Recently, Tennessee Wesleyan’s history department has undergone a vigorous search for a proper professor of history to take the spot left open by Dr. Duncan’s retirement. Among the applicants selected by the department were two female professors. After their presentations to a select number of students and faculty, the audience deliberated privately. Once the applicants had left, students and faculty critiqued their teaching styles, as is customary, to the history department to narrow the search down and help choose the best professor for the position. Some students and faculty felt the presence of a female professor in the all-male history department could help improve Wesleyan’s academia. This inevitably led to a lively debate that questioned the importance students (and faculty) place on representation of various minority groups in the classroom. I asked around campus to see different students’ reactions. Is minority representation important? Do students believe representation would attract more students to our campus? Overall, do students feel representation would hurt or help TWC?
Michaela Buckner, Junior, said, “Representation is important, but I don’t believe it would lead to more students enrolling in TWC.”
Another student who asked to remain anonymous claimed that “representation was very important, but professor positions should be subjective—representation could possibly help students more but not necessarily. Professors should be chosen on merit alone, though I think students would react positively to a wider variety of professors.”
Miranda Duncan, Senior, proclaimed semi-seriously, “Screw anyone who says representation is not important.” She went on to say, “Don’t get me wrong, representation is a problem on this campus but it’s not the worst thing we face. We need to concentrate on handicap accessibility and pressing matters like that right now.”
Whitney Duckett, Senior, stated, “Yes representation is important but you shouldn’t pick someone based on something like [gender or race]. I don’t think the gender of your professor will change what you want to do for your occupation so I don’t believe a wider variety of students would enroll in TWC. Overall, I feel like it couldn’t hurt to have a wider variety of professors so, yeah, maybe we should.”
The one constant answer was that representation was a good thing, though some expressed worries about choosing professors solely on gender or race. One professor in the history department claimed that their understanding of the male-to-female ratio of history majors was roughly 2:1. So perhaps a (qualified, of course) female leadership figure in the history department would make way for more female history majors. Most students believe representation in the classroom can have at least a small positive impact on the students on campus.