To the Editor:
First semester of the 1995-1996 academic school year many of the African American alumni met with the African American students at a Town Meeting to discuss issues pertaining to the African American community at Oberlin College. It was at this meeting where the issue of minority faculty was put on the floor. African American students, particularly those majoring in the sciences, stated their dissatisfaction with the diversity within the faculty in departments such as mathematics, chemistry and physics, all of which do not hold faculty members of minority ethnicities. Both the President of the college and the Dean of Student Life and Services, as well as other faculty and administration members, were present. It was our hope that through this Town Meeting, the President and the Dean would gain a greater sense of the importance of expanding diversity not only amongst students, but also within faculty.
In the Fall of 1995, OBSSO (Oberlin Black Science Students Organization) became aware that a position was opening in the Biology Department for an animal physiologist. Members of the organization were hoping that this opportunity would provide for a minority candidate to fill the position. After speaking with Professor Dennis Luck, Chairman of the Biology Department, who outlined a plan to recruit a minority person for application, the members of OBSSO were assured that measures of affirmative action would be taken to be certain that a qualified minority person would be given equal opportunity. There were over 100 applicants and out of that pool only one of them indicated their ethnicity. Because the hiring process and applications are meant to be non-race specific, there was no way for the Search Committee to determine the ethnicity of any of the applicants. Consequently, the three finalists chosen were all Caucasian. Although there is an Affirmative Action Officer within the Human Resources Department, it does not appear that any communication was made between them and the Biology Department in stressing the need for an African-American to fill that position. Furthermore, students on the Search Committee, two of whom are of African descent, were not involved in the selection process as the finalists were chosen over Winter Term. Although students were told that all efforts were being exhausted in trying to find an African-American to fill the position, the manner in which the position was advertised was done on a very local level. Notice of the position was not placed in either the Chronicle of Higher Education, Black Issues in Higher Education, nor any other national publications which would have a broad base of minority readers.
In writing you, our intent is to question the process in which the search and the selection was done. We would like to know why publicity for the position was not done on a national level. Also, we would like to know how many minority persons actually applied. Furthermore, we deserve an explanation as to why the students of the Search Committee were not involved in the review of any applications. Until these questions are answered, we, the students of the Oberlin Black Science Students Organization, feel that the final decision on a new professor in the Biology Department should be halted and the search remain open. Thank you for your time.
Copyright © 1996, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 124, Number 18; March 15, 1996
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