How faculty of color construct the promotion and tenure process

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Higher Education


John A. Centra


racism, minority faculty

Subject Categories

Education | Race and Ethnicity


This study was based on interviews with sixteen tenured and untenured faculty of color at a research university. The interviews took place between September 1994 and October 1995 and were conducted using an open-ended, semi-structured format in which participants were asked to talk about promotion and tenure. The major question addressed in this paper was: How did faculty of color at a large university construct (and negotiate) promotion and tenure?

The faculty members framed their struggles as "battles." Because race was salient in how the faculty members constructed the promotion and tenure process, the faculty members constructed their experiences as "fighting battles" against an academic power structure that was seen either as racist or unsupportive of faculty of color. The most important battles were against racism, and for the women, sexism. Aside from believing that their colleagues saw them as unqualified, the faculty members' saw these battles in terms of a promotion and tenure process that was structurally racist and sexist because it ignored their unique perspectives and contributions.

Despite these battles, the faculty members negotiated (i.e., interpreted and acted accordingly) their "battles" in ways they believed furthered their success. For some, this meant rarely challenging racism or sexism, while others fought constantly; each of these strategies had negative consequences for the faculty members. The majority survived the promotion and tenure process, or tried to, by selecting their battles, and fighting them in a way that kept their integrity intact and did not alienate their colleagues.

The faculty members developed other strategies to survive the promotion and tenure process. For example, the faculty members saw the tenure process as a "game" with rules that could be mastered, and they found supportive colleagues. Because not all faculty members felt they were supported in their departments, many looked outside their departments or the institution for support. All of the faculty members stressed the importance of establishing networks of professionals, more likely to include friends and family as well, to provide both interpersonal and professional support.

Faculty of color's perceptions are important in influencing their choices. Furthermore, institutions should ensure they are supported once they arrive on their campuses.


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