Sunday, August 23, 2015

Vanderbilt Study Shows Black Professors Are Expected to Entertain as Well as Educate.

Is this smile big enough
for you dolts?
A new study by Vanderbilt University reveals that even in academia Black people are still struggling with stereotypes and discrimination. According to the Vanderbilt study, Black college professors were expected to be “entertaining,” while they were conducting seminars and academic research papers. The survey interviewed 33 Black faculty members at colleges across the country.

“Interviews with the scholars revealed that an overwhelming majority were advised regularly by white peers to be ‘more entertaining’ when making research presentations, as well as to ‘lighten up’ and ‘tell more jokes,” said Vanderbilt University.

The study also revealed Black female professors were often critiqued on their clothing choices and told to “smile more” during presentations.

More misery.


  1. Unsurprising, but still depressing. The only part they seem to have left out is the one where faculty from underrepresented groups get run ragged providing "diversity" or "the minority viewpoint" on a zillion committees, and then don't get tenure (or don't make it to full professor) because they didn't publish enough. Even at schools where junior faculty are relatively well-protected from service (over)burdens while they're earning tenure, I imagine the associate-professor service slam hits particularly hard for minority faculty.

    One department at my school protested mightily when the administration eliminated a contingent position in their department, in part because eliminating that contingent position meant losing the only nonwhite faculty member in the department. Although I was sympathetic to the issue to some degree, I couldn't help wondering whether they'd ever considered whether the complete lack of nonwhite tenure-track faculty (and the relegation of their sole full-time minority faculty member to contingent status) was a problem. I suppose there's always the upside that, given relative tenure-track and full-time contingent loads, at least twice as many students got to work with her in any given semester as would have if she'd held a tenure-track appointment.

  2. We have exactly 2 faculty members in our department from under-represented populations; they get so much pressure from Deans and the President to "represent" their roles at our regional uni. They are called on to be trotted out at college functions, and they're expected to like the attention. I'm a white guy who has benefited from white privilege my whole life. I empathize but cannot fully understand what my colleagues are up again, how they're judged differently.

    I hope my pals have the ability - if they want - to tell the students and the college to "eat it" sometimes when the expectations are too great or unfair.

  3. Black professors matter. There are inequities every step of the way in the U.S. education system, including hiring and tenure. No question.

    But the study is flawed because it was a survey of African American faculty only. We've had lots of discussions here at CM about junior faculty (and senior, for that matter) being told to make classes more entertaining and about female faculty being evaluated on our clothing and perceived friendliness. The latter is true of many professional women.

    So it may well be that faculty of color are facing different expectations than faculty in privileged ethnic groups. I'd be surprised if that were not the case. But this study does not show that.