THE PROBLEM FOR BLACK PROFESSORS: JUDGED BEFORE MET
1 Rice University (UNITED STATES)
2 The University of Houston (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2009 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Conference name: 2nd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 16-18 November, 2009
Location: Madrid, Spain
Abstract:Numerous studies have documented the marginalization and barriers that ethnic minorities and women face in academia through institutional and peer discrimination. However, very few studies have examined how students perceive women and ethnic minority professors. One mainstream theory that seeks to explain the discrimination that professionals experience is known as “occupational stereotyping” (Lipton, O'Connor, Terry, & Bellamy, 1991). This theory submits that individuals have preset notions or “stereotypes” of group suitability for occupations and these stereotypes can lead to negative evaluations that potentially hinder advancement. Student perceptions of professors of different backgrounds are important to understand as a large segment of many professors’ careers revolve around students. The current study employed an experimental paradigm to discover whether students use stereotypes in evaluating professors of different department, gender, and race. More specifically, a 2 (Department: Humanities or Science) x 2 (Gender: Male or Female) x 3 (Race: African-American, Asian-American, or Caucasian) factorial design was used to examine these perceptions. Students in a college preparatory setting were given manipulated Curriculum Vita (CV) with identical credentials and requested to evaluate the given professors on three dimensions: competence, legitimacy, and integrity. MANOVAs and follow-up simple effect tests were performed to assess the differences in student evaluation. The results strongly suggest that students employed stereotypes in evaluating professors. In particular, Caucasian professors were rated as having more competency, legitimacy, and integrity compared to African American professors while gender seemed to have no main effect on the ratings. These main effects, however, were qualified by interactions. Female science professors and male humanities professors were evaluated as more competent compared to female humanities professors. Also, a consistent pattern revealed that the female African American professor was evaluated more negatively compared to the female Caucasian professor and both the male Caucasian and African American professors. These results further establish the challenge that women and minorities face in academia as negative students perceptions of such professors adds another dimension that these professors are forced to encounter and battle. In essence, the examination and understanding of these perceptions is imperative since they can limit the resources that are available to professors of different backgrounds. Moreover, the current research underscores the importance of recognizing how students perceive professor diversity. If students are wary of certain groups compared to others, then they may seek to avoid classes and disciplines taught by those individuals.
Keywords: stereotypes, diversity, gender.