Presidents of Color in Chicago(land)

Who leads continues to matter. Right? So, in some ways, it remains a matter of identity politics who is a president or chancellor in Chicago and beyond. Right? I have raised the issue of women leaders in a prior essay and of LGBTQ leaders in another. (Ironically, the second got more attention than the first. Hmmm.) So, what about racial/ethnic variety in leadership in higher education institutions in Chicago(land)?

National data shows that there continue to be concerns about diversity of this sort as well. This study  showed that:

“While women have increased their representation (26 percent in 2011, up from 23 percent in 2006), the proportion of presidents who are racial and ethnic minorities declined slightly, from 14 percent in 2006 to 13 percent in 2011. However, when minority-serving institutions are excluded, only 9 percent of presidents belong to racial/ethnic minority groups, unchanged from 2006.” (Source cited is here.) I suspect that there are interactions between gender and racial ethnic diversity going on that create interesting dynamics as well. For example, if you look back at the quotation, while “women” seem to be raceless, “racial and ethnic minorities” seem to be genderless. Hmmm.

In a Chronicle piece on this topic, entitled “Who Are College Presidents? Still Aging White Men” here is how the “average” college president is depicted:

“Today’s typical college leader is a married white male with a doctorate in education. He is 61 years old, up from 60 years old in 2006, according to the American Council on Education’s latest survey, “The American College President 2012.””

Yes, he tends to be heterosexual since marriage equality . . . well. . . is only beginning to affect this data. Further into the article, additional specifics begin to emerge. Here’s what is said: “Hispanic presidents, who represented 3.8 percent of all presidents in the survey, saw the largest decline among minority presidents since 2006. The 0.7-percentage-point drop in representation of Hispanic presidents, coupled with a slight increase in the proportion of white presidents, was a key driver for the overall decline in minority representation in American colleges, the data show.”

When it comes to racial ethnic diversity, of course, there are many “categories.” And not all are alike. For example, the relatively expansive category of Asian Americans (which includes everyone from Vietnamese to Chinese to . . . . ), was markedly absent in leadership positions in 2006. This article notes: “In 2006, Asians made up 0.9 percent of all college presidents nationally, according to ACE. Meanwhile, 5.8 percent of presidents that year were Black and 4.6 percent were Hispanic. Among more than 283,000 tenured faculty the previous year, 4.5 percent were Black and 3.1 percent were Hispanic. However, the fact that more than 6 percent were of Asian descent suggests that a viable pool of university presidents is available.”

What about locally in 2011? We certainly have some racial ethnic diversity among Chicago(land) university and college leaders. In addition to those who are white (yes that is a racial category), here are some examples of Chicago(land) leaders who represent racial/ethnic diversity:

Chancellor Cheryl Hyman, City Colleges

President Craig Follins, Olive Harvey College

Jose Aybar, Richard J. Daley College  (who, by the way, graduated from this local college)

Marnelle Alexis, MacCormac College

Walter E. Massey, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

What do you make of this? Are we still waiting for a day when race does not matter? Yes, I fear we are. Is “progress” uniform? every day are we getting better and better? I fear not.




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  • There is also a University in Chicago that has an African American President, and an African American Provost.

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