Student activists want more black faculty members. But how realistic are some of their goals?

Increasing faculty diversity has long been a priority on college campuses, but the recent, widespread student protests over race relations have made the issue all the more urgent. And while a number of institutions already have pledged additional resources to increasing faculty diversity, questions remain about how realistic some of these goals are — at least in the near term.

That’s because black students remain underrepresented in a variety of Ph.D. programs. Even trickier, experts agree, is getting more black students to stay in academe after they earn their Ph.D.s., given climate concerns and the fact that they are also in demand elsewhere, including the much better paying corporate world. So any successful diversity plan, those experts say, will involve not only bringing more black faculty members to campus, but also address the climate issues that will influence whether they stay there.

“Getting to a certain percentage of black faculty by a certain time is a tough road,” said Kimberly Griffin, an associate professor of higher education at the University of Maryland at College Park and co-author of several studies that shed light on the choices of early-career academics of color. “Especially when we’re talking about doubling or tripling a population. Increases that significant often require more faculty lines either through retirements and other departures or the creation of new lines, which requires funding” that institutions may not have.

And while that “doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be a goal by any means,” Griffin added, “I …