Brenda M. Romero
Participants: Jonathan Berger (Yale University), Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje (University of California, Los Angeles), Ricardo D. Trimillos (University of Hawaii), Portia Maultsby (Indiana University). Moderator: Nohema Fernández (University of Arizona).
Moderator: Let us first consider the basic issue of who, exactly, is a minority. I would like to ask each panelist to attempt a definition.
DjeDje: I have problems with the term minority because it is very loose and ambiguous. It can refer to a number of different factors, and it can be used in a number of different ways. In addition to the whole issue of racial minorities there are many administrators who use gender as a minority issue. This practice creates conflicts for both white women and men and women of color.
In some university departments the term refers to a group of individuals who are not in the majority. In the Department of Music with which I have been associated for the past ten years, the majority of faculty work in the area of Western art music. We, as ethnomusicologists, are in the minority, and sometimes the term is used in that way. I think the term minority is a little too loose. To me it refers to those individuals or group of people who are not part of the mainstream ideologically because of race or gender; but I would prefer to use another term in regard to race—people of color would probably be preferable.
Trimillos: The problem of the term minority, is that it all depends on who considers themselves a majority. Minority, or at least the way in which the term is used in such `carrot and stick' operations as federal funding programs, forces us to think of ourselves as being either a minority or majority people. I would like to speak about the area of public policy simply because that is the area that I have been dealing with the most actively, both in terms of national and international consultations. I do a lot of consulting in Asia, and in terms of public policy, the business of who is a minority is often determined not by the majority, but by the government, pigeonholing people.
Hawaii is a very interesting example. When I am in Hawaii, where I live, I am Filipino. I am not even Filipino-American, just Filipino, and Japanese are Japanese, etc. But, when I come to California suddenly I am an Asian-American, a term which is completely foreign in Hawaii. We do not call ourselves Asian-Americans. For one thing, the Koreans, the Filipinos and the Japanese are too busy competing with each other in Hawaii and there are too many in each individual group to have to coalesce into a larger, generic group. However, when I am in Southern California, all the Filipinos are sitting around talking about the Asian-American experience. I grew up in California and I am 48, so I grew up right during World War II. And, boy, I made sure that I was not seen as an Asian-American! I was Filipino. Growing up in California during the war, when all the Japanese suddenly disappeared, we frequently had stones thrown at us [Filipinos], so we wore signs around our necks saying `I am not Japanese.' You knew that you were not an Asian-American. You were a Filipino because that is what saved your neck. On the other hand, with that kind of experience, it becomes clear that you do not belong to the [national] majority; otherwise, you would not have to wear such a sign around your neck.
The government, however, lumps us all together. Census procedures are completely wild in Hawaii because most people do not know what ethnic description box they should check. I could check "Hispanic," which I am, or Asian, denoting the geographic area I come from. The idea of minority, then, is often defined by the outside and by the government, not by ourselves.
Another aspect of this term, minority, is that it denotes a sociological phenomenon, that is, it indicates who has the power in society. We look at ourselves and ask, `Are we the ones? Is our political segment the one that has the power or not?' For example, within the context of an Hispanic neighborhood, if you have an Hispanic surname, you have the power. Are you a minority there? However, if you look at who is getting the `goodies' from the government, you would have to call yourself a minority in order to partake of such `goodies.'
My brother is married to what we call a "haole" [orig., foreigner; universally used to designate Caucasians], that is, a white American woman. Their son, my nephew, in order to get access to certain benefits, has to call himself a minority Filipino, although he might as well call himself a minority Missourian since he is from there. Therefore, individual perspective affects the roles we have to assume. I think that minority people, however we define ourselves, always have that conflict. Am I always going to have to admit that I am a minority in order to get those government programs that seem to be only for minorities?
Maultsby: This issue is certainly important, particularly for those of us who work in institutions where the definition of minority has been redefined to include members of the majority and/or dominant group. Given the various applications of the term, we need to further explore its use. Historically and within the context of the American society, minority has been used to identify "marginalized" groups whose culture and world view differ from those of the dominant racial group. The term culture further complicates issues because it often is used as a marker of values, beliefs, and traditions associated with various racial groups. When asked whether women constitute a minority group, I respond with the following questions: "Is there a women's culture? If so, in what ways does it differ from mainstream culture and how is it similar to that associated with people of color or marginalized groups?" Women tend to share cultural characteristics along racial lines.
Berger: I think it is interesting that, so far, everyone seems to be reasonably consistent with that definition. The only thing I would add to that is the public funding issue. Since I am most familiar with the private university environment, I feel that feeling out of the mainstream is an issue that is not uniformly defined geographically. It is not uniform for any given type of school, and it is certainly an issue of greater complexity when you are in the private sector. My experience from the interview process, moving into a junior faculty level, was one of feeling, for the first time in my life, like a minority, like someone who was a bit pushed to the side. This is an issue that I feel very strongly about, and one that needs to be addressed.
Affirmative action is sometimes viewed as a favor that the administration of a university does for minorities, but such a view needs to be corrected. It is the university that reaps the benefits of any affirmative action program. I would say that my basic view of who is a minority is consistent with Portia Maultsby's, but, further, it is necessary to take into account specifics such as geography and type of institution.
Moderator (addressing the audience): At any point from now on, if you feel like commenting or asking questions or contributing to this, please feel free to do so. I would like to touch on the subject of affirmative action. Dr. Berger suggested that he had felt as a minority, in a particular, localized case. The experience of the hiring process and, by extension, the experience of students being admitted to graduate programs may have a bearing on our attitudes regarding the handling of the affirmative action process. Would anyone comment on that?
Maultsby: The number of minorities now present in institutions of higher education obviously would not be what they are, even as few as they are, without the affirmative action mandate. This mandate, for many, denotes a stigma—one that relegates minority faculty to an inferior status. Rarely are we willing to acknowledge that minority recruitment programs serve as incentives to diversify our faculty and student body in the same way that various degree programs provide heterogeneity in the academic curriculum. Rarely are we willing to admit that minority perspectives can broaden our understanding of issues and forge new topics for investigation. Even more crucial, we often refuse to admit that minority faculty (many of whom received advanced degrees from the same universities as their white counterparts) are as qualified, if not more in some areas, as their white counterparts.
Too often and on skin color alone, many view the hiring of minority faculty only in terms of fulfilling quotas. Few highlight their qualifications and the fact that they bring a unique point of view or area of specialization to the academy—a potential enhancement to the university's stature. At my university, for example, a department identified a senior level person who was well-known in an area underrepresented in the department's curriculum. Without the prospect of new faculty lines in the immediate future, the department tapped into the department's minority faculty recruitment program (for racial minorities and senior white women) to lure this black candidate away from another major university. Her hiring through this program led some of her white male colleagues to refer to her in front of students as "the professor hired on the minority program." The students, unaware of her credentials, interpreted these comments to mean that this new faculty member was marginal. Such is one problem with the label affirmative action or programs that evolve out of a mandate to increase minority representation. The assumption that only white males are qualified for any and all jobs reflect ingrained racist attitudes that the academy must address.
Berger: This is a double-edged problem. As you said, it is frequently true that "equal opportunity" programs often force minority faculty into an apologetic stance, when such minorities are hired under affirmative action programs. This is atrocious. Furthermore, faculty search committees often pay no more than lip service to affirmative action. When such is the case, and affirmative action is not embraced in a positive, honest, and constructive context, then the experience mars the way members of the majority view the concept of affirmative action, on the whole.
Trimillos: Speaking about the Asian-American situation (I am now using the `A' word!), East Asians, particularly the Japanese and Chinese, have assimilated so well that they are not often considered minorities. Rather, they are viewed as part of the majority, with a different shade of skin color. This is why Portia Maultsby's definition of a minority is quite useful. If you hire an AJA male—American of Japanese ancestry—of this generation who holds many of the same values as his white male counterparts of this generation in terms of materialism, conservative outlook, etc., the Japanese-Americans may look different, but, in terms of diversity within the faculty, none has been achieved by the new hire. Many of these people hold the same value systems as the majority colleagues and often think of themselves as being part of the majority.
Part of the rationale for minority or affirmative action, I would think, should be to recruit someone who not only looks different but who indeed holds a different point of view. I think this is where we run into problems. Let us get this very straight: in terms of racial minorities the pattern of pressure always points toward the necessity of assimilating and getting along. It is only recently that the idea of plurality has become part of the mainstream value system or that, at least, people are talking about it. Many of the complex social mechanisms that encouraged assimilation have made Asian-American scholars go along, blend and appear like everybody. Sometimes, when I speak out and say `well, we do have a different experience' a lot of my majority colleagues, both male and female, are surprised and say: `I never thought of you as a minority; I always thought of you as, you know, Rick Trimillos.' This merits discussion because it brings up the conflict between the person as a personality and the person as a symbol. I know that many of us are tired of being symbols and we just want to be ourselves, whatever that may happen to be.
DjeDje: I think that we all agree that yes, there are problems inherent in affirmative action. I would like to remark briefly on how the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) has more or less dealt with this particular issue. When I was hired at UCLA, the whole affirmative action process was firmly in place. Most of the blacks who were hired at the university came through what we refer to as a faculty development program. You were hired and then, in order to help you get through the tenure process, you were given a lighter teaching load so that you could dedicate more time to research and other activities within your professional career. The idea was to allow you to proceed, so that the minority issue or the stigma of affirmative action would not affect you when you came up for tenure five, six or seven years later. But this particular process, this faculty development program, did not always work.
Just recently, in the past two or three years, another method that has appeared. At UCLA this is called Target of Opportunity Program (TOP). I guess that, for years now, this is how many universities (especially those with specializations in the sciences, engineering or business) have attracted highly respected faculty who are viewed as symbols of excellence. TOP positions are used to recruit top-notch minority individuals who would enhance the program of a particular department. To attract such individuals, the university offers top-notch money as well as other benefits. At UCLA we now have a number of colleagues who were recruited under the TOP program. However, the stigma that associates that person with a minority position is still there—the very problem we have been talking about.
I am not sure what kind of innovative ideas we can suggest to "the powers that be" that could be used to eradicate this stigma. Or is this something that is always going to be in place because of human nature and we must resign ourselves to it? Is that something we would like to discuss?
Moderator: Yes, absolutely. The majority of us in this room right now would be considered, at least by United States Census Bureau standards, minorities. We discussed the unfortunate problem of the stigma that we feel and, in addition, the stigma that our colleagues, despite the best of intentions, sometimes attach to the minority positions that we may earn. Certainly, any group of people or any individual that feels that a stigma has been attached to them needs to speak up and try to argue for a different type of attitude. Can we hear any interesting or unusual suggestions on how to change the attitude of our colleagues and the university administrators on the business of minority positions?
Audience member #1: There is a major problem in the use of the term minority because of the psychology implied, because it puts you in a situation that reinforces the racism and ethnocentrism that is so ingrained in American society. In fact, using the term minority is a major problem because the usage of the terminology psychologically reinforces that middle-America image that implies inherent inequality. The same is true of the use of `slave' versus `enslaved.'
Secondly, it might be possible to add, to the professional development of fellow administrators or faculty members, courses that they never before had to take in order to occupy their present positions. This might help them to understand the contributions and richness in the causes of people of color which have somehow never been closely examined due to systematic racism or ethnocentrism in Euro-American society. To try to do anything else is pretty much blowing in the wind because we are basically dealing with adults who have attitudes conforming to the same attitudes that their moms, their grandads, great-grandads and great-great-great-grandads had. So, to break that cycle you have to deal with such a problem straight up front, and I think it has to be a consistent effort. One of the best examples I can give occurred when I was Chairman of Afro-American studies at my institution. The Dean wanted to cut our the budget because he said the enrollment figures were low. So I asked him, `Well, how many courses have you taken in Afro-American studies?' He said `none,' and he is the Dean. I said, `Well, if you have not taken any, what the hell makes you think that the majority of these kids who come into our school, being 90% white kids, would be naturally attracted to take any of these courses? And then, how can you be so blind to that and use statistics based on enrollments, when you know that enrollment numbers in Afro-American studies are not going to be high? If anything, the Dean should give us more money so we can do appropriate publicity and help students of all colors understand how it would enhance their growth as human beings to take these courses that deal with Afro-American traditions. This is just one example of how those attitudes and assumptions are so ingrained. Unless we confront individuals, particularly administrators and scholarly professors and somehow can, on a consistent basis, help them see how their attitudes are askew, and how they have been mis-educated in some ways even though they thought they had a wide-ranging education—then the benefits of affirmative action programs will remain limited. People will say `Well, that is enough' or `Why do we have to keep on doing this?' etc. etc.
Audience member #2: I am a cellist who also happens to be a university administrator. I want to make a couple of comments and, then, I have a query for the panel in regard to some challenges. I think one of the problems with affirmative action is that, on most college campuses, the whole concept of what affirmative action entails is not clear. The very definition of affirmative action—that you are simply seeking good people to give them opportunities they have not had before—has been misunderstood. Affirmative action does not mean hiring unqualified people. I mean, yesterday I winced when someone said `we only hire qualified minorities.' My blood boils when I hear that term. You know, why would anyone hire someone who is not qualified?
On to the query that I have—I am interested in some of the challenges that I face as an administrator, as a cellist, as a father, as a person of color in the United States, a country in which I feel systematic institutional racism is the norm. D. B. Dubois at the beginning of the century said that one of the problems that people of color would have in this century was the problem of the color-blind. I see, going into the twenty-first century, one of the problems that we will have to face is the lack of people of color in the pipeline of higher education. That is to say, if you read all the materials put out by the American Council for Education you know that in the twenty-first century a third of our population is going to be made up of people of color. My concern is: where are the people going to come from who are going to take our places in the institutions of higher education? What are we doing, as people of color—all of us musicians—to insure that our curricula, that the cultures of peoples of color, are taught to all children (not just to children of color) in elementary schools, in junior high schools, in high schools, colleges? How many music students in music programs have to take music history courses that deal with something other than Western music? What I am interested in knowing is, what can CMS do, as a whole, to address some of these problems, at least in the field of music? I think it is a problem that we all have to do some thinking about.
Moderator: Very well. The problems that have to do with minorities in the music profession (whether we address problems of faculties, of curriculum, or any of the other areas that we frequently discuss), seem to be related to what happens in that pipeline that you are discussing. That is a tremendous problem. The statistics of students in institutions of higher learning are, to me, very saddening. According to such statistics, white students, or students who describe themselves as white, suffer somewhat of a loss in numbers as they go on to graduate schools. However, the loss of students that describe themselves as Hispanic, Afro-American, Native-American and Asian-American between the undergraduate and graduate levels is astounding. Only about half the students that graduate with an undergraduate degree ever go on to graduate programs. That means that the numbers of minorities going up in the educational ladder is miniscule, compared to the numbers of the white majority. Perhaps something is discouraging them along the line, or perhaps there are not enough faculty that can encourage them or provide them with a role model, or, I do not know, perhaps there are other reasons that should be explored.
In connection with the equal opportunity idea, however, let me throw something out and see how people react. I have heard very often from colleagues, regardless of color, that what we need to do in order to encourage students who are minorities, first to come to the university and then to continue on to graduate school, is to use the equal opportunity guidelines and stretch them (or perhaps I have to put it in terms of lowering the standards somewhat) in order to encourage the population of minority students to grow. Is that a valid thing to do considering that we want to insure that everyone sees the equal opportunity guidelines as being a matter of opportunity for qualified people?
Audience member #1: I do not know if it is lowering the standards or making the standards more appropriate in terms of what is standard in the society, because those standards are set up arbitrarily. I think it would be more accurate to call `lowering' the standards `equalizing' standards in terms of the realities of our society. I mean, you have more than 50% of the kids, at least 50-60% of black kids who are not even making it to 8th grade! And that is not their fault; it is the fault of the system that we have in place. They are killing these kids in 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th grade! I think making the standards more broad is necessary, rather than lowering them. Lowering them is the wrong way to look at it. Those standards were set up arbitrarily by standard groups of people, pretty much like SAT scores.
Audience member #3: I think it also has a lot to do with nurturing the students when they are there. If the people who are here today, if everyone who is here really got in that front line and... You have to fight for these students. I was listening to someone last night talking about how in her state there are a lot of openings for music teachers where she is, and they cannot find a black music teacher for the elementary schools. They have white music teachers, although there are not enough of those either. They come and go because they are having difficulties dealing with the kids in these schools and, yet, the district cannot find any black music teachers.
That made me think about a problem that we have had in our school, that we have really been struggling with. We will get black students in and I will do everything I can to support and guide them. We also had a black Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs; unfortunately, he just left. The amount of fighting that the Dean and I had to do in the last six years, to see that some of these students got through! A faculty member would come to us and say: `This student is magic in the classroom, but there are these problems and these problems and these problems. He/she has not done this, was late for this, did not do well in that course, and so on.' Well, investigating, we would find out what some of the reasons were. This would be a student who had come from of a background that made it surprising that they ever got to a university in the first place. They needed nurturing. I mean, the students need someone to say: `There is nothing wrong with you; yes, you can do that. All right, you fell on your face. This time get up and just go again. We will help you.' They will have to come to the school and say: `I have to miss this class because they are giving my mother the last rites at the hospital' or something like that. Yet, I will get criticized a lot for favoritism. So, I just sit there and say: `Yes, I have a favorite student for every student who is trying to get through this school, needs some real attention and is not getting it. If that is favoritism you are all going to have to live with it. Fortunately, what is happening is that our faculty, by and large, has really begun to understand and they know that I will not allow them too easily to dismiss a black student because it appears that `they do not meet the standards.' What has been happening is that the faculty has been waking up to realize that you cannot dismiss people out of hand by sitting there looking at a piece of paper and expecting everybody to have exactly the same way of doing things. It just is not possible. What has delighted me, in particular, is to find some faculty members who simply have taken the extra time to say: `You know, this person is really bright; they need a little bit of extra help; we will give them time.' They will sit down and, given a chance, they will be able to realize that there is simply nothing wrong with this student. If that were to happen enough, people would stop thinking in those stereotyping ways. Therefore, I think that what would help a lot is if each one of us, everywhere we see discrimination, lack of understanding, or lack of support, would not let it go by.
Audience member #4: I was going to say some of the same, in the same order. I have been at the same university for 19 years. When I went there, I went as an ethnomusicologist and as a black woman. I thought I was not there under the umbrella of affirmative action—that was my attitude. I was asked to go there to fulfill an ethnomusicological spot and the attitude on the part of faculty was: `Well, you are here by privilege, not capability.' I have been there nineteen years and that attitude still prevails in some people's minds. Now, instead of continuing to have this illusion that mine was a special and unique case, I realize that I am going to have to cope with that for the rest of my career. It is an educational situation for me. I decided that the answer to a change of attitude lies in the students of today and the younger people. I had to make that commitment to go out and make myself available to those few black students that are on my campus, offering a nurturing mentorship. I have to make that effort. I cannot just be the only one setting the example, because they will not learn, they do not learn from an isolated example as readily as you would like.
Audience member #5: I would like to state a question here and maybe you can give me your reactions. Our school has considered a project that has some unusual aspects. Many of us at my institution would like very much to increase the number of minorities in our faculty as well as in our student body. We feel that an effort on our part to do this would benefit not only the minorities, but the rest of us as well. I think there is a similar feeling among a lot of people, i.e., that we need that integration for our own sake. Yet, we are having a difficult time. We are in the Midwest; we are not in a community where there are many minorities. Minorities do not like to come there and live.
Maultsby: Where are you?
Audience member #5: We are in Illinois, on the Mississippi River. Some of us have thought of a couple of plans, one of which would deal with our own minority students, students whom we think have a potential for college teaching. According to this plan, we would foot the students' bill in graduate school if they would make a commitment to spend a couple of years on our faculty after graduation. Now, is this somehow demeaning? Do you feel this is a demeaning kind of thing for that person, or is this an opportunity? I am just not clear, I would like to see how you feel about it.
DjeDje: I do not think it is demeaning... [laughter from the panel and the audience]. If you are going to pay the bill that I have accumulated (the thousands of dollars that I owe) and you say that I can have a job, I do not see that as demeaning at all. I see that as a wonderful opportunity.
I want to make a comment; I do not know if it is going to touch on some of the things that some of you have said already. In my opinion, the crux of the problem is that what some of us teach in the classroom, i.e., European culture, threatens the heart of American education. European culture is still regarded as the pinnacle of success. Any threat to that way of thinking is regarded as something that is of minorities, or not important. Therefore, when you invite people of color to teach in universities, if they are teaching courses that are outside the norm of European culture, then they are regarded with suspicion. Yet, if people are trained in European music but are not from a European background, their professional validity is put into question because it is believed that, being non-European, they do not have the full capabilities or skills to teach or perform or do whatever they do with this European material. I see the heart of the problem lies in changing the attitudes, that is, making people realize that groups within this culture, within this world, all have come together to make European culture. We are not peripheral to American culture but we are central to it. This is what makes America unique. This is what has made Europe unique. As earlier suggested, requiring non-Euro-centered courses for all music students is a critical issue in changing the attitudes and the values of people with regard to how they think about Europe and the place of others in that culture.
Maultsby: I would like to make a brief comment in response to the gentleman cellist and administrator and the gentleman from the Illinois College. First, with regard to what we can do as minorities, speaking as an administrator myself, I feel one of the most effective strategies has been working within the system and bringing these issues in front of administrators. In my case, being able to speak directly to deans, vice-presidents, and chairs of other departments and saying: `Look, this is a problem. You have to deal with this. Neither as a black person, nor as the Chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies, can I solve every problem having to do with blacks on this campus. We do not bring our white students to you. We deal with them ourselves within the context of our classes and this department.' So, what is needed is to bring this issue before the university's long-range planning committee. I wrote the so-called cultural diversity part of the plan for the College of Arts and Sciences. In the report, I addressed issues related to white attitudes and perceptions of minorities noting, which was a surprise to the rest of the members (who are all white and all male, except for one white female), that we must look at minorities in a very different way; that minorities alone cannot change all the whites' ingrained attitudes and myths about minorities. Our imposed second class citizenship is still ingrained in their vision of us, their perception about our capabilities, etc. First of all we need to list the problems that we see as minorities in terms of attitudes, then make it incumbent upon administrators, the university itself, to deal with that, perhaps by having, as someone suggested, in-coming faculty members take a workshop in racial culture sensitivity. They are considering that as part of the orientation of new faculty members at Indiana University. The issues must be addressed through the university and we, as minority faculty, must bring forth those issues. When I state, as Audience Member #4 said, that colleagues and departments still refuse to look at minority faculty as equals, my colleagues' mouths drop. When I discussed a draft of the cultural diversity section, they said, `Do you really feel that way?' I said, `Listen, I know it, I do not have to feel it, I know it; I have factual information to support it.' They do not know it; in many cases what we think they should know they do not know out of ignorance. At the same time, I am not willing to shoulder the burden of the white problem, and I think racism is a white problem. We have to point out the problem and say, `It is up to you to get your colleagues, your white peers, to understand the problem.'
Now, to move to the other issue. Making available scholarships and fellowships is only one aspect of the challenge to bring the pieces of the puzzle together. The other part is, once the students arrive, what is at the institution to support them? If they do not succeed, you know, it is very easy to say, `well, we did everything; we gave them scholarships, we did this, we did that.' But what you did not do was to provide the essential support system that they need to feel comfortable there and to overcome the psychological damage of having grown up in a racist society.
I would like to read from an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education that addressed this issue, called "Improved Opportunities Solved for Minority Scholars," and we can add `students' to `scholars'—`minority students and scholars' for our purposes here. This was published in March 18, 1989. One of the points made is that the universities, i.e., our white colleagues, must use open minds toward us as faculty and scholars. Let me read this short paragraph:
In particular, faculty members need to give more recognition to topics and styles of scholarship that are of particular interest to minority faculties [and I would add, students], but may have been undervalued, discouraged, or ignored by other scholars.
If students come in with a particular interest that falls outside of mainstream curriculum, we look at them as if they are crazy. We do not give them an opportunity to develop their interests and their talents. And then the next paragraph says: "There is not a whole lot of tolerance for those kinds of emergent views." And that truly is a problem for minority scholars. How can you recruit and retain minority faculty members whose colleagues look at what they are doing as having no value because their interests lie outside the mainstream? There is no recognition; no one likes to work in isolation. At Indiana University one of the proposals I have made is that of multiple hirings. I am not willing to go to a university and be the only black, the only woman, the only ethnomusicologist—period. So, I try real hard to do what? In many instances, to satisfy one colored person we must have another person of color in a similar position. We have not looked at the person's interest; who is going to be there for intellectual and social support? To support that interest in our department of Afro-American studies, my goal is to make sure that every faculty member has a colleague with a shared interest. I would not bring an individual to Indiana University who would have to work in isolation. I will not do it! So, I will wait, or ask for a second position and look at future hirings; or I will guarantee that individual that, in one year, we will have another person with shared interests; or I will work it out with another department: `I am interested in hiring someone from this discipline, can we work together and you hire a person with a similar interest so they will have someone to communicate with and share ideas?' So, I think when we talk about recruitment we have to understand that there has to be a support system. Or we can turn the situation around (my last comment) and just ask, how many white males would be comfortable and feel they could be productive (particularly in institutions focused on research/teaching) coming into an all black department with all black women? Or an all black department with all black men? How many Renaissance specialists would feel comfortable where no one in that department shares an interest in Renaissance music?
Audience member #6: I can answer that.
Maultsby: OK, please do.
Audience member #6: Well, I do that. I teach at a black college, I have for 16 years, and I think it is possible. I know I might get laughter from the audience, but what I would like to say here is that you are rationalizing, as did the young lady promoting the idea of lowering the standards [for the benefit of minorities]. That is sending the message that someone is not qualified on their own for a position, that we should find some artificial means of putting them in that situation. These 17 year-olds or 18 year-olds are not so dumb that they cannot see the message that is being sent when a gentleman, as you did [addressing audience member #5], suggests that one ignore all the other applicants and invent a particular set of funds to pay the way for a student's education. What I do believe in is trying as hard as I can to interact with people in the community or nearby cities for all the different things that I am looking for. I would suggest that all of us, as inventive human beings, try to do that and beware of all this `nurturing' going so far that it becomes blatant circumventing of rules and regulations. I think that when you circumvent rules and regulations for a student, openly and repeatedly, with great energy, you are saying to that student: `Well, your grandmother died... yes, we'll make an exception for you.' If they start to key into this, they see a way to ease up and they will never get that wonderful sense of accomplishment that comes from having done something on their own. I think that a white male (like myself) with a class of all-black females could, on his own, be inventive and make a success out of the teaching situation, and that is where the joy would come from. I may be wrong, but that is my sense. I do not think that I can expect an institution to hire two people at once (me and a counterpart in interests) when I go to a new position.
Audience member #3: Who said that nurturing means bending rules?
Audience member #6: I put it in quotes, `nurturing.'
Audience member #3: Yes, but no one equated that with bending rules.
Moderator: Yes, I must object.
Berger: There is a difference between easing the rules and supporting students.
Audience member #3: But you mentioned the death and the...
Moderator: I did not mean at all to support the idea that standards should be lowered for a particular population of students or potential faculty members. Earlier I was trying to throw out a question to promote discussion. However, the re-examination of the standards of admission or the standards set for faculty members may be necessary. What we are really talking about is attempting to break down ideas that minority people are hired or attracted to schools simply because they are minorities.
Audience member #6: But that is what I am saying. You will never do that as long as you promote all over this country what this gentleman is saying, that we all suspend the rules.
Momentary confusion; three or four people talking at once.
Maultsby: But you assume that black students are marginal and that these programs can only exist as an exception.
Audience member #3: They do it for exceptional white scientists.
DjeDje: Yes, that is true.
Momentary confusion; people talking at once again...
Audience member #6: I will not argue about it, then.
Trimillos: If you look at the sociology of what is happening here, this is evolving into a minority versus majority issue which I do not think we need to pursue right here.
One of the problems, and then perhaps I will try to suggest a solution, is that the student and the faculty member often, if they are from a different culture or sub-culture, come in with different expectations of how things are supposed to happen. In Hawaii, the only blacks that we have are on the football team and the basketball team. There are very few of what we call `service' blacks in the state, when the parents come in with military units and then the kids go to college. Usually they go to high school and then they go some place else, so that most of these are from southern California and they know how to manipulate the system. As soon as they get there, they think they can manipulate the system on guilt the same way they do in California. However, in a Hawaiian context it is sort of hard to talk about the slave or the enslavement issue so there is no support for a lot of the rhetoric that blacks are using to deal with things. They quickly learn to adjust to how you work with the Hawaiian system, because it is not the same as in the mainland of the United States.
We (i.e., the Music Department) have a strong counseling program, particularly supported by the Athletic Department because they support the band [laughter]. A lot of the students come to us and we have to explain to them what it means, culturally, to work within the system and this may be what a number of mainland schools have to do for minorities and what everybody calls sub-cultures: to explain how you get ahead in this system. Then they can either opt in or opt out. Also, with this kind of dialogue you can then find out what the student expects or how they think they are supposed to operate. And then you are able to say, `Yeah, you can do this;' or `You cannot do this;' or `It would be better to do it this way.' This allows for a dialogue at the student level with a faculty member rather than bending the rules or not bending the rules, trying to do it from an administrative point of view.
This is a situation which affects a lot of students from the mainland, who are in the minority at the University of Hawaii and learn that they cannot always be as vocal as they are used to being on the mainland. Many of our students are used to not saying anything until they have something really important to say. We were talking about this the other day. A lot of times there are long silences in classes which make most Americans very nervous because they think no learning is going on because nobody is saying anything. Then you have the mainland student who tries to fill the space with something. One has to learn what the different expectations are and then learn to deal with that so that, as a teacher, often I find myself in the role of a referee, trying to keep the mainland kids quiet and allowing the local (we called them `locals') students to have the three beats they need to say their piece. This is another thing that is, again, very cultural. A lot of times, if there is no pause, nobody feels they have the floor, whereas, often, with American, mainland students they'll cut right in, even when you are talking. There is just a difference of rhythm in terms of the sharing.
Moderator: Unfortunately, I must cut in with this different rhythm, to say that, obviously, there is a lot more to discuss and we could certainly go on another half hour, at least. However, we have run beyond our time limit and we must close. Thank you, panelists and audience, for your participation in this discussion. We appreciate your comments and I, specifically, welcome all your comments and suggestions on behalf of the Committee on the Status of Minorities [now the Committee on Cultural Diversity]. I would appreciate your input. Thank you for coming; thank you all.
Summary of the Panel: Minority Faculty Members—Opportunities, Problems, and Challenges
- Term is confusing; minority usually means a group of people who is not part of the mainstream, be it ideologically or in terms of race, gender, etc. (DjeDje)
- Minority, at least in terms of policy, is often defined by the outside and by government; the meaning of the term is relative to sociological phenomena in each locality. (Trimillos)
- Minority: a group whose culture and world views differs from that of the majority or dominant group; this implies race and ethnicity issues (because these involve cultural differences) but excludes gender. (Maultsby)
- Who is a minority is not uniformly defined geographically. (Berger)
Affirmative action [aa]:
- This is a very important mandate for the well-being of minorities; however, among members of the majority biases persist since faculty hired under aa are viewed as less qualified than those hired in "regular" positions. (Maultsby)
- The intent of aa processes is frequently contravened or misused; this causes some members of the "majority" to become disillusioned with the concept. (Berger)
- Racial factors alone should not be the only aim of aa; many people of non-white races have completely assimilated into the mainstream culture. There is a conflict between the person as a personality and the person as a symbol. "Many of us are tired of being symbols and we just want to be ourselves, whatever that may happen to be." (Trimillos)
- Aa programs to attract minority faculties are in place; however, there is a stigma associated with being hired under one of these programs. (DjeDje)
- Lack of understanding between minority and majority: (audience)
- (a) psychologically, the term minority reinforces the image of inequality or ineptness
- (b) all (students & faculty) should be educated in non-Western cultural traditions. This is the only way to increase understanding and change ingrained, biased attitudes
- Aa has frequently been misunderstood: it means hiring qualified people who have not had regular opportunities. (audience)
Problem in the "pipeline" from student level to faculty: we have a challenge to encourage minority students to come into the profession; not to lower standards, but to provide nurturing, guidance and encouragement. (moderator and audience members)
- We have a tremendous responsibility, as minority faculty, to become mentors to the younger generation. (audience) At an Illinois college: considering a program to attract minority faculty by devising a program that would pay graduate school bills in exchange for a two-year teaching commitment at the college after graduation. Panel and audience applauded the plan.
- We have a tremendous responsibility, as minority faculty, to point out problems in attitudes and make it incumbent on the administration to deal with them. (Maultsby)
- Minority students are interested in both mainstream fields of study and in topics that have been undervalued or ignored by other scholars. The latter should be accepted, encouraged, and valued. We need to have more tolerant and open views on scholarship. (Maultsby)
- Minority faculty function best in an academic environment where others share their interests. Maultsby is for multiple hirings. (Maultsby)
- If student and faculty member come from different cultures or sub-cultures, they often have different expectations of each other's behavior. Communication is the only way to understanding between people who are different. (Trimillos)
1Note: This transcription is of a panel, Minority Faculty Members—Opportunities, Problems, and Challenges, which was sponsored by the then Committee on the Status of Minorities (now Committee on Cultural Diversity) during the CMS National Meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, October 1989. This panel proved so thought-provoking that it merited inclusion in this book. Particularly useful were the panelists' struggles to re-examine the definition of the term minority and the audience-panel discussion on the relative merits of affirmative action concepts. It became obvious, during the passionate discussion, that such an on-going dialogue is necessary among members of our profession. It is the hope of The College Music Society that it be possible to continue a healthy, open dialogue such as this one. In that spirit, this transcript is offered herein. A summary of the discussion is appended.