Diversity initiative needs clear strategy

The administration’s announcement of a new faculty diversity initiative this week met with a certain degree of justifiable praise. While Yale’s 1999 pledge of “unlimited resources” to individual departments was too vague to force reform of hiring and recruitment policies, the newly articulated University-wide goals — a 20 percent increase in female faculty and a 34 percent increase in minority faculty within the next two decades — offer a chance to effect real change.

That said, the University’s stated aims require a more detailed plan of attack than we have seen so far. Though the current goals regarding improvements to hiring and recruitment practices are a good start, Yale’s work environment must do more to support women and faculty diversity in order to see permanent results.

Recruiters should be sure not to neglect the wealth of female and minority professorial hopefuls currently enrolled in Yale’s graduate and professional schools. While the University should not stop carefully vetting potential faculty members, looking more closely at its own graduate programs would be an easy way to help build a more diverse faculty with preexisting Yale ties — so long as the University offers reasonable benefits and starting salaries.

Still, hiring a more diverse faculty is only the first step. University officials listed a lack of adequate faculty mentoring among the concerns that prompted their ongoing review of the tenure system, but this lack of available guidance is not limited to the tenure ladder. The new diversity initiative includes plans for additional mentoring programs, and we believe this is the first step toward consistent retention of recruited faculty.

Such a program should be sure to advise its participants regarding research and paper publishing to discuss contributions in these areas and address faculty concerns. This support network, like the initiative as a whole, should be designed with a centralized administration to ensure that new faculty receive the necessary guidance that is often lacking under the current system. In addition to general advising programs, the administration should provide further support to groups like the Women’s Faculty Forum in order to foster a greater sense of community among the underrepresented faculty.

Though we appreciate the spirit of this new initiative, we are somewhat wary of a new plan that consists largely of distant goals. With the distinct lack of change during the past seven years of the previous diversity program in mind, the University must formulate more specific guidelines and directives as soon as possible. Otherwise, the success of the increased efforts to diversify the faculty will be short-lived, and departures or transfers to other institutions will quickly return the profile of Yale’s educators to its status quo.