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Unit Contributions to Equity, Diversity, Inclusion

Academic Years: 
Social Sciences
1. Faculty: 

Building on our successful recruitment of Leslie Alexander and Curtis Austin, who began at UO in fall 2017, we have added four women to our department in fall 2018, addressing but not resolving a major area of inequity in faculty representation. Women now represent roughly 41 percent of our TT faculty, up from about one third before this year. We have also added faculty from other underrepresented groups, including those who identify as LGBTQ and first-generation college students. We remain committed to continuing and expanding our efforts to hire as diverse a faculty as possible.

In September 2018 we began the year with a full-day departmental retreat dedicated to questions of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We focused on strategies for making our department a more welcoming, safe, and empowering space for everyone, particularly women and those from underrepresented groups. There were workshop sessions dedicated to inclusive teaching methods, gender equity and sexual harassment, and outreach to students of color, LGBTQ students, and first-generation college students. We have enlarged our diversity committee to include faculty, staff, and students with interests and expertise in all of these areas. By the end of fall 2018 we will have a new website for faculty focused on these issues, drawing from existing CAS and TEP resources but expanding significantly beyond them. We have also initiated a project in the Diversity Committee centered on sexual harassment, Title IX, mandatory reporting, and department climate related to gender equity.

The department has also created a dedicated fund to support bringing speakers from underrepresented groups to present their scholarship to the department. Our Speakers and Events Committee can allocate matching funds to enhance travel reimbursements, honoraria, or events involving scholars of color, women and LGBTQ scholars.

2. Staff: 

This year, due to a departure, the department hired a new Accounting and Communications Manager. This brings our total staff to three, of whom two are women and one is a person of color. Lauren Pinchin, our Department Manager, does a remarkable job creating a supportive and inclusive atmosphere among the staff and in staff relations with students and faculty. We are working with faculty to continue and, where needed, develop a healthy climate in faculty-staff relations.

3. Graduate Programs: 

As always, themes of diversity, equity, and inclusion remain at the core of our graduate curriculum. This commitment to diversity and equity is reflected in the seminar topics we offer and in the thesis topics our students choose. Because our curriculum is shaped by individual study with faculty advisors, curricular diversity is tied inextricably with the research fields of faculty. As a result of recent hires in U.S. history, especially, that diversity has expanded with the introduction of seminars and directed readings courses in the history of slavery (Native American as well as African American), Native American experiences, the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, miscegenation law, and Mexican immigration to the U.S. We also offer an array of graduate seminars and colloquia (HIST 608), with topics that include the history of the indigenous people of the Americas, the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, and race. Recent hires of historians focused on women’s and gender history, including LGBTQ, servitude and slavery, and race and ethnicity in the ancient world will surely continue a well-established trend in the department.

Over the past several years, our admissions committee has looked for ways to diversify our graduate student body as well. To some extent, our ability to do so has been hampered by the composition of our applicant pool – a factor over which we exert only limited control. In the last year, however, its diversity has increased considerably. In the 2015-2016, only 20% of the pool was composed of Latinx or non-white applicants; in 2016-2017, the same figure was 27%. Our admissions have been consistently more diverse, both in terms of ethnic/racial and gender composition, than the pool. In this year’s incoming class, Hispanic or non-white students comprise 37.5% (three of eight) of incoming students. We have also have had success recruiting women into our program. In 2016-2017, 62.5% (five of eight) of admitted students were women and in 2017-2018, 37.5% (three of eight) admitted students were women. Efforts to recruit more women and graduate students of color has made our graduate student body slightly more diverse than it has been in previous years. Of the 31 graduate students currently enrolled in the program, 48.3% (fifteen) are women and 25.8% (eight) are students of color. While these figures do show increasing diversity in our graduate student body we also feel strongly that they indicate there is still much work to do in diversifying our graduate program.

4. Undergraduate Programs: 

Like our graduate program, our offering of undergraduate courses is driven by the subdisciplinary expertise of our faculty. Recent hires in Latinx history (Weise) and colonial America (Rushforth and Madar) have enabled us to strength our undergraduate course offering on the history of slavery and ethnic relations in twentieth-century U.S. history. Professor Weise, for example, has developed a new, bilingual course on “Latinos in the Americas,” now regularized as HIST 248. A new hire in U.S. Women’s History (Heinz) allows us to offer even more classes on histories of gender and sexuality, and a joint Career NTT hire with the Women’s and Gender Studies Program (Bufalino) ensures continuity in both units of course offerings. Last year’s Black Studies hires (Alexander, Austin) have strengthened enormously our course offerings in all phases of African American history. Finally, a hire in Ancient history (Mazurek) promises to diversify our curriculum further still. More broadly, our undergraduate program of study is structured to guarantee that students majoring in history study a wide range of peoples, periods, and places. All students must take at least two upper division courses in three geographically defined fields; students cannot, in other words, settle into European or U.S. history without considering Asia, Africa, or Latin America. We also require our student to take at least two upper division courses that cover a period prior to 1800.

Like most Departments of History, ours has traditionally attracted undergraduate majors who were disproportionately white and male. In recent years, our most notable success in altering this trend has been our increased share of Latinx student majors; we have also modestly increased our share of Asian-identified majors. As of Fall 2015, 74.56% of History majors identified as white, a number almost 17 points higher than the average for departments in the Social Sciences division. Among Asians, we have modestly increased our share in the past five years while the university’s Asian population has remained stable; still, this group is underrepresented (2.5% of the major vs. 7% of the university). The number of African American, Native American, and Pacific Islander students at the university is small, in both the university and the department. Consequently, it is difficult to detect trends among these populations other than to say that African Americans are consistently underrepresented (2.4% of the university vs. 1% of the major, with both numbers mostly stable in the last five years). We hope that expanded course offerings in African American and Native American history will reverse this underrepresentation.

One exciting trend is a marked increase in the number of Latinx students majoring in history. This tracks with trends in the profession as a whole: even as the number of History majors has declined since the Great Recession, the number of first-generation Latinx History majors has increased. While just five years ago our percentage of Latinx students lagged well behind the university’s by a factor of 1.5% to 2%, we have been slowly catching up. By academic year 2015-2016, Latinx students comprised 10.53% of history majors, a little less than their portion of the student body as a whole. Given expected growth of the Latinx population at UO, this is a welcome trend.

Unfortunately, the gender balance among history students has shown a disconcerting trend. Despite concerted efforts to create more courses of interest to female students, women remain badly underrepresented among History majors – just 37.9 % (91 of 240), down from 40% six years ago. The department continues to review its curriculum and marketing efforts to find a successful strategy for inviting more women into our ranks. We hope that hiring a specialist in U.S. Women’s history and more women faculty members will help reverse this trajectory.

5. Outreach and Partnerships: 

Our ties to other departments and programs reinforce our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We have worked closely with Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies to ensure the continuity of curricular offerings in women’s history and the history of sexuality. History faculty provide leadership for the Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies (Carlos Aguirre), the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies (Jeff Hanes), the Umoja Pan-African ARC (Curtis Austin), Black Studies (Curtis Austin), and are affiliates with many related departments and programs dedicated to these concerns, including Ethnic Studies and African Studies.