Ruth ShortBull 0

University of Montana Native American Research Lab Search Committee

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We, the undersigned, are concerned citizens who urge our leaders to act now to include one Native Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) Faculty Representative on the University of Montana Native American Research Lab (NARL) Search Committee. The University of Montana is in the process of hiring a director for the NARL. The hiring of this position is extremely important to us for several reasons. American Indians are a population that has been historically excluded from higher education and is still underrepresented. Harvey (2001) reported American Indians comprise only 0.4 percent of the full-time faculty in higher education in the United States. Additionally concerning is American Indians are some of the most underrepresented in the fields of science and engineering (Turner and Myers 2000; Harvey 2001). The exclusion of Native participation in the search committee is detrimental to the diversity on campus and is an example of how the University is not abiding by its own Goals and Objectives.The current composition of the search committee includes one Native student and no Native faculty. One concern about the only person of color being a student is that there exists unequal power among the group, with the student having the least power.  As American Indian students, we find ourselves pushing for both cultural and structural equality within the University system, similar to other marginalized societies around the world. The need to push for equality suggests some forms of discrimination may exist. Discrimination can include “Institutional or systemic racism, which does not refer to the attitudes of individuals and groups but to institutional relations of power and exclusion” (Frederickson 2002). Dominant groups use their resources and power to exclude minority groups, which can shape institutional practices and reproduce patterns of race-based inequality (Banks et al. 2005). Turner (2002) states the “composition of the search committee is crucial to its success. By involving people with different points of view or by bringing in a fresh face, the chair can ensure that multiple perspectives and fresh ideas are brought to bear in evaluating candidates. Also, people of color, whether administrators or faculty, should have a presence on the committee”. Search committees create job descriptions, advertise in publications, and evaluate candidates that are most similar to themselves and their experiences, which results in a more homogeneous campus rather than increasing the diversity (Turner 2006). Your support for the Native voice on the University of Montana campus is greatly appreciated. IMPORTANT NOTE: We will be submitting our petition THIS WEDNESDAY (October 5, 2011).


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