Class in Higher Education

Social class in higher education is frequently an overlooked topic within the academy. This might be due to the complexity behind the definition of social class. When discussing social class, typically the conversation is centered around economic class. This is class based on the availability of assets or wealth that a person has access to. This could also mean the amount of resources and knowledge that a person has access to. This manifests into large discrepancies between economic classes, like we have seen over the past years with the top 1% becoming increasingly wealthier while most are seeing shrinking wages.

Economic class is not something that most student affairs professionals talk about when examining the profession. One way that economic class manifests within student affairs professionals is the idea of professionalism. This can be examined through language, attire, and expectation of attendance at university sponsored events. In terms of language, professionals can come from a variety of educational backgrounds and may not have the same exposure to terms commonly used with higher education spaces. Not having the knowledge of this style of language within the academy can alienate people and create further barriers for professionals within the field. Another way that class identity can be examined in higher education is attire. Whether this is the expectation that staff pay for school branded clothing, which can be pricey, or adhere to office dress code policies. These policies can disproportionately impact professionals and students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who may not have the resources to adhere to such policies. Finally, many student affairs professionals are expected to attend various university sponsored events. These events are not always free for attendance, which means the professional must use their own money to attend these events. Many professionals may not have the resources to attend these events.

Awareness of social and economic class within higher education is critical for the success of the profession of student affairs. Professionals come from all economic classes, and the practices within the profession should reflect this diversity within the profession. Thus, dress and attendance at university events should take into account that not all student affairs professionals have the resources to devote to these unspoken rules within the profession. Before offices have these policies and expectations of staff, they should look at how these practices and policies may impact the staff in which they are intended to include.

One example of how economic class can show up within students is the practice of internship requirements. Many students are required to have an internship as a part of their degree requirement. Numerous internships that are available for students are unpaid. This creates a scenario where students are not being compensated for their work and are unable to devote this time to paid opportunities. This disproportionate disadvantages students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Higher education, in general, needs to recognize the diversity of economic not only within administration, but also faculty and students within the academy.

 

References:

Ardoin, S. & martinez, b. (2019). No, I Can’t Meet You for an $8 Coffee: How Class Shows Up in Workplaces. In Reece, B. J., Tran V.T., DeVore, E. N., & Porcaro, G. (Eds.), Debunking the Myth of Job Fit in Higher Education and Student Affairs (p. 1-26). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Faculty Diversity in Higher Education

One prevalent issue within higher education is the rate in which faculty are hired and retained within the academy. Predominately white institutions (PWI’s) especially have lower percentages of faculty from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds. In addition, the rate in which all genders outside of males is disproportion to the rate in which male faculty members are hired. Higher education was founded for wealthy white males to gain access to education to ensure their own upward mobility and retaining their wealth. However, as higher education aims to address its own oppressive structures, the access to higher education must be addressed.

The article that I chose to discuss for this blog post was an article shared on Inside Higher Education. The article focused on  federal data on the rate of diversity within tenure track faculty within varying institutions. What their data analysis uncovered was that research and doctoral status institutions were especially lacking in racial and gender diversity within the hiring of faculty members. The number of Black and Hispanic faculty only accounted for less than 6%. This is with Black faculty representation only increasing by 0.1% and Hispanic faculty increasing by only 0.65%. These rates were marginally larger at master status institutions, but again the rate in which tenure track faculty is not increasing. In addition, the rate in which women from the years 2013-2017  increased by only 1.7%. The majority of tenure track faculty hires are held by white males.

This article is critical for the conversation of faculty within higher education. The federal data was calculated during the years 2013-2017, a time in higher education where conscious efforts were made to make critical examinations into hiring practices. It comes back into a theme of higher education that I have seen where institutions state they value one thing, but the data shows otherwise. In this case, institutions claimed that their espoused values were having diversity within teaching faculty, though the theories in use within the academy were the exact opposite. Values are not concrete unless they are actually manifesting what they are saying that they value. In addition to hiring faculty, the retention of faculty remains to be critical part of addressing the structural issues in higher education. Faculty can be recruited and hired to an institutions that still oppress the people they are hiring. Thus, the rate in which faculty are retained is going to be significantly lower. These data points only further illustrate the lack of diversity and equity within higher education. Without intentional and critical changes made to hiring practices, campus climates, and overall structures within higher education, these studies on diversity within higher education will continue to reveal the same trend in education.

References:

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2019/07/02/little-progress-diversifying-faculty-ranks-study-finds-particularly-research