LETTER: ISU faculty lacking in diversity, understanding

Larry Gross

The events of Sept. 11 have brought into focus the need for multicultural understanding. If the underlying dynamics of the terrorist attacks are to be resolved, crosscultural understanding is imperative.

Iowa State has the stated goal of promoting multicultural understanding, which is good. However, it cannot achieve this goal without minority faculty who bring different world views to this school. The university administration claims it wants to increase the number of minority faculty on campus. Unfortunately, there is a disconnect between avowed university policy and actual university practice.

As far as I can determine, minority faculty are not challenging accepted knowledge in the sciences as do many minority faculty in the humanities. Minority humanities professors are attempting to promote multicultural understanding by bringing different world views and ways of knowing to their scholarship and teaching. As such, minority faculty members in the humanities are critical to promoting multicultural understanding on campus.

Unfortunately, many minority faculty in the humanities suffer for promoting multicultural understanding. In the past it has not been uncommon for minority faculty in the humanities to be fired or denied tenure. Many of the minority faculty seem to be facing the same future.

I am an American Indian. This past spring, the religious studies faculty attempted to fire me for no just cause. The basis for the firing was so weak, the dean had to intervene and overturn the decision. However, I’m now suffering from severe emotional distress, a hostile work environment, a loss of time from dealing with this matter and loss of income. After working here for four years, I am the lowest paid tenure-track faculty member in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies. Even a faculty member who was hired last year has a larger salary than my own.

My situation is typical for many minority faculty members in the humanities. The end result is that many minority faculty in the humanities are either denied tenure or leave this school on their own.

Iowa State needs to have alternative voices in faculty to promote multicultural understanding. Minority faculty provide one of those voices. However, the actions of entrenched interests at this school work to drive minority faculty away.

Larry Gross

Assistant professor

Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies and American Indian studies