How international faculty are included in diversity data, explained

| Staff Reporter

According to the Office of Institutional Research and Analysis, 225 out of 713 tenured or tenure-track faculty at Washington University were born outside the United States. While Student Life has examined faculty diversity and gender equity, we have yet to examine how international faculty fit in this larger conversation.

Conversations with administrators have revealed a difference in how the administration defines “diversity” in the context of student body compared to the faculty. While international students are considered separate from underrepresented minorities in student diversity data, international tenured and tenure-track faculty members are included in U.S. numbers. This particular facet of faculty diversity sheds light on how citizenship and diversity go hand in hand for tenured faculty members, due to the nature of their long-term positions at the University. What follows is an explanation of how the University incorporates international faculty in its diversity data and the processes these scholars must undergo in order to work at Washington University.

How does the University define “international faculty?”

According to the Office of International Scholars and Students (OISS), an international scholar is an individual not enrolled in a formal degree program who holds a temporary, nonimmigrant visa and engages in scholarly activities including teaching, research and/or training at a university, research institute or hospital.

At Washington University, international scholars may be faculty members, research associates, postdoctoral research fellows, visiting scholars or physicians. Often, individuals assume that “international” means “people from other countries” when it actually refers to a visa status, according to Director of Institutional Research and Analysis Lisa Wiland. In the contact of Federal IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System) Reporting, “international” refers to individuals who are nonresident aliens. When considering diversity data, Wiland clarifies that country of origin “isn’t an appropriate or normal part of reporting people’s race and ethnicity.”

Why are students categorized as “international” but faculty aren’t (in diversity data)?

Simply put, international students hold the visa status of nonresident aliens who are attending Washington University while holding a temporary, nonimmigrant visa, whereas tenured/tenure-track faculty are rarely nonresident aliens because the nature of their work visa requires them to be classified as resident aliens. As such, they are counted with all other U.S. faculty.

International students are defined by the OISS as individuals who are enrolled full-time in a degree or non-degree program at a U.S. university or college and hold a temporary nonimmigrant visa. According to Wiland, the distinction between an “international” student and a “United States” student is whether an individual is a non-resident alien (in the context of international and federal reporting).

Tenured and tenure-track faculty are encouraged to seek permanent residence. According to the Department of Homeland Security, lawful permanent residents are non-citizens who are legally authorized to live permanently within the United States and can accept an offer of employment without special restrictions. As permanent residence is the most common path for international tenured and tenure-track faculty, this is why they are considered “U.S.” faculty when diversity data is being calculated.

How do international faculty at Washington University identify with U.S. racial/ethnic categories?

Faculty members can indicate their race and/or ethnicity based on the same categories used by naturalized and native U.S. citizens: African-American/Black, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian/Alaskan Native/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and White (Caucasian). Individuals can check one or more categories.

According to Wiland, 28 (12.4 percent) international faculty members identify as an underrepresented minority, which consists of the racial/ethnic categories of African-American/Black, Hispanic and AI/AN/NH/PI. 90 (40 percent) individuals identify as Asian and 111 (49.3 percent) individuals identify as White.

How does Washington University compare to other institutions in how it accounts for international faculty?

Information on diversity data is not readily available online for some institutions. In general, Wiland starts by looking at Cornell University, as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Cornell defines international as “non-U.S. citizens and those with non-permanent resident status.” The school estimates that as of 2017, 4.5 percent of all faculty identify as international, with 0 percent of full professors, 1.6 percent of associate professors and 17.4 percent of assistant professors. When these numbers are companed to Washington University, it appears that Cornell has a different experience with faculty visa and residence status, according to Wiland.

MIT, on the other hand, does not offer a specific definition of “international” but offers data on the percentage of tenured and tenure-track faculty who identify as international. 16 percent of assistant, 2 percent of associate and 0 percent of full professors identify as international, according to a 2016 report by MIT’s Office of the Provost. The data suggests that by the time a faculty member becomes a full professor, that person has gained permanent residence or some form of U.S. citizenship.

These comparisons reveal the different ways that institutions define “international” and the way they categorize this information for recordkeeping. The general consensus, however, is that by the time a faculty member becomes a full professor, they have gained permanent residence or some form of U.S. citizenship and are then counted alongside U.S. citizens in diversity data.

What processes must tenured and tenure-track international faculty undergo to work at Washington University?

According to Assistant Vice Chancellor and Director of the OISS Kathy Steiner-Lang, many scholars are interested in applying for permanent residence while at Washington University.

“If someone is coming for a tenured or tenure-track position because it’s a long-term position, ultimately, they would need to get permanent residence because otherwise they will run out of work permission,” Steiner-Lang said. “Most of the time when we hire somebody, we don’t want to wait five or 10 years for them to start. So we bring them here on a temporary visa, usually an H1-B. And then…we get them started on the permanent residence process. And we extend the H1-B [visa], for as long as we need to, to get them permanent residence.”

The H-1B visa category is designated for individuals coming temporarily to the U.S. to perform services in a specialty occupation, defined as an occupation which requires theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree for the specific specialization (or its equivalent in experience).

The OISS coordinates the filing of applications for University-sponsored permanent residence. The number of applications received varies annually and is dependent upon department and curricular needs. However, it is the business unit of the hiring department who determines whether or not the employee in question needs to obtain permanent residence, based on the nature of the position the department is hiring for. Both the OISS and the individual department will correspond with the incoming faculty member to coordinate University-sponsored applications for both H1-B visas and permanent residence.

For more information, please visit the OISS website.

Editor’s note: The word “alien” is explicitly referring to visa status and is not used as a political term in this story.