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Mixing It Up at TC: Closing the Education Gap Starts at West 120th St.

"People in glass houses…" runs the old proverb. For Teachers College, with its new mission to boost educational opportunities, expectations and outcomes for poor, mostly non-white students, that translates as, "Before you set out to change the world, it's best to have your own house in order."
"Our passionate commitment to educational equity and closing the achievement gap makes it imperative for TC to walk its own talk," says Darlyne Bailey, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College. "As we've gone through the strategic planning process for the equity initiative, the faculty has very smartly said that we need to hold ourselves to the same standards."


On the most immediate level, that means making sure that the ethnic and gender makeup of the school's staff, faculty members and students reflects the world TC serves. There has been significant progress on that front since 1999, when President Arthur Levine convened a task force charged with improving the college's handling of diversity and multiculturalism issues. TC has since boosted the number of minority full-time faculty members by 65 percent, during a period when the overall faculty size has grown by just 25 percent. Minorities now make up 17 percent of tenured faculty and 30 percent of non-tenured faculty, compared with 13 percent and 24 percent in 1999. Meanwhile, TC is a leader among U.S. institutions of higher learning-other than historically black colleges and universities-in terms of the number of doctoral degrees it awards to African Americans.


Certainly there's still room for improvement-for example, at present the College has just one untenured black male faculty member. And while Asian-American enrollment has climbed steadily during the past decade, the number of African-American students has declined during the past two years, as other institutions have enhanced their financial aid packages. Still, the overall trend has been in the right direction.

 

"Just in the time I've been here, I have seen the faculty search committees reinvigorate their efforts to find good multicultural candidates," says Bailey, who heads the College's Affirmative Action Committee. Bailey and Randy Glazer, TC's Executive Director of Human Resources, have also been evaluating the use of outside consultants with a track record on this issue to help create a more diverse pool of faculty applicants. "Our short-term goal is that next year, all of the faculty searches will bring an even greater yield in terms of diversity, and all will conclude with at least two people of color as finalists for consideration," Bailey says.

 

Another outgrowth of the 1999 task force was the creation of the Office of Diversity and Community, headed by Janice Robinson and reporting directly to Levine. The office has a variety of functions (see "An Advocate for Multiculturalism" on page 1), but one particularly important focus has been its contribution to increasing student diversity. Last year, it worked closely with the Coalition of Latino/Latina Scholars to create a recruitment day at TC focused on Latino and Latina students. Now the event is part of the Admissions Office's regular recruitment calendar. Robinson's office also proposed a recruitment program targeting historically black colleges and universities, and implemented it with TC's Admissions Office. "Given TC's historic importance to African-American education, it's important that we revitalize this connection," Robinson says.

 

Two other working groups-the Committee for Community and Diversity (CCD) and the Diversity Action Planning committee (DAP)-are tackling diversity issues at TC, while the Faculty Executive Committee (FEC) also has a sub-committee devoted to race, culture and diversity.

One key goal of CCD, which is the only standing body in the college whose constituents include staff, faculty and students, "is to foster the goals and ideals of the report submitted by the 1999 task force," says Mark Noizumi, Vice President of the Student Senate, and a long-standing CCD member. Among its various activities, the committee gives out grants and awards to students doing research on diversity issues. Noizumi is particularly proud of CCD's creation of the Elaine Brantley Memorial Award for Community and Civility, which was developed to honor the memory of a long-time TC employee who epitomized those values.

 

CCD continues to review and update the findings of the 1999 diversity task force. Meanwhile, it brings people together to improve life in the TC community. "We had an evening workshop on housing, and people didn't leave until after midnight," reports Sophia Pertuz, a staff representative to CCD. "We actually had to tell people to go home."

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