Diversity, it turns out, is easy enough to talk about on paper, in committees and in speeches from Woodbridge Hall. It is quite another thing to realize meaningful diversity in the hallways, classrooms and residential colleges of the University. In the last two weeks, two startling facts have come to light: Yale College will have no minority masters next year and the University has hired embarrassingly few women, black, Asian, or Hispanic professors in the last four years.

The facts are all the more disappointing because of their transparent cause-and-effect relationship. In the last four years, the proportion of women on the ladder faculty — including assistant, associate and full professors and Gibbs instructors — has increased a paltry 2.1 percent; black faculty 0.3 percent; Asian faculty 1.5 percent; and Hispanic faculty a woeful 0.2 percent. The ramifications are now apparent in Yale’s most important offices: the college masters. In the last year, three vacancies in residential college masterships were created and filled by ladder faculty — all white, all male. The departure of Davenport College Master Gerald Thomas next year will leave the University with no college masters of an underrepresented minority and only three women.

Davenport’s Master-designate Richard Schottenfeld, Morse College’s Frank Keil and Berkeley College’s John Rogers are men of great capacity and they will make sound masters. But the situation is troubling. A dearth of minorities in the larger faculty pool has poisoned efforts to diversify the ranks of Yale’s most influential community leaders. Masters are stewards of intimate communities and act as liaisons between the administration and the student body. They should loosely represent the composition of the colleges themselves.

The small-scale increases in new minority faculty over the last four years would be understandable if the faculty represented the diversity within the student body. They are not. University figures describing the makeup of the faculty show that of the 1,604 ladder faculty at Yale in 2000-2001, 25.8 percent were women, 2.8 percent black, 8.2 percent Asian and 1.9 percent Hispanic. That contrasts sharply with the diversity within Yale College. In April 2000 Yale sent out acceptance letters to a class of high school seniors of whom 11.2 percent were African-American, 16.2 percent Asian American and 7.8 percent Hispanic. About half the accepted class was female.

How did we get here? It is difficult to say. But one thing is for sure: on paper, at least, Yale is trying to diversify its ladder faculty. In 1999, Yale President Richard Levin and Provost Alison Richard launched a joint initiative aimed at making it easier to recruit women and minorities. But their announcement has yet to produce meaningful improvement in any category.

The absence of minority masters and the underreprensentation of women, blacks, Asians and Hispanics in the ladder faculty will send a mixed message to next year’s freshman class and many more to come. The message is that promises of diversity at Yale are only as good as the paper on which they are written. It is, of course, an unintentional message. But it is a message nonetheless.