Disclaimer: There are many different aspects to diversity, but this story will focus on gender in higher education roles. The story will also only discuss gender in binary, even though The Forum understands that gender is a spectrum.
In December 2015, a group of 13 student activists protested at a faculty meeting in the Bill and Vieve Gore School of Business because of statements from the college’s president about types of diversity on campus. They called for more diversity in the hiring of a new staff member and more need-based scholarships.
Eight months later, many of those student activists sat in to interview the former associate vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion Marco Barker.
While Westminster College’s official diversity statement addresses all aspects of diversity, The Forum investigated gender diversity specifically at Westminster and other colleges in the state.D
Diversity at Westminster
While women make up over half of instructor positions – one of the lowest ranking positions in academia – they constitute less than a third of professors, according to an article from Catalyst.
Women are also underrepresented in administration as well. A study by American Council on Education found that only 30 percent of college presidents were women in 2016.
Westminster adopted its first diversity statement in 2017, along with a diversity strategic plan. The statement was a promise, and the plan is the tool to make it happen, said former chief diversity officer Marco Barker.
Barker said in an email that the diversity statement was adopted to clearly define what diversity and inclusion mean at Westminster, and the diversity strategic plan provides the ways for Westminster to foster these values.
To ensure the employment of diverse talent, Barker said that it is important that personal biases are addressed in the search and hiring process.
“This means we have to elevate and expand the way we search for candidates to build the applicant pool and who we handle the screening process so we do not eliminate individuals based on bias, cultural biases especially,” Barker said in an email.
The diversity strategic plan does this by requiring biases training for all committees reviewing job candidates.
Barker said that the plan was not created to fill quotas, but to “[identify] talent who bring different perspectives to our campus, but who also have a commitment to diversity.”
The plan also calls for offering more diversity training and including the topic of diversity and inclusion in all orientations.
“The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion offers diversity education for all faculty and staff that meets people where they are in their understanding, provides an opportunity to growth and learning, and facilitates conversations so they can take knowledge back to their areas or classroom,” Barker said.
Enan Whitby, a junior sociology major said that he worries that putting up a forefront of having a diversity representative is a way to hide the fact that the college is not hiring a diverse population.
“I worry that it’s like, ‘oh we [look at female candidates], because we have a diversity officer’ even if we’re only hiring men for this position,” Whitby said.
Whitby said the gender diversity in his departments is “either easily 50/50, or mostly men.”
Other students said they were also concerned about gender diversity at Westminster.
Gabe Solomon, a first-year English major, said he is concerned that the college will believe it is diverse just because it has the policies.
“[I feel like], the fact that we have these protocols and we follow them, therefore it’s unlikely we’ll do anything wrong, is like, something I think could be an issue at hand,” Solomon said.
Solomon said, in their personal experience at Westminster, the gender faculty and staff ratio has been about 50/50.
“I think if anything, I’ve noticed more men in […] positions of power,” Solomon said.
This academic year, across all categories of faculty and staff, more women are employed at Westminster than men. Whereas last year, there were only more women than men in full-time staff and adjuncts positions.
Whitby said he’s not surprised that more women are employed.
“I think it’s interesting that more female-identified people are adjuncts, because they’re paid less,” Whitby said.
Solomon said that they are also not surprised by this.
“While there are more women, I feel like men are in the higher paying positions, like [department heads],” Solomon said.
Diversity in state-wide higher education
In terms of gender inclusion and equality, Westminster is doing better than two of the biggest universities in Utah.
In the 2017-2018 school year, Utah Valley University (UVU), Utah State University (USU) and Westminster all had more male faculty members than female. However, only Westminster had more female staff employees than male ones. In addition, UVU was the only school to have more male adjuncts than female, according to data provided by Westminster’s Office of Marketing and Communication.
Westminster had the smallest gap between the number of female and male faculty at 2.6 percent, while USU had the largest at 23.6 percent.
Westminster also had the smallest gap between the number of female and male staff members, while USU also had the largest. The gap at Westminster was 8.8 percent, the gap at USU was 19 percent.
UVU had the smallest gap between the number of male and female adjuncts at 21.4 percent, while USU again had the largest 40.8 percent.
Former Chief Diversity Officer Marco Barker said because diversity is a core value and priority for Westminster it should be built into the systems.
“If we want to a more diverse and inclusion-minded faculty and staff, we have to do the work before we hire and when they become part of our community,” Barker said.