They go hand in hand really. If one ever looks at the KCAI timeline and historic photos, one tends to see all white students. It wasn’t until 1948 that the first Black student, Leonard Pryor (1924-2015), was admitted to the art school. It was before the Brown v Board of Education case, but colleges have been accepting students way before 1948. Sure, the Black students were sometimes not given their diplomas or college credentials or schools built separate but equal facilities (which has always been a false statement).
Even locally there were battles to get admittance to universities. The University of Missouri admittance of Black students’s was an 15 year-long uphill battle! First, Lloyd L Gaines challenges the school in court about his “separate but equal” admittance. The Supreme Court rules in his favor, but Lloyd Gaines mysteriously disappears in Chicago soon after the hearing of the case. Later Lucile Bluford challenges the school when they refuse to let her enroll for classes. She ultimately wins but the major is closed shortly after the court decision due to low enrollment numbers.
The first admittance is Gus T. Ridgel along with 7 other students. He succeeded and earned his four-year Master’s degree in 2 years (amazing!). He has a scholarship named after him and was invited to talk to the school during a two-day event to honor his legacy.
I only bring this up to compare the actions of University of Missouri to the lack of actions that KCAI. There are a few mentions of Leonard Pryon around campus, but I don’t think that the school has ever dedicated any amount of time to their first Black student. There is a scholarship for minority students named after him, but I’m not sure the scholarship dedication process was ever carried through with as much celebration as Ridgel’s.
This further illustrates the imbalance of teacher diversity. The events of Leonard Pryon and Gus T Ridgel didn’t create the imbalance of teacher divserity at KCAI, but they do show how racism and the effects of racism have impacted people of color for generations when they are trying to gain higher education and teaching jobs. In fact, there are many factors that are building up that are leading to less and less people of color getting a teaching degree.
The student demographics fit with the nation’s demographic, meaning that KCAI is quite on par with the nation in terms of diversity. KCAI is not as good as other art schools, but that’s okay. As long as the school is always working on the diversity of enrolling students, KCAI will stay above the average diversity levels.
But the teachers are another story. If you look around campus here or on any campus, they are mostly white, including the faulty and staff. For certain students this is a problem, while for others, it is not. But, to create students of diverse knowledge and of world-class problem solving skills, diverse teachers and teaching styles is needed at an art college! And like the article above mentions, having a role model to look up to and see yourself in is a fantastic and incredible aiding visual.
Just to be clear: the number for white people is about 62% as of 2015 while the number of white teacher is around 80% as of 2013. There is a disproportionate number of white teacher at colleges and university compared the growing enrollment of minority students.
Historically, teachers are important and honored person in a community. In America, that is not also true, but maybe as the teaching pool becomes more diversified, the teaching job itself can become more valued and honored like it once was.