On Jan. 12, the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, Warwick Arden, announced the release of the “Black Faculty Retention and Success Task Force: Final Report, Spring 2023.”

Vice Chancellor Arden’s email to students stated that the task force was created in Oct. 2022 to “make recommendations that support the retention, success and well-being of Black Faculty at NC State across all ranks
and tracks.”

The task force is led by Vice Chancellor and Dean for the Division of Academic and Student Affairs, Doneka R. Scott, and Assistant Vice Provost for Faculty Engagement, Jai Jackson. There were a lot of factors that went into the creation of this retention plan. Some of these factors include: the shared experiences of Black faculty at NC State, the recommendation from the 2013 Black Faculty Representation Working Group and innovative practices from higher education institutions around the U.S.

In the report, members of the task force list strategies the university can undertake at the department, college and higher university level to recruit and retain Black faculty. These recommendations are intended to help NC State University move forward with its commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

The online report begins with addressing the lack of representation of Black faculty in higher education. “The underrepresentation of Black Faculty in American higher education has been a persistent problem for several years. Despite some efforts to improve diversity and inclusion, the number of Black faculty remains significantly low.”

The report goes on to explain why this issue persists despite efforts to improve diversity on university campuses nationwide. “Retaining Black faculty in academics remains a challenge due to factors inducing institutional racism, lack of support and insufficient mentoring opportunities.” The task force’s research shows that these factors eventually lead Black faculty to experience higher rates of workplace discrimination, isolation and racial microaggressions than their white counterparts.

In addition to these factors, Black faculty also face unique challenges in professional life, such as navigating racism and discrimination. Black faculty are unable to escape the grips of discrimination no matter how hard they try. The report explains that this constant battle of being a Black person in higher education “can contribute to lower job satisfaction and decreased sense of belonging on campus, leading to higher turnover rates.

Black professors are also more likely to experience burnout and be less satisfied with their workspace because they experience bias in hiring, promotion and tenure decisions. After the task force’s recommendation, the factors causing these issues are summarized into four main points: workplace culture, lack of equity between professional-track and tenure-track faculty, cluster hires and sense
of belonging.

After focusing on Black faculty retention rates across the nation, the committee zoomed in on NC State University. This section of the report said, “Only 6% of full-time faculty at four year institutions in the United States were Black… even though Black people comprise 13% of the United States population.” The disparity was seen in all U.S. universities, including NC State.

A current NC State Assistant Professor expressed their frustration with the system, “I kind of have a feeling that experiences are at the center of feelings that a lot of Black faculty have and what causes them to leave. Being disrespected when you’re Black is even harder to deal with…you try so hard to climb this mountain and you finally do, but you feel like I might as well have been a cashier for the level of respect I get, that cuts a little deeper as a Black faculty member, it’s just so hard to take.”

One of the biggest impacts of racism that Black faculty face is bias in hiring, promotion and tenure. The digital task force plan states that Black faculty members are often subjected to bias that affects their ability to climb ranks. These biases come in the form of “lack of diversity on search committees, limited access to informal networks or a focus on research productivity at the expense of teaching and service.”

From 2022 to 2023, NC State hired only six African American/Black professors which brought the new hire Black professor population to 8%. On the other hand, eight African American/Black professors ceased their tenure at NC State. This means 18.4% of professors who left NC State were African American/Black.

Lack of representation of Black faculty not only affects faculty, but has bigger social implications because it negatively impacts Black students. “For example, it can create a sense of isolation and disengagement for Black students who may not see themselves represented in the faculty. The underrepresentation also perpetuates the marginalization of Black voices and perspectives in academia,” as mentioned in the report.

In response to this crisis, the task force listed four practices to best retain Black faculty at NC State and across American higher education. These practices are: developing inclusive hiring practices, providing institutional support, addressing microaggressions and promoting equity in hiring, promotion and tenure.

The task force on Black Faculty Retention Rates believes that “institutions can develop inclusive hiring practices by actively recruiting diverse candidates, using diverse search committees, and ensuring job postings emphasize the institution’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

Additionally, the committee also recommends that institutions support Black faculty by providing them with “mentorship programs, professional development opportunities, and access to research funding and office space.” The third recommendation is to address microaggressions by training faculty and staff on how to identify them, and establishing clear policies for reporting and addressing discrimination.

The final practice for retaining Black faculty is to promote equity by creating clear evaluation criteria, and making sure there is diversity on promotion and tenure committees. These recommendations are further broken down into specific suggestions such as compensation equity, equity for tenure track and profession track faculty and continuous data tracking for Black faculties progression at NC State. The task force hopes these recommendations will help improve the work environment for professors at NC State and in
higher education.

The committee’s plan was also submitted to an American Association for the Advancement of Science SEA Change Initiative, “signifying NC State’s commitment to including diversity, equity and inclusion as a core component of our institutional mission.” If NC State wins the award, they will be held accountable to report their progress on its action plan to the SEA Change.

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Arden stated that NC State will update the university community on the implementation of task force recommendations. There are even plans to implement the recommendation in the next phase of NC State’s strategic plan, Wolfpack 2030: Powering the Extraordinarily.