In the United States, most racial/ethnic minorities have traditionally been underrepresented (in proportion to their representation in the overall population) among humanities faculty, just as they have among faculty in every other academic field (individuals of Asian descent are the exception).
For the purposes of the Humanities Indicators (HI), a faculty member is defined as an employee of a two-year or four-year college or a university who teaches credit-earning courses and who may also perform research activities. Faculty thus include not only individuals who have faculty status in their institutions but also those who are classified as instructional staff. Faculty exclude those individuals whose duties are purely research oriented (even though such individuals may be classified as faculty by their institutions).
Classification of Academic Disciplines
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the collector of the data on which Indicators III-9a through III-9i are based (“Number of Humanities Faculty Members” and “Number of Faculty Members in Humanities Disciplines”), sorts postsecondary faculty by academic discipline, using a scheme that includes six humanities-related categories. Five of these have been combined by the HI for the purposes of estimating humanities faculty employment. They include:
English Language and Literature
Foreign Languages and Literatures
Philosophy and Religion
Area, Ethnic, and Cultural Studies
A sixth BLS category, Arts, Drama, and Music, does not distinguish between faculty who teach the academic study of the arts (treated by the HI as a humanities activity) and those who teach studio and performing arts. Consequently, faculty teaching the history and criticism of the fine arts and film are not included in the estimate of the number of humanities faculty.
TheNational Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF), the source of the data for the other indicators in this section, conceptualizes the humanities somewhat more narrowly than does the HI, including only those individuals teaching English language and literature, languages other than English, history, philosophy, and religion. Additionally, the NSOPF treats computer science as a natural science (the HI considers this discipline to be part of the engineering field and classifies it as such for the purposes of the other indicators).
See the Note on the Definition of Faculty and on the Classification of Disciplines.
The National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF) was last administered in 2004. The NSOPF—the source of the data for Indicators III-10 to III-15, all of which deal with the characteristics of the nation’s humanities professoriate—has been suspended indefinitely by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics.
The only remaining source of nationally representative data on the postsecondary humanities faculty is the American Academy of Art and Sciences–sponsored Humanities Departmental Survey (HDS). The HDS provides a variety of data on humanities faculty members and their teaching loads (as well as different aspects of the student experience), but it does not supply the sort of information on faculty earnings, racial composition, institutional distribution, or job satisfaction that was available from the NSOPF.
For additional information from the 2004 round of the National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (the discontinued survey on which this indicator is based), see “Institutional Distribution of Humanities Faculty,” “Traditional versus Nontraditional Humanities Faculty,” “Distribution of Humanities Faculty by Gender,” “Faculty Earnings,” and “Faculty Job Satisfaction.”
For a comparison of the humanities to other academic fields with respect to the racial/ethnic characteristics of degree completers, see “Racial/Ethnic Distribution of Undergraduate Degrees in the Humanities” and “Racial/Ethnic Distribution of Advanced Degrees in the Humanities.”
The Humanities Indicators and Departmental Survey have been made possible in part
by grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the
Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this
website do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
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