Thursday, November 12, 2009

Guest Blogger: The OMSA Advisory Board

The OMSA Advisory Board met with a key administrator this past week! Ken Warren, Professor in the Department of English and Deputy Provost for Research and Minority Issues, came to address matters concerning diversity within the faculty, curriculum, and student body on campus.

With respect to faculty, we discussed, among other things, the rising number of African-American faculty at the University. It appears as though the University is “winning more frequently than it is losing” with regards to attaining and retaining faculty of color. At the same time, the University appears to be struggling to attract certain candidates who are not particularly drawn to the campus environment at UChicago. I cannot say that this comes as a surprise, but it appears as though the administration is working hard to draw in a qualified and diverse pool of potential candidates. Furthermore, the board addressed concerns with respect to the time that professors have available to engage with the study body. Both undergraduate and graduate students expressed that their professors are spread too thin while trying to keep up with their personal research efforts, teach the required amount of courses, and meet departmental obligations. Students expressed that a serious effort to recruit more faculty of color would significantly reduce the work load of current faculty, as well as provide more opportunities for meaning faculty-student engagement in the form of longer office hours; faculty contribution to student-organized events; and more substantive faculty advising for student research efforts. There was also discussion regarding post-doctoral positions, and the possibility of hiring future post-docs as potential tenure-track faculty members. We will update you with developments regarding this matter.

The board also discussed the University’s potential to expand race-related curriculum by hiring new faculty members with varied research interests pertaining to race, ethnicity, gender, and culture.

The student body appears to be growing more diverse every year, and students (both old and new) are demanding that the faculty and curriculum adjust to reflect these changes. Students expressed that these are not strictly racial and ethnic changes, but also changes that reflect the varied socioeconomic backgrounds, life experiences, and academic interests of the evolving student body.

Updates on the upcoming fourth meeting will be posted soon, so look out for that!

Also, please feel free to contact students on the Advisory Board with any questions or concerns. You can email me, Tsion Gurmu, directly at Also, please feel free to contact any of the other students on the board.

Hope to hear from you soon!