Cultural taxation and the over-commitment of service at predominantly white institutions

Marjorie C. Shavers
J. Yasmine Butler, Sam Houston State University
James L. Moore


Over the years, numerous scholars have focused on the faculty life of African American academicians (Aguirre, 2000; Bennett, Tillman-Kelly, Shuck, Viera, & Wall, 2012; Griffin, Bennett, & Harris, 2011; Thomas & Hollenshead, 2001). This body of research suggests that African Americans’ expertise, talents, and skills beyond the classroom are in high demand at predominantly White institutions (PWIs). As their presence becomes apparent on-campus and off-campus, African Americans are extended more and more invitations to serve and share their expertise. The invitations magnify, in large measure, because PWIs tend to lack a critical mass of African American faculty and other faculty of color. As a way of ensuring diverse representation, faculty of color are confronted with the dilemma to accept the service opportunity or risk not having diverse representation on the committee, event, or panel. Brayboy (2003) refers to this phenomenon as the “hidden service agendas.” The hidden service agendas occur when African American faculty serve as the token voice of color for addressing problems related to race and ethnicity and are the identified individuals to mentor minority students.