Faculty Diversity Central to Larger Equity and Inclusion Efforts

Dr. Wendell Gunn is important to the history of UNA as he was the first Black student to integrate the University in 1963 (at that time we were known as Florence State College). While Gunn’s legacy is significant, we still have much to learn about the history of Black faculty integration at the University. This is not that far removed from today and faculty diversity is still at the forefront of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in higher education across the nation.

Campus Climate in the 1960s

I have spent the last several months visiting the archives and combing through President Norton’s old files and previous editions of the Flor-Ala and Diorama to get a better sense of campus climate during the time of faculty integration at the University. In the late 1960s, stories in the Flor-Ala focused on the Vietnam War and the draft, student protests, interracial dating, racial identity, race relations in the South, the Civil Rights movement, and concerns nationally about the presence of Afro-American/Black Studies programs. In 1968, Florence State College transitioned to Florence State University which signified expected growth in the institution. In November 1968, a campus-wide human relations council was established to focus on promoting racial understanding.


It is important to note the overall campus climate because this is the context that our first Black faculty members worked within. Faculty integration happened in 1969 with the hiring of Barbara Glenn, Robert Williams, and one more unidentified person. An institutional self-study in 1971 mentions African American faculty recruitment as part of a five-year initiative and saw the faculty integration in 1969 as an internal success despite two of these initial hires leaving within the first two years of their employment.

The Hiring of Barbara Glenn

Barbara Glenn was hired in 1969 as an instructor of English to teach composition classes. She earned her B.A. and M.A. degrees from Virginia State College (which became Virginia State University in 1979). She also earned additional course credits from Atlanta University (which merged with Clark College to form Clark Atlanta University in 1988) and Randolph Macon College. Barbara Glenn’s educational history attests to the importance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in providing access to advanced education and to the integration of many occupational sectors. She previously taught at Portsmouth Public Schools, Richmond Public Schools, and Virginia Commonwealth University. She was a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, League of Women Voters, AAUW, Jayceettes, and First Presbyterian Church. She was promoted to an Assistant Professor in 1971 and became the first African American to hold that rank in the institution's history. She was named the advisor of the Young Academics Club in Spring 1972.

Photo from the Diorama

Photo from the Diorama

Barbara Glenn resigned in 1973 to relocate back to the Richmond area. She later served as an Assistant Professor of English at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, VA. She also served as the Assistant Division Chair for the School of the Arts and Sciences, Program Head for Reading Enhancement, and Coordinator of Developmental Studies. She pursued a doctoral degree with her dissertation focusing on cultural criticism.

The Hiring of Robert Williams

Robert Williams was hired in 1969 as an instructor of sociology to teach courses in introduction to sociology, research methodology, and intercultural relations. He earned a B.S. from Mississippi Valley State College (another shout out to our HBCUs) and a M.A. from the University of Mississippi. He previously taught at Allen Carver High School and John C. Calhoun Junior College where he was the Chair of the Department of Psychology and Sociology.

Robert Williams

Photo from the Flor-Ala

Robert Williams finished his thesis at the University of Mississippi in 1971. The title was “Factors Associated with Attitudes of Black Students toward Integration at the University of Mississippi.” He presented at the Rural Sociological Society annual meetings in 1970 and was featured in the Flor-Ala for his research presentation titled “The Rural Black Man and the USDA: Alienation-Anomie Dichotomy.” He also served as an advisor of the Young Academics Club in Spring 1971. He resigned in June 1971 later taught at Jackson State University.

The Continued Need for Diversifying the Faculty Ranks

In 1972, there was an editorial in the Flor-Ala that called for additional action and accountability regarding diversity among faculty. Barbara Glenn and Robert Williams are not the only Black faculty to be a part of those initial integration efforts at UNA although they were among the first. In the early 1970s, Gertrude Lowery was hired as a supervising teacher at Kilby Laboratory School and Dr. Felice Green was hired as a faculty member in the College of Education. Both of these women had a profound impact on training future educators and have an important legacy that also needs to be told.

Where are we at today? The National Center for Education Statistics suggests that of the 1.5 million faculty in degree-granting postsecondary institutions in fall 2018, 54% were full-time and 46% were part-time. This data includes full professors, associate professors, assistant professors, instructors, lecturers, and adjuncts. Among the full-time faculty, 40% were White males; 35% were White females; 7% were Asian/Pacific Islander males; and 5% were Asian/Pacific Islander females. Black males, Black females, Hispanic males, and Hispanic females were each 3% of the total full-time faculty. Faculty who identified as American Indian/Alaska Native or biracial or multiracial were each 1% or less of the total full-time faculty. At UNA, the majority of full-time and part-time faculty are White.

The key to addressing the lack of faculty diversity on college campuses today is to extend efforts beyond recruitment and create campus cultures that affirm and value the experiences and expertise of diverse faculty. This means deliberate retention efforts. The Association of American Colleges and Universities suggest the following strategies:

  • Institutions must match their rhetoric on faculty diversity with action.
  • Faculty diversity is enhanced by student diversity.
  • Faculty diversity is enhanced by having explicit policies, infrastructures and a reward system to support it.
  • Faculty diversity is enhanced by a diverse curriculum and support for research on diversity topics and issues.
  • While financial support is important, faculty diversity is enhanced by attention to faculty/staff diversity training and campus community preparation for diversity.
  • While recruitment of diverse faulty is important, mentoring and support leading to promotion and tenure of diverse faculty hires may be more important.
  • Campus, departmental, and community climate to support faculty diversity is essential for success.

To find out more information on the faculty integration project, contact socialinclusion@una.edu or stop by Collier Library to see a display throughout the month of February.

Black History Month