Uphill tenure battle for black professors

ABC News’ David Wright reports on professor Paul Harris’s dispute with the University of Virginia over his tenure process, and the disparities black professors may face.
4:15 | 06/19/20

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Transcript for Uphill tenure battle for black professors
The battle over equality in higher education college and university campuses already reeling from the stay at home semester now face an uncertain future as some schools. I'm laying off staff and reducing new hires and that's exposing yet another issue. Who has the job security of tenure. One black University of Virginia professor recently spoke out after he says he was denied tenure unfairly. And he argues of the deck is stacked against black professors are David Wright. Has his story. That the University of Virginia the conversation about race has long been fraud. This school's founding father was a slave owner Thomas Jefferson. We are very much Thomas university and there's some good things about that and then they're not things are particularly. Doctor Paul Harris is an assistant professor at UVA's curry school of education. This year he was recommended for a promotion to associate professor he also expected to join the permanent ranks of the faculty. But he was denied tenure. Onside it is the we have the best we're described at an erection that date. Are leading today. He says there were no African Americans on his ten year committee. And that despite strong recommendations in his favor he says the committee. Questioned the legitimacy of some of his published work suggesting that some of the academic journals that published them were not of a high enough standard. What I see. Is that the journals that were not regarded. Are journals that she marginalized populations. Education and urban society. Or turn to. Relate to chase. Paris appealed to the program host thousands have signed a petition supporting him. You VA declined to comment on his case but said. Promoting and expanding the diversity of our faculty is 1 of the university's central goals. Adding that the university is committed to a fair impartial and objective review. To assess each tenure applicants contribution to research teaching and service. The legacy of racism looms large in the UVA community just a few years ago. It was in Charlottesville that white Nationalists staged to unite the right marched to save a statue of Robert B league. With predictably bloody results I. Think this blame on both sides you look at and I noted both sides. I think his blame on both sides and I have no doubt about it and you don't have any doubt about it did nationwide. Just over 5% of the faculty at colleges and universities are black. Have you BA that percentage is three point 7%. Below blacks make up nearly 20%. Of Virginia's population. And you VA as it most schools the faculty is much less diversity in the student body. Many schools have been trying for decades to change that. There's a notion that you know we're we're doing relatively well certainly compared to when he you're thirty or forty years ago. Others suggest well we're not doing so well. Not really not when you get when you really drill down. The most diverse group of faculty members are not on the tenure track adjunct professors and temporary appointments. With little seniority and no long term job security it's bad group. There will likely experience job losses first people who are entering the market in the last. Ten or fifteen years are entering in a very challenging time. When new people coming out. A RRR. Are coming into a market. Where the the structure of the the positions that are available. Has changed in fundamental ways. And with covad nineteen forcing many schools to make cutbacks the virus threatens to undo some of the progress toward racial diversity on campus. Doctor Harris says he's hopeful UVA will reconsider his case. Armed hold full about turning the corner as an Asian and being the net change in a meeting late or not just me. Faculty. Come behind me.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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