February 21, 2022 | Mona Oates

African American Faculty Status in Higher Education

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted many issues in America’s institutional structures. One that rose strongly to the public eye was the Black Lives Matter movement. Many systematic inequalities for the black and brown community became visible. Representation of African American faulty in high education was one of the topics that became obvious within the academic community.

Current Status

Persistent underrepresentation of African American faculty in the US colleges and universities affects the diversity and success of the institutions’ students and research innovation. Additionally, existing black and brown faculty face greater hurdles to attain tenure and accomplish required research publications.

Research identified that the group’s characteristics, experience, achievements, and opportunities vary vastly compared to their Caucasian counterparts. As a result, African American faculty are systematically disadvantaged. Universities fail to remove obstacles to recruitment, retention, and success of their black faculties.

Only 4% of African Americans represent professors and associate compared to their white tenured faculty at 87%. On the instructor and lecturer level African Americans representation is almost double at 7%. Nonetheless, white colleagues are 82% of that group (Chronicle of HigherEd, 2000). In contrast per the 2019 US census more 13% of the US population are Black.


Beyond continued underrepresentation African American faculty are consistently represented at lower levels of the academic hierarchy.  Persistent obstacles prevent African Americans to climb the prestige hierarchy of academia. The hurdles to overcome can be categorized into two parts:

  1. Black faculty is overburdened with teaching and service responsibilities, which are less likely to be recognized and rewarded. These tasks are also amplified as African Americans tend to value them in order to reach and engage with their students. Expectations for them to attend minority issues, racial relations, and recruitment committees absorb additional time. Therefore, faculty of color spends more time tending to students instead of having time to engage with research.
  2. Inflexible expectations about research and publications by their respective institutions. Professors of color often focus on identity, racial/ethnic dynamics-based research which is less valued in research universities. Additionally, research grants are harder to attain due to color and unconventional research topics.

How to Remove Obstacles

Universities and colleges outside of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) need to identify all hurdles within the pipeline of recruiting, retaining and promoting African American faculty members. Some of these hurdles include rewarding strong dedication towards teaching and services, while reducing the expectations to attend committees. High education institutions should be capable of creating greater equity by removing the obstacles identified by existing research.

Universities have begun to initiate stronger recruitment requirements of African American faculty since the Black Lives Matter movement. However, representation of African American faculty remains low in US universities and colleges. Improvements are becoming noticeable, since June 2020 about 22.5 percent of presidents and chancellors hired to US colleges and universities were of racial minority groups, excluding HBCUs.



Allen, W. R., Epps, E. G., Guillory, E. A., Suh, S. A., & Bonous-Hammarth, M. (2000). The Black Academic: Faculty Status among African Americans in U.S. Higher Education. The Journal of Negro Education69(1/2), 112–127. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2696268


Lederman, D. (2022). Diversity on the Rise Among College Presidents. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved February 20, 2022, from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2022/02/14/colleges-have-hired-more-minority-presidents-amid-racial-reckoning?


U.S. Census Bureau, (2019). U.S. Census Bureau Releases 2014-2018 ACS 5-Year Estimates. Retrieved February 20, 2022, from https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/news/updates/2019.html