Professors May Not Be Prepared to Address Bias and Discrimination Among Students

A study conducted every three years by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute shows that professors throughout the United States are deeply concerned about discrimination and bias on campus. At the same time, the HERI survey shows that professors do not believe they are prepared to deal with these kinds of conflicts among their students.

This is a volatile combination. Universities and colleges have expanded their jurisdiction to enforce student conduct codes and prosecute student-on-student violations of Title IX, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, verbal and non-verbal conduct constituting gender and race discrimination, and other forms of harassment on campus. 

Students caught up in Title IX or other misconduct proceedings increasingly turn to Title IX lawyers or lawyers who specialize in education law and student conduct code violations. Campus officials sometimes lament this, but the HERI survey may explain why students go looking for help. Their traditional mentors on campus, professors, are frequently uncertain what to do. 

At the same time, faculty are certain that something must be done. Professors deeply believe it is their role to enhance students’ knowledge of, and appreciation for, diversity and discrimination. Well over a third (37.2%) also view their role as encouraging students to become agents of social change. Nevertheless, more than half either agreed strongly or agreed “somewhat” that faculty are not prepared to handle conflict over diversity issues in the classroom.

The HERI survey collects data from over half a million faculty at more than 1,100 colleges and universities throughout the United States. It has conducted this survey continuously since 1978.

The survey paints a portrait of the contemporary American faculty, which wishes to respond, may feel a mandate to respond, and even shares a sense of mission to respond to student claims of discrimination.  Academics may see themselves as agents of social change in doing so. But they are neither confident enough nor properly prepared enough to do so. 

In this climate, students may turn to faculty only to find that their mentors have uncertain footing on this treacherous terrain. Experienced Title IX attorneys will be familiar with university policies, procedures. They will be able to advise you on both the law and the contemporary mindset of university faculty and administration.