New Report Exposes Widespread Academic Racism at Pennsylvania State University

A year ago, a report by Gary King and Darryl Thomas detailed the history of Black faculty at Pennsylvania State Univerity. (See JBHE post.) The report showed that “although the first Black student, Calvin Waller, entered Penn State in 1899 more than 40 years after it was founded, the first full-time African American professor, Mary E. Godfrey, was not hired until 1956 as an assistant professor of art education. Charles T. Davis began service in 1961 as an associate professor and became the first Black professor promoted with tenure to full professor in 1963.” By 1975, there were 35 Black faculty members at Penn State but they made up only 1 percent of the total faculty. Now, according to the study, African Americans make up 10.6 percent of the population of Pennsylvania. But only 4.1 percent of the student body at the state’s flagship university is Black.

Now Dr. King and Dr. Thomas along with several colleagues have published Part 2 of More Rivers to Cross: Black Faculty and Academic Racism at Pennsylvania State University. This report presents the results of a survey of Black professors at the main and satellite campuses of Penn State regarding their experiences with racism, on the institutional and interpersonal levels, perpetrated by students, colleagues, administrators as well as the academic culture in which they work.

Among the findings of the report are:

  • 8 out of 10 Black professors reported experiencing racism at Penn State. Almost half encountered racism within the first year of their appointment and one-third within 1-3 years.
  • More than two-thirds of respondents reported that they have experienced racism within the last 3 years from students.
  • Over half of Black faculty (53.1%) stated that they had “sometimes” (35.9%) or “often” (17.2%) experienced racism from administrators or supervisors.
  • A majority of black professors (56.2%) reported that they had experienced racism either “sometimes” (45.3%) or “often” (10.9%) from their colleagues within the last 3 years.
  • The vast majority of respondents (73.1%) who experienced racism chose not to report it to the administration, for various reasons.

The authors urge the university to enhance recruitment and retention efforts regarding Black faculty. But they state: “Culture matters too. What takes place within the classroom and individual departments in interactions with students, colleagues, and administrators impacts the wellbeing and mental health of Black faculty and their pursuit of teaching, research, and service.”


Comments (3)

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  1. Ewart Archer says:

    Racism is a given in North America. Black faculty should focus more of their energies on helping each other improve academically and professionally instead of merely documenting the problems we face. Excellence is the best revenge, yet I have often been shocked by the reluctance of black colleagues to share their knowledge and contacts.

  2. Michael says:

    It appears that “ewart” (lower case ‘e’ intentional) has an acute reading comprehension disability based upon his ‘colonial subject mentality’. These so-called Black faculty at the Racist Penn State University have already proven themselves both academically and professionally. Yet, mere minions like ‘ewart’ and other IMMIGRANTS are too blind to recognize the insidiousness and pervasiveness institutional Racism is at Penn State University. That said, I seriously question why would any well published so-called Black scholar at Penn State University even tolerate any form of racism from these Insecure White faculty, administrator, or even White students at anytime. Let me guess! You’re more worried about a Fricking Pay Check than your dignity along with maintaining that comfy lifestyle of domiciling next to Whites and making them your spouses. Talk about confusion.

  3. Stanley Cobb says:

    Thanks Michael, you said it all, get off the fence post it is what it is an IT is very very UGLY!!

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