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Diversity among faculty

Although Ole Miss is celebrating 50 years of integration this year, the university community has not yet reached full diversity among faculty.

In light of this year’s celebration of 50 years of integration at The University of Mississippi, many question the relative lack of diversity among university faculty and staff.
Accounting professor Annette Pridgen said that there is still much work to do to achieve a fully diverse community at Ole Miss.
“I think they do need to hire more minority faculty,” Pridgen said. “I also think that it would help, as far as staff goes, to increase diversity in the staff and the doctoral program, who will be future faculty members.”
Statistics published by the university indicate that 16.9 percent of faculty are non-white, compared to 24.6 percent of students.
Don Cole, assistant provost and assistant to the chancellor for multicultural Affairs, agreed that the university needs to hire more minorities. However, Cole admitted that incentives for individual departments may not be enough.
“There are some candidates who choose not to apply any- where in the South; some don’t want to come to Mississippi,” Cole said. “And, of course, there’s the salary ,we pay so much less than other places.”
The university administration relies on search committees to hire faculty and staff, and such a system struggles to encourage diversity, according to Cole.
“It begins with the commitment of the committee,” Cole said. “It is difficult to legislate or dictate the actions of a committee, and we rely on their honesty.”
Alysia Steele, an African American, was recently hired by the Meek School of Journalism and New Media to fill the position of journalism instructor.
She said that she did grap- ple with some doubts before taking a position at Ole Miss.
“Just knowing the history of Ole Miss and its integration and the things that happened here 50 years ago was a big part of: ‘Would I fit in here?’ ‘Would I feel comfortable here?’ ‘Would I be accepted here?’” Steele said.
She said both she and her husband have been relieved to find Ole Miss so welcoming.
“I found people to be very friendly and very cordial,” Steele said. “We’ve enjoyed living here. We feel safe living here.”