Race, Sex, and Faculty Searches, Department of Biology, SDSU, 1988-2002

Stuart Hurlbert

Stuart H. Hurlbert is Professor Emeritus of Biology at San Diego State University, served as Director of the Center for Inland Waters between 1996 and 2008, and is the Founding President of Scientists and Environmentalists for Population Stabilization. He has a distinguished career as a scholar and a teacher, and has received the G.W. Snedecor Award for the Best 1984 Publication in Biometry from the American Statistical Association and the 2003 Award for Scientific Reviewing from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

Author's Note: This is a verbatim version of a report submitted in October 2003 to the faculty and administration of San Diego State University. It describes how well the SDSU Department of Biology had been adhering over a 14-year period to Article 31 of the California constitution and on what pressures were being exerted to violate that law. A new section of that article was passed by the California electorate as a ballot initiative in 1996. It disallowed, among other things, the use of race and sex preferences in hiring by public colleges and universities. I had no official authority to conduct the investigation reported here; my original position title “Recording Secretary, Biology Affirmative Action Archives” was a tongue-in-cheek self-assignment. This report is perhaps a tedious read. However, a similarly intensive analysis of these issues may never have been published for any academic department in any college or university in the United States. Every academic department should be gathering this sort of solid data. In its absence, misleading data, unsupportable assumptions, and administrative force majeure will tend to carry the day, the law be damned. To the original report I have added a brief appendix that notes the post-2003 failure of SDSU to implement the reports recommendations and cites a recent highly relevant study. – S. Hurlbert]

Editor's Note: Here we present only the summary of the original report. Click here to read the full report.


Sex and race data for applicant pools for the 30 faculty searches carried out by the Department of Biology during the period 1988-2002 are tabulated and analyzed. Information is also provided on the SDSU central administration's misuse of such data and its attitude toward use of race and sex as criteria in faculty hiring. Females constitute 21% and minorities 4.5% of the current faculty of the Department of Biology; 9.1% of the Biology faculty do not specify their race in Center for Human Resources records.

Over the last 12 years females have constituted, on average, 22% of the candidates in applicant pools. Over the last two decades about 41% of Ph.D.s awarded in the biological sciences to U.S. citizens and permanent residents have gone to women. Females have received 42% of the first offers from our department but have rejected offers, first or otherwise, at a higher rate (44%) than have males (28%). The true sex ratios of applicant pools are only weakly correlated with applicant pool sex ratios as reported by the Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) (R2 = 0.42), in part because of the high rate of non-response to the request for race and sex information. The percentage of applicants who refuse to specify their sex and race to the ODE increased from 40% during 1995-1999 to 61% during 2000-2002.

Reliable historical information on representation of minorities in applicant pools is completely lacking as a result of this same high non-response rate. Of applicants who stated their race, 24.5% were minority candidates during 1995-2002, and of those, 64% were Asian. These include persons in the U.S. on temporary visas and persons applying from abroad. During 1983-2001, 16.3% of Ph.D.s awarded in the biological sciences to U.S. citizens and permanent residents have gone to members of minority groups, and 68% of these have gone to Asians.

The ODE prepared and distributed to SDSU College deans in 1999 an analysis that faulted about three- fourths of the academic departments on campus, including Biology, for "underrepresentation" of women.


Original 2003 byline was: Recording Secretary, Biology Affirmative Action Archives and Professor of Biology, San Diego State University; Hurlbert is currently Professor of Biology Emeritus at SDSU.

Image Credit: Lo2013, cropped.

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