An Uphill Battle: Seeking Faculty Diversity

by Terry Davis

The journey to achieving a diverse faculty within law schools is an uphill battle. Many studies have taken place showing statistical data of diversity in faculty trails their representation amongst the American population as a whole. For instance, legal academia consists of only thirty-seven percent female of the population while individuals of color make up only fifteen percent of the population. True parity cannot be met until the percentage of tenured faculty matches their respective percentage of the United States population.

A diverse faculty should strive to reach all areas of race, gender, sexuality, and culture. It should not stop solely at a particular race. The Diversity in Legal Academia (DLA) study looks at the faculty experience of females and males of diverse backgrounds to discuss where improvements are needed. Law schools are merely one of many institutions in society that subtly discriminate against minorities as a whole. This can be demonstrated solely on the lack of tenured professors that are females, and even more so who are of a minority group. Minority non-tenured professors are not permitted the same levels of opportunities that a tenured white male professor would receive. There are accounts of minorities treated like the unintelligent ones who were the “affirmative action hires” while white males hired at the same time were treated like the “real hire.”

Having a non-diverse tenured faculty not only harms the image of the law school, but it also may hinder the success of its students. It may decrease minority enrollment and increase attrition rates. Students who are minorities may lack identifiable role models to whom they can identify with, and as a result may feel out of place in a law school environment. Having relatable faculty members to identify may be one of the only grasping helplines that a student has to survive the arduous journey of law school. On the opposite side, a classroom of a primary white demographic may hinder the effectiveness of a minority professor. There may be skepticism that the professor is less qualified to teach or even a desire to question the professor’s expertise on the subject.

The high-status position of “law professor” should be one rewarding merit and rejecting any bias based on identity. By improving the diversity environment in law school faculties, teaching is enriched, legal education gains a variety of perspectives; but more importantly it serves as an example to other professional and education environments on the contributions to social change on a general basis. With faculty diversity in legal academia there are no losers. The legal profession comes out ahead when all faculties can see each other as equals and can grow through respectful interaction. At the same time it creates an example for all students to work in a society with people who may not look the same way as them, but approach legal academics with the same desire of mastering the law.

Meera E. Deo, The Ugly Truth About Legal Academia, 80 Brook. L. Rev. 943 (2015).

Robert Case, Faculty Diversity, The Law School’s Bottom Line, And A Snapshot Of American Social Equity, 8 Widener J. of L. Econ & Race 1 (2017).

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