Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Decreases in black Faculty & Staff on Southeast's campus affect African American students retention, enrollment

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

There’s been a decrease in the number of African American faculty and staff on Southeast’s campus. Walking through the halls and around campus, African American students are feeling the effects of not having people around who look like them.

Some faculty say this issue is due to a natural attrition and it is normal for the decrease. Black Faculty, Staff Alliance Faculty Co-Chair, Tamara Zellars Buck agrees but also says when you already have so few black faculty and staff, “any loss is felt disproportionately.”

A 2017 College Student Affairs Leadership article titled, “Where did they go: retention rates for students of color at predominantly white institutions,” uses multiple interviews and surveys to research this issue.

It reads: “In respect to student attrition, compositional diversity can hinder student retention rate due to faculty composition. As students transition to college life, faculty of color at PWIs [predominately white institutions] can serve as mentors and role models. Currently, faculty of color make up only 12% of full-time professorships therefore it can be challenging to find faculty of color to serve as mentors. Conferring to interviews conducted by Guiffrida in 2005, black students felt that faculty of color were their biggest advocates.”

Academic Support Centers (ASC) at Southeast, is one of the prominent sources for recruiting students who are African American to the University. Within ASC, there are multiple programs like TRIO services that cater to minorities and first-generation college students. Just last semester, three African American staff members left the program. Students are feeling the effects of their absences as they were three of the people who recruited, advised and mentored them through their college career.

Southeast senior and TRIO member, Le’asia Harrington said having African American mentors and advisors is what helped her get through college.

“I know for one, when I see people like Brittany or Jamila, getting their masters and getting their bachelors, it pushes me to think they are just like me. They are regular people just like me. I see them up there going and doing their thing; I can do it too,” Harrington said.

“In recruitment, they always [send] out the black person like Tony, he was doing recruitment. So I met Tony and he was a black student who was here and graduated and worked on admissions,” Harrington said. “So you see all those different types of people, but when you actually get here on campus, you realize the lack of diversity that’s here.”

She finished with, “Me finding my support system, really made me have great retention. Every year I wanted to come back. Why? It’s because my support system was here. I wanted my support system, I wanted to see my support system. I wanted to talk about what I’m going to be doing and what I was involved with,” Harrington said.

Sonia Rucker, Assistant to the President for Equity & Diversity and Dean of Students,

said as enrollment for the University is down, it is becoming harder to recruit new students. She believes the ability to retain African American faculty and staff is important when it comes to their recruitment.

Rucker also explained she cannot say why faculty and staff members leave the University, because that is personal to them. As for retaining faculty and staff members, sometimes incentives like promotions are hard to come by, especially at this time due to budget cuts.