Black Faculty, Staff, and Administration

Looking at the faculty situation at the University of Idaho, the University has seen a significant uptick in staff diversity since its original founding. For instance, in 2000 there were only 43 faculty of color out of 600 total faculty members,1 and since then, this number has increased to 1,211 staff of color out of 6,702 total staff members.2 Within these numbers, there were a reported 24 Black faculty members in 2021, a far cry from the one member (Dr. White) that had held a position in 1978. A journal article titled “The Black Academic: Faculty Status among African Americans in U.S. Higher Education,” published in 2000, noted that Black faculty members only comprised 4% of professors and associate professors in higher education, compared to White faculty members who comprised nearly 87% of all tenured faculty members.3 The percentage of Black faculty members with tenure increased to its highest in 2015 at 7.57% and has sat at this average in recent years, with White faculty members sitting at around 70-71%.4 These numbers can be further broken down, with 6.1% of all Black faculty members being full-time in 20165 and 4.33% being on tenure track at institutions in the United States.6 This increase does signify that there has been a larger recruitment of Black faculty members at universities in the United States, and despite the stagnation, the University of Idaho has grown its staff numbers (although not significantly). However, it also signifies that there are inherent issues with the higher education system in the United States.

The limited number of Black faculty promoted to full professor positions is an example of existing systemic/institutional racism within US academia. Looking at the tenure issue itself, there exist many issues with it, but the biggest issue is that there are not enough Black tenured faculty and those who have been granted the rank of full professor.

The first large issue is that tenured faculty at universities are predominantly White, which leads to issues with the “similar to me” bias or the bias in which someone compares someone else to themself and judges them accordingly.7 In a study published in 2012, it was observed that Black faculty members at predominantly White institutions found themselves unable to bond with tenured faculty because of this bias,8 which is further interconnects with other problematic views which have been observed over the years of racial stereotypes or biases. A study in 2006 found that many Black faculty members felt they had been overlooked by White tenured faculty for not sharing a similar research focus with their White counterparts, or for being perceived (by White counterparts) as not intelligent enough to work with them.9

Studies also found that a common bias among senior White faculty during the tenure process was that Black tenure-track faculty were being hired merely for the sake of affirmative action, rather than for their achievements within their respective fields.10 These issues are important within the tenure hiring process, as they lead to minority-status stress, which is experienced by Black students as well.

During their tenure process, many Black faculty members at predominantly White institutions noted the tenure process was more difficult for them than for other White faculty members,11 and they reported feelings of intimidation and of being on their own without support from senior faculty.12 At the University of Idaho, this does not seem as bad in comparison to other institutions, with at least five faculty members out of 12 (higher faculty) having tenure. Tenure is important as it allows for Black faculty to conduct research on topics of their choosing, such as Black history, at a university. In comparison, a study produced in 2007 found that only 7% of Black professors in the United States were tenured. This does imply that the University of Idaho has done a much better job within this category.

Continuing with the numbers of higher faculty members at the University of Idaho, out of those 12, five are full professors and three are associate professors. In 2016, the number of Black full professors sat at 3.8% and Black associate professors sat at 5.8% out of over 700,000 professors in the US higher education field.13 When comparing these numbers with those of the University of Idaho, more Black faculty have been able to get into these positions that are difficult for Blacks to achieve in general across the United States. Professorships and associate professorships have been continuously noted as positions harder to obtain by Blacks due to the lack of commitment towards hiring Blacks into junior faculty positions and in where the power lies at the university when hiring new professors.

One such argument that has been made regarding the lack of Black hires is that there is a scarcity of Blacks in the PhD pipeline; however, numbers reported in a 2006 study noted that the 24 highest ranking liberal arts universities had Black professorships made up over 5% of overall faculty.14 These universities have also been recorded as having superior recruiting processes, thanks to a higher level of commitment towards diversifying their faculty. A more in-depth look at the difficulties for Black faculty advancement at universities, apart from racial biases and predominantly White councils, reveals that Black faculty members are “overburdened with teaching and service responsibilities” (Allen et al. 2000).15 Said another way, this articulates the point that many Black faculty at universities are not only teaching classes, but undertaking more responsibilities to support underrepresented students on campus.

Research also shows that Black faculty members take on more mentoring, advising, and other service roles in support of these students, while additionally serving on minority issue committees and promoting diversity initiatives on their respective campuses.16 This can be seen at the University of Idaho, where several professors not only teach, but also serve on these minority committees or are working on projects aimed at diversifying the campus. And while the percentage of full and associate professors who are Black is impressive compared to the overall numbers of Black faculty, it ought to be recognized that most of those tenured were promoted within the last five years.

On this topic, another prevalent issue that plagues the higher education system is the lack of Black women as full professors, associate professors, or tenured professors. In 2019, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that only 2.1% of tenured full and associate professors identified as Black women.17 This issue is present due to several biases that exist within universities, including the tendency to belittle Black women’s achievements while at the same time demanding they do more.

For example, tenure is heavily reliant on three areas of work: teaching, research, and service. The teaching area is heavily reliant on student evaluations, which studies have shown favor teachers who are both White and male.18 The research area of tenure is reliant upon faculty producing research articles discussing something in their field. Here it has been observed that Black women not only face more bias from publishers and editors, but articles published by women in general are cited less frequently than those produced by men.19 This is further aggravated by unfair biases of publishers that force Black professors to publish articles in lesser known journals, like the Journal of African American Males in Education, than their White counterparts. And finally, as aforementioned, Black faculty members in general dedicate more time towards helping underrepresented students, which is not as accurately depicted within their dossiers as it should be.

The above example shows the difficulty Black women face when approaching tenure and sheds further light on other challenges that are present for them in full or associate professor positions. As such, the University of Idaho has hired Black women to faculty member positions, including tenured Associate Professor Rochelle Smith in the library and full Professor Shaakirrah Sanders at the Boise law school extension. The University has also made significant progress in the hiring of Black women faculty, with Lynda Freeman being another Black woman hired to WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho joint medical education school) in 2016; Dr. Lynda Freeman was also named Women of the Year in 2022.20

This shows that the University has, in recent years, made more active progress in crucial areas compared to other universities across the nation and has done a generally better job in its recruitment of Black women in the higher education field. However, this area is not issue-free for the University. For example, as previously mentioned, Professor Sanders has an active lawsuit against the University of Idaho for wrongfully passing her over for promotions due to her being a Black woman. This indicates that while the University of Idaho has certainly done a better job in this area, there are still kinks and biases within the system that need to be addressed.

One more piece of valuable insight into the issues faced by Black academics is a research model proposed by Dr. Sydney Freeman Jr. This model directly examines Black academia reform at universities and is titled the “Model of Black Transformation.”21 The model is broken down into a five-step approach, and those five steps are: (1) Decolonization, (2) Abolition, (3) Revolution, (4) Liberation, and (5) Sovereignty.

The first step, decolonization, as defined by Dr. Freeman, is “the holistic process of letting go of colonial practices, values, and culture.”22 In other words, this step seeks to turn Black faculty mindsets more towards studying Black history in the United States and abroad, focusing on research that directly impacts Black people. At the University of Idaho, this step has seen progress in the development of the Africana Studies Program and the Black History Research Lab, both of which are aimed at educating people of Black history at home and abroad.

The second step of this model, abolition, is “being willing to fight injustice and dismantle practices, systems, institutions, or power structure” (Freeman 2021).23 This step directly confronts the issues that stem from systemic racism at universities and seeks to make the universities more engaged with Black academia promotion. At the University of Idaho, this step can be seen throughout the present Black history, with the BSU accomplishing much in the way of overturning negative policies, and the work of Black faculty in garnering higher positions at the University (though issues still persist within this area, as noted by the Sanders’ lawsuit).

The third step is revolution, or the “fundamental change from the status quo that facilitates new ways of knowing, being, and operating.”24 Put another way, this means that Black faculty will put the needs of themselves and their communities ahead of universities that do not appreciate them. Though the University of Idaho certainly does not fit into this catalog, the Black Faculty Association was officially established at the University in 2022 certainly would argue that the Black faculty have come together to focus on their own needs with regard to an area the University has not excelled in.

The fourth step is liberation, defined as “free from forms of spiritual, psychological, and physical oppression and captivity.”25 Liberation would allow for esoteric research to be done by Black faculty, allowing them to leave the heavily structured area of White research they have struggled with, and allowing them to pursue their own topics of interest.

And the last step is sovereignty, or the commitment of Black faculty towards owning Black institutions and carving out spaces for Blacks on campuses.26 In this regard, the University of Idaho has seen this step somewhat accomplished with the establishment of the Black Cultural Center in 2022.

This model is an important tool that helps visualize the progress of Black academia at universities and also assesses the promotion of Black academia at the University of Idaho. Reviewing the historical achievements of Black individuals at the University of Idaho, the progression of Black students and faculty, and the analysis of current trends within US universities, the picture of what the future for Black people at the University of Idaho will look like has become clearer. This research has shown that the University of Idaho has an exceptional amount of Black history on its campus and, in comparison to other US universities, has done a better job in diversifying itself despite its location in the state of Idaho, an area with a poor history of racial relations and limited diversity. As such, the future for Blacks at the University of Idaho looks quite promising in lieu of how far it has come and how much has been done towards promoting Black academia in recent years.

It would be safe to say that Black academic excellence at the University will only increase in future years. However, this continued successful growth is dependent on two things: the continued, active presence of Black students and faculty at the University, and the continued support of senior leadership in the University’s higher ranks. If one or the other should falter, then presumably the University would see a stagnation of this growth, as is evident by past occurrences. As it currently stands, Black history at the University has the continued support of both these needed monumental pillars. Though the University of Idaho is not perfect in terms of strong diversification protocols or in supporting its Black faculty perfectly, and issues do certainly persist with University policies aimed at Black persons, the University has excelled in areas where other US universities (even Ivy League universities) have failed. Hence, it is easy to see that the University of Idaho serves as a small beacon of hope that Black academia in the United States can continue to improve and that at the University of Idaho, if both the aforementioned pillars are upheld, Black history can only continue to progress to newer heights. In 2023, Black history and Black excellence at the University of Idaho has never looked better in the school’s 131-year history, leaving only the promising prospect of continued Black academic growth in the North Idaho area.


  1. “Common Data Set for External Publications Surveys for 2000-2001,” Archie George. 
  2. “U of I Demographics & Diversity Report,” College Factual,
  3. Walter R. Allen, Edgar G. Epps, Elizabeth A. Guillory, Susan A. Suh and Marguerite Bonous-Hammarth, “The Black Academic: Faculty Status among African Americans in U.S. Higher Education,” Journal of Negro Education, 69, no. 1-2 (2000): 112-127,
  4. “College Professor Demographics and Statistics in the US,” Zippia,
  5. “The Almanac of Higher Education 2018-2019,” The Chronicle of Higher Education,
  6. “The Almanac of Higher Education 2016-2017,” The Chronicle of Higher Education,
  7. L. Tillman, “Mentoring African American Faculty in Predominantly White Institutions,” Research in Higher Education, (2001): 10.1023/A:1018822006485
  8. Chavella T. Pittman, “Racial Microaggressions: The Narratives of African American Faculty at a Predominantly White University,” Journal of Negro Education, 81,no. 1 (2012): 82-92,
  9. A.H. Miranda, ”Tenure on My Terms,” In Faculty of Color: Teaching in Predominantly White Colleges and Universities, ed. C. A. Stanley, (Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc., 2006), 225-233; A.D. Ross, ”Learning to Play the Game,” In Faculty of Color: Teaching in Predominantly White Colleges and Universities, ed. C.A. Stanley, (Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc., 2006), 263-282.
  10. Chastity Q. Thompson, “Recruitment, Retention, and Mentoring Faculty of Color: The Chronicle Continues,” New Directions for Higher Education, 143 (2008): 47-54,
  11. C.A. Stanley, ”Walking Between Two Cultures: The Often Misunderstood Jamaican Woman,” In Faculty of Color: Teaching in Predominantly White Colleges and Universities, ed. C.A. Stanley, (Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc., 2006), 328-343. 
  12. K. Butler-Purry, ”In Search of Community: The Challenges and Successes of an Isolated Engineer,” In Faculty of Color: Teaching in Predominantly White Colleges and Universities, ed. C.A. Stanley, (Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc., 2006), 115-122. 
  13. “Postsecondary Faculty and Staff,” American Council on Education,
  14. “Black Faculty in Higher Education: Still Only a Drop in the Bucket,” Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, (2006),
  15. Walter R. Allen, Edgar G. Epps, Elizabeth A. Guillory, Susan A. Suh and Marguerite Bonous-Hammarth, “The Black Academic: Faculty Status among African Americans in U.S. Higher Education,” Journal of Negro Education, 69, no. 1-2 (2000): 112-127,
  16. Brenda Y. Cartwright, Robin D. Washington, and Robert L. McConnell, “Examining Racial Microaggressions in Rehabilitation Counselor Education,” Rehabilitation Education, 23, no. 2 (2009): 171-182,
  17. Audrey Williams June and Brian O’Leary, “How Many Black Women Have Tenure on Your Campus?,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 27, 2021,
  18. Dakota Murray, Clara Boothby, Huimeng Zhao, Vanessa Minik, Nicolas Bérubé, Vincent Larivière, and Cassidy R. Sugimoto, “Exploring the Personal and Professional Factors Associated with Student Evaluations of Tenure-Track Faculty,” Plos One, 15, no. 6 (2020): 10.1371/journal.pone.0233515.
  19. Paula Chatterjee and Rachel M. Werner, “Gender Disparity in Citations in High-Impact Journal Articles,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 4, no. 7 (2021): 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.14509.
  20. “Idaho WWAMI Faculty Member Named 2022 Woman of the Year Honoree,” Big Country News, June 29, 2022,
  21. Sydney Freeman Jr., “The Future of Black Scholars,” Diverse Issues in Higher Education, 2021,
  22. Freeman Jr., “The Future of Black Scholars.” 
  23. Freeman Jr., “The Future of Black Scholars.” 
  24. Freeman Jr., “The Future of Black Scholars.” 
  25. Freeman Jr., “The Future of Black Scholars.” 
  26. Freeman Jr., “The Future of Black Scholars.” 


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

The Seminal History and Prospective Future of Blacks at the University of Idaho Copyright © 2023 by Brody Gasper and Sydney Freeman Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.