A3C student survey probes feelings on faculty diversity

March 4, 2013, 11:33 p.m.

Undergraduate representatives of the Asian American Activities Center recently sent out a new student survey on faculty diversity in an effort to inform and advance advocacy efforts for a broader range of backgrounds within the faculty body, according to involved students.

The online survey, which was created by Van Anh Tran ’13 and Michael Tayag ’13, was sent to several Asian American student mailing lists. The survey involved a series of questions about academic and research interests and asked students whether or not they were satisfied with the current course offerings in the Asian American Studies program. The survey also solicited student feedback on what other courses they would like to see the program offer.

Tran and Tayag worked with David Palumbo-Liu, director of the Asian American Studies program, to formulate the survey questions. They plan to present the results to members of the Faculty Diversity Initiative (FDI), which was created in 2007 with the goal of recruiting diverse scholars focused on the study of race and ethnicity and fostering faculty diversity.

“We just want to see what kind of research and academic interests students have, so that would support the faculty diversity committee in identifying what kind of candidates they should look for,” Tayag said.

According to 2013 statistics released by the University, non-minorities compose 74 percent of Stanford’s faculty. Although Asian faculty members are the best-represented minority, they constitute only 14 percent of Stanford’s faculty.

Albert Camarillo, professor of history and special assistant to the provost for faculty diversity, said that while the University considers how potential hires would contribute to campus diversity, faculty searches “vary widely” in their success in finding diverse candidates.

“The historically underrepresented groups continue to be very underrepresented,” Camarillo said, adding that the progress in cultivating faculty diversity has been “slow and very modest.”

Tran said that students are “really aware” of this slow progress and emphasized that the survey was created in order to help “get the process rolling more.”

Both Tran and Tayag said that they were particularly concerned with the number of Asian American faculty members in humanities and social science departments. Tran, who is pursuing an honors thesis in public history, said that she has been disappointed by the scarcity of faculty with Asian American research interests.

“My adviser doesn’t know much about my field specifically,” Tran said, adding that though this made the process “difficult,” her adviser was supportive and helpful.

According to Tran, most Asian American faculty members currently teach in the School of Medicine or the department of engineering. Tran said that though the department of sociology last year considered a series of Asian American candidates, none of them were ultimately hired.

“A lot of the time when the University does things, students don’t have too much of a say,” Tran said. “This is something that affects us a lot, so for me, this is just showing how much students care about the subject.”

Camarillo praised the student survey, noting that any information gathered on the topic of faculty diversity is helpful.

“It’s important to know how students view the faculty,” Camarillo said. “Are they engaging with faculty from diverse backgrounds? Do they feel there needs to be more faculty of diverse backgrounds in the classroom? That is all useful.”

According to Tran, 30 students have participated in the survey so far. Although Tran and Tayag have not yet decided how they will release the survey results, Palumbo-Liu expressed hope that the findings are widely published.

“I think it’s a very good idea to have a survey like this, because then you operate on the basis of better information rather than just hearsay or assumptions about how people feel about things,” he said.

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