In a February 12 feature article on white supremacist and racist movements in the Newark area, The News Journal’s Lee Williams exposed Robert T. Huber, a physics department graduate student, as a white supremacist who has taught undergraduate courses through the department. Although Huber, who is the lead guitar player for Teardown, a white power metal band, attempted to keep his ideological affiliations a secret on campus, The News Journal article changed all that. When the article appeared, it immediately provoked heated debate both on and off campus.
The AAUP supports the University’s stance: Since Huber apparently has not disseminated white supremacist views on campus, the University has no basis either in law or University policy for taking actions against him. The First Amendment protects Huber’s right to free political expression off campus, and the University’s zero tolerance policy announced this past October for on campus hate crimes does not apply to off campus behavior.
While the AAUP recognizes that the Administration’s response to the Huber controversy has been measured and appropriate, this does not mean that the Administration and the broader University community have adequately come to grips with the main issue that has surfaced as a result of this incident: why minorities, particularly African Americans, feel so vulnerable on campus?
This sense of vulnerability prompted Kamilyah Cooper, a UD psychology major, to tell The News Journal’s Lee Williams that when his article publicized Huber’s beliefs, she felt unsure of her physical safety. “We have a very small minority student population,” she said. “Having someone like Huber here makes me uncomfortable, but knowing there’s nothing that can be done about it makes it worse.”
In a related comment, Desiree Norwood, president of the Black Student Union (BSU), was reported in The Review as saying that the BSU was perplexed by the Administration’s refusal to apply its own zero tolerance policy to the Huber case.
Although appropriate from a strict legal perspective, the Administration’s approach has not calmed anxiety about racism on campus. Consequently, a range of campus and off-campus suggestions were made in the effort to move the Administration to act more boldly. These suggestions ranged from firing Huber outright to barring him as a graduate student from teaching courses to demanding that parallel courses be established for those courses he teaches so students can choose to take these parallel courses if they wish to.
In the midst of this chaos of suggestions and cross-suggestions, some voices emerged that focused more on the campus climate than on Huber specifically.
Omowale Walker, a specialist on Nigeria with the Sister Cities of Wilmington project, told the AAUP Voice, “I realize that in many ways the University means well and its administrators are shaken by the naked racism of the groups Huber associates with. But the truth is that this concern would have been more effective if, rather than applying it to a single individual, the Administration had applied it to its own refusal or inability over the last 20 years to do what was necessary to make UD a more diverse campus culturally and racially. If the University of Delaware had more African-American students and teachers, it would be far more difficult for racists to intimidate or cause stress for those African-Americans who are there. As far as I am concerned, this is the real issue that the Huber situation brings up. UD has failed in this regard.”
A similar criticism was made by Lisa Platt in a Feb. 27 letter to The News Journal. Ms. Platt suggested the furor over the Huber incident shifted focus away from where it should be onto an easy target. “I find it almost amusing,” Ms. Platt said, “at how easily we get distracted by tattoos and hard-core music and assume he’s the scariest guy in town. The scariest people in this state and most others wear suits, ties and leather loafers. I’m much more intimidated by an educated, smooth-talking, well-dressed 50-year-old male at a job interview than a young skinhead on the street.”
Far from playing rhetorical games, Platt’s punchy language was intended to highlight what for her is a fundamental point: that in the modern world the worst source of racism and other bigotries is not to be found in the lone individual, no matter how dangerous he or she might be, but rather in the morally inert bureaucracies that head institutions. “The chain of command at not only the university but at most powerful entities in the public and private sector of this country,” she wrote in order to make her point clear, “looks very male, very middle-aged and very white, with a few minorities and women in the mix to keep it real.”
Such comments lead us to ask, “What are the structural and historical contexts of race relations at the University? How can the University community improve them?”
Minimal Progress on Racial Diversity
The most recent data from the University’s Research and Planning Office show that as of 2005, African-Americans made up 4.17 percent of the faculty compared to 4.1 percent in 2001, 5.6 percent of undergraduates compared to 5.4 percent in 2001 and 4.1 of graduate students compared to 3.9 percent in 2001. This is in a state where African-Americans make up about 20 percent of the total population. Also, UD’s main campus is only 12 miles from Wilmington , the state’s largest city with 70,000 inhabitants, about 57% of whom are African-American.
Not only do these data reflect a minimal African-American presence on campus, they also reflect no significant trend toward the problem’s reversal. In fact, when the data are studied in the context of race-related campus trends during the last twenty years, one is compelled to acknowledge limited campus racial diversity, despite various highly publicized strategies over the years aimed at making things better. Although improvements have been made, they have occurred at a glacial pace. There are no indications that further improvements are in sight. In addition, Hispanics, the state’s fastest growing minority population, represent only 4.1 percent of the undergraduate population, 2.3 percent of graduate students and 2.5 percent of faculty.
UD’s History of Segregation
In 1983, two years after the U.S. Department of Education cited the University of Delaware for “the vestiges of unconstitutional segregation,” the sluggish UD bureaucracy had accomplished almost nothing at all in terms of solving the problem. At that time, African-Americans constituted 1.7% of the UD faculty, 13 faculty members out of a total of 767. Finally in 1987, the UD Administration launched an effort to increase the African-American faculty presence to 3.2 percent, the biggest single jump in the last 20 years. Since that time, the percent of African-American faculty members has increased at a barely perceptible rate — only one percent in all that time.
Yet in the late 1980s the prospects for greater diversity seemed bright. In 1988, the President’s Commission to Promote Racial and Cultural Diversity was established. Yet the following decade saw barely any progress in spite of the fact that the commission was created to raise the visibility of diversity issues and to lay the groundwork for “an educational community that is intellectually, culturally and socially diverse, enriched by the contributions and full participation of people from different backgrounds.” Yet, either because of a lack of will or an inability to develop practical methods, these values were not realized.
Another occasion for more fully understanding race issues on campus and enhancing diversity emerged eight years ago. In March 1996, the University’s Office of Institutional Research and Planning conducted a survey focusing on campus attitudes toward race and diversity issues. The survey was initiated by the commission. A random sample of 1,726 full-time employees and 2,314 full-time students were selected to participate in the survey. Attempts were made to weigh the sample so it reflected campus demographics. Unfortunately, not all groups responded at the same rate to the survey. The survey’s Executive Summary stated that some groups’ response rates (for instance, those of faculty and professional employees) were dramatically higher than the response rates of a number of minority groups and some students groups.
When the survey’s results were finally publicized in August 1996, there were contending interpretations of the results. One Administration spokesperson told The News Journal that since less than one-third of the survey’s respondents felt discriminated against, the survey proved that the University was basically a welcoming campus. This overly positive view did not withstand scrutiny. The Administrator in charge of the Research and Planning Department disagreed stating that the survey’s low response rate (49.6% of the students, 65.4% of the employees) prohibited such positive generalizations.
Further analysis revealed that the overwhelming majority of the approximately 70 percent of the respondents were who did not feel discriminated against came from the white community and did not reflect the perceptions of African-Americans and other minorities. In fact, 66 percent of UD’s black faculty and black professionals responded that they had experienced harassment or discrimination on campus. Non-African-American minorities (Hispanic, Asian, and Native American) also went on record as having experienced campus bias, although at a lower rate, in the 40-42 percent range.
Given the high rate of campus discomfort expressed by UD minorities in the survey, the lack of a coherent response to the survey did not to help resolve disparate experiences of discrimination on campus. Now, a decade later, continuing minimal progress shows that the University community must reinvigorate its efforts to realize a racially diverse learning environment.
Ten years ago we wrote in these pages that UD’s racial balance problem was far from resolved and that “among the potential campus targets of harassment and discrimination, a high percentage have already experienced bigotry on campus. If this problem continues to receive the same lackluster attention that it has received from the Administration over the last 10 years, UD will not be successful in attracting a more racially diverse faculty or student population.”
There are times when it does not feel good to be right. This is one of them.
A measured response to Huber’s status on campus is warranted based on law and University policies. Yet the Huber episode highlights the degree to which campus race issues have not been adequately addressed and therefore must now be confronted with a greater sense of urgency. We must go beyond denouncing the vilest forms of racism and also denounce the University’s failure to solve the diversity problem. The racial climate on campus affects our core mission as educators and as a community of scholars engaging in a search for truth. We are all threatened and diminished by racial divisions, fear and anger provoked by hatemongers, and isolation from one another in the face of brutal expressions of bigotry. Our collective response should be based on recognition of a sorry past and renewed efforts to build a diverse and inclusive community.
Roger Bowen, General Secretary of the national AAUP, spoke at a well attended February 22 Faculty Luncheon Forum. The forum was jointly sponsored by the University of Delaware AAUP Chapter and the provost’s office. Bowen praised the excellent relations between the AAUP and the Administration at the University of Delaware. He then spoke eloquently on issues of academic freedom.
Quoting from the first “Global Colloquium of University Presidents” held at Columbia University in 2005, Bowen defined academic freedom as, “the freedom to conduct research, teach, speak, and publish, subject to the norms and standards of scholarly inquiry, without interference or penalty, wherever the search for truth and understanding may lead.”
Based on long established AAUP principles, Bowen conceptualized academic freedom at both the level of the university and the individual faculty member. In his talk to UD faculty and administrators, he stressed the central importance of the institutional autonomy of universities. Universities require independence if they are to fulfill their missions for the common good of society and as the institutional locations for the academic freedom of the scholarly community and individual faculty members. Arguing that the autonomy of the university is basic to the scholarly search for truth, Bowen stated:
“Not explicit but nonetheless critical in making the case for institutional autonomy is the notion that only in an atmosphere where the pursuit of truth is untainted by external influence – political pressure, partisan politics, ‘moral values,’ corporate interests – can the truth be discovered. If scholarly independence is compromised by, say, corporate funding of a particular experiment predicated on producing a particular finding, then the integrity of the scholarly finding will be called into question in the short term and, in the long term, will likely be discredited. A scientific discovery that turns out to be no discovery at all, but instead is the result of bias, disinformation, faulty methodology, or outright fabrication of data, serves not the scientist, not the university, not the society, and certainly not the truth. Such ‘science’ neither has integrity not is it useful.”
In concluding his talk, Bowen advised faculty members to “begin every semester by reminding students of the tenets of academic freedom.” During their years in college or university, students should come to learn that democracy needs independent universities for free inquiry and as locations for the study and discussion of ideas that may not be popular.
Faculty Compensation at UD
Each year, the University’s Office of Institutional Research and Planning gathers data on faculty compensation at UD for inclusion in the annual report issued by national AAUP on the profession's economic status. During contract negotiations, the Bargaining Committee representing the faculty relies on this data for formulating salary proposals. To be sure, the data collected both at UD and other institutions do not exactly meet our needs. For example, the salaries and overall compensation reported in the data include department chairs, program directors and other colleagues who perform administrative duties and so are not included in the AAUP bargaining unit. Still, both the AAUP and the Administration consider these data to be the reliable for analyzing faculty salaries and compensation.
The data for 2005-2006 are of interest in light of the relationships among faculty compensation and the University’s overall Operating Budget. During this academic year, the UD’s Operating Budget is $667,491,900. Total faculty compensation is $126,070,166 or about 19% of the total Operating Budget. Total faculty salaries are $94,784,756 or about 8% of the Operating Budget. Perhaps most interesting, UD health insurance costs for faculty employees are $805,393, which amounts to less than 1% of the Operating Budget.
On the revenue side, the UD’s income is overwhelming from faculty teaching and research activities. More than $204,000,000 comes to UD through student tuition. Contracts and other exchanges, which include research grants, brought to the University by the faculty, amounts to more than $116,000,000.
A recent National Association of College and University Business Officers report cited UD as one of 56 colleges with an endowment above one billion dollars.