Jason Wingard became the first Black president in Temple University’s 137-year history on July 1, The Temple News reported.
This is a historical selection and comes after a year of Temple undertaking new efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in and out of its classrooms.
The university invested $1 million dollars in anti-racism education programming in September 2020, which supported initiatives like expanding the Department of Africology and African American Studies, creating a center for anti-racism research and developing a bridge program to help local high school students enroll at Temple, The Temple News reported.
C’Meijah Donaldson, a junior social work and Spanish double major, hopes Wingard’s presidency will create space for more professors of color, she said.
“We have the new president that’s an African American man, the first African American president at Temple University, and that’s a start, and I think we can use that to our advantage,” Donaldson said.
Although Temple has stressed the importance of anti-racism education and funding, the university must treat Wingard’s selection as a greater opportunity for increasing diversity among its instructional faculty.
A vast majority of college faculty nationwide are white, with about 75 percent of all full-time college faculty being white during the 2018-2019 academic year, according to a May 2021 report from the National Center for Education Statistics. Similarly, about 79 percent of Temple’s instructional faculty for the 2020-2021 academic year were white, according to the university’s 2020-2021 Common Data Set.
In my hometown, Shrewsbury, New Jersey, 94 percent of residents are white, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. I came to Temple because of its diversity and wanted to be surrounded by people who came from different backgrounds. I knew by learning from professors of color, I would be exposed to different perspectives, and could learn from their experiences.
Dustin Kidd, a sociology professor, believes Temple has tried to improve its low percentage of instructional faculty of color since he began at the university in 2004. About 81 percent of Temple’s instructional faculty were white during the 2004-2005 academic year, according to the university’s 2004-2005 Common Data Set.
“We’ve known about those inequalities for many years, we’ve said that we care about them for many years, we don’t have systematic, consistent ways of addressing them that are actually leading to progress,” Kidd said.
Sociology professor Joshua Klugman and psychological studies in education professor Bikem Polat believe Temple’s faculty needs to be more diverse because it benefits all students, they said.
Diversity inside the classroom benefits students as it exposes them to different perspectives, and helps students to appreciate those differences, Polat said.
“I can never really quantify what is enough or what is sufficient diversity, but I do feel like if we can really push ourselves to say, ‘Let’s not just try to really hire people we agree with or we feel similar to us in many ways’ but we try to encourage differences across the board, and I think it’ll benefit all of us,” Polat said.
Seeing more professors of color and better representation of minority students helps combat pervasive ideas of inferiority, Klugman said.
Jacqueline Liss believes that when students are surrounded by others that they feel comfortable around, they have much higher academic, social and emotional successes.
“It’s hard to build that sense of community when you feel that you’re an outsider in your classroom,” said Liss, a 2021 public health alumna who worked as a gender and sexuality inclusion extern at Temple’s Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy and Leadership.
Liss, Polat, Klugman and Kidd all feel the lack of diverse professors stems primarily from the hiring process, which is a problem for all universities, not just Temple.
For example, faculty hiring committees may devalue the contributions of candidates of color in different ways, such as regarding their work as less rigorous, according to a 2019 study published by The University of California Los Angeles.
Polat feels that barrier also comes from the start of the education system, where students may be discouraged from pursuing careers requiring high degrees of education.
“We have set up systems that really define paths for people from the start and limit opportunities to open opportunities depending on a person’s background and their community,” Polat said.
Between 2013 and 2017, the number of Hispanic and Latino faculty members in baccalaureate institutions grew by less than one percent, and the number of Black faculty members grew by only one-tenth of a percent, according to the Hispanic Journal of Law and Policy.
Addressing the faculty recruitment process is an issue that needs more attention, and there needs to be radical transformation in the hiring process, Kidd said.
“Higher education, in general, knows that diversity is really important, but then when we begin the process of hiring new faculty, we’ve never actually transformed the hiring process in a meaningful way,” Kidd said.
Temple should provide more pathways with the goal of obtaining tenure for adjunct faculty of color, Klugman added.
Temple can also address the lack of diversity by not discounting the experience of faculty members and actively encouraging students of color to pursue degrees needed for higher positions of power, Polat said.
“It’s about attracting the students and encouraging the students to pursue those degrees so they will be qualified for those jobs in the future,” Polat said.
It’s important to have more professors of color because they serve as mentors and role models throughout our college experience, Donaldson said. A lack of representation can make minority students feel as though they do not have someone who understands what they are going through or the struggles they face, he added.
“Having someone that looks like you and can relate to you as your professor or role model can really be beneficial to minority students,” Donaldson said.
The election of Wingard is a first step in addressing the lack of faculty diversity, but Temple must do better in hiring professors of color in order to benefit all of its students.