the university in a population that had almost been 100 percent white.
However, as the population at FSU has grown, the needs have changed. While up until the year 2000 the Student Diversity Center had focused primarily on offering support to minority students, the office’s current goal is to serve all students and help reach one of the universities goals of graduating culturally intelligent people.
Similarly, the Black Student Alliance (BSA) on campus shares a common goal of promoting positivity and excellence amongst campus students. BSA president and New Jersey native Shaniya Johnson feels that the lack of minority faculty representation is definitely noticeable.
“I would say that there is definitely a lack, but because of the location it is not hard to foresee why we do not have a lot of minority faculty,” said Johnson. “However, the minority faculty that we do have on campus does an excellent job, like Dr. Wynder and Dr. Hill. Even non-minority teachers such as Dr. Armiento are great at making minority students feel included and represented.
Although Johnson admits that she has only had one minority professor of Asian descent, she feels that having a minority professor of your own race can add a new layer of learning in a student’s college experience.
She claims that some of her friends who are taking Wynder’s African Women Studies class have stated that they have learned more about themselves through the analysis of cultural movies such as “The Color Purple,” and that the class has sparked some great discussion on campus for all students.
Wynder also sees the value in having these discussions and feels strongly that the lack of minority faculty representation is not an issue that just affects POC, but also students who do not identify with a minority group.
“It’s actually a detriment to the whole student population,” she said. “It’s a detriment to the black students because they do not have enough people in the classroom who look like them or may have similar life experience and worldview as them, but is a detriment to the whole campus because college students should have diversity in their academic experiences and if it’s kind of monochromatic then students are not getting a complete picture.”
Although Wynder acknowledges that the diversity within the faculty has drastically changed, she admits that there are other issues that could prevent a specific effort of recruiting minority staff members.
“There might be some legal concerns that might stall some efforts,” Wynder said. “Like the whole issue of affirmative action and meeting quotas so it might be better to air on the side of caution. But my experiences from going to national conferences and talking with professors from different institutions is that it takes bold moves in order to achieve.”
Wynder recognizes that “bold moves” from potential minority members will be the vital factor in changing the face of the university staff.
“We can’t import significant others for people, we cannot change the social face of the region, we’re in Appalachia and that’s just the reality,” Wynder said. “So it would take bold moves on both sides and a young professor that is willing to take that risk and do something different for at least a time to start out.”