Yale officials announced a new faculty diversity initiative Monday, pledging to increase the University’s number of minority faculty members by 34 percent in seven years.
The plan, which also aims to increase female faculty by 20 percent during the same period, focuses on hiring practices but also includes proposals to improve graduate school diversity, faculty mentoring and work-life programs. While some professors and graduate students said they are enthusiastic about the initiative’s goals and the likelihood that a centralized diversity effort will be more effective than current practices, others said they were concerned that the University may not assess and follow up on the initiative’s results.
Following the announcement of a new staff diversity initiative last week, Yale President Richard Levin and Provost Andrew Hamilton announced the faculty program in an e-mail to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Monday evening.
“There’s no question at all across the school of arts and sciences, the presence of minority scholars is not what it should be,” Hamilton said in an interview. “We are planning to put in place a structure that will really focus the attention of the faculty and administration on the technical side of faculty recruitment.”
Levin and Hamilton said the University has set a seven-year target to add 30 minorities and 30 women to the ranks of ladder-track faculty. The new female professors will be added to departments where women are currently underrepresented, particularly in the sciences. Yale’s new goals are based on national projections for the diversity of future faculty applicant pools, said Kim Bottomly, deputy provost for science and technology.
The new program builds on an initiative announced in 1999 by Levin and then-Provost Alison Richard committing unlimited resources to improving faculty diversity across the University, but new procedures will now be implemented to guide faculty searches across departments. A new diversity committee headed by Bottomly will monitor annual progress toward the targets and formulate new programs where they are needed.
“I think the 1999 promise of unlimited resources was appreciated, but it wasn’t always clear to search committees in departments how to take full advantage of those resources,” Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said.
English professor Elizabeth Dillon, a member of the Women Faculty Forum, said improvements in diversity have been inconsistent across departments since 1999. Dillon praised Levin’s efforts to appoint women to high-ranking administrative positions — three of the provosts serving under Levin were women — but said administrative diversity does not always correlate with diversity in individual departments.
“If that is happening in the administration, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is happening at the departmental level,” she said. “Particularly in the sciences, the hiring of women has lagged far behind what it should be.”
The new initiative will require that all search committees for new faculty designate a diversity representative to ensure that members of minority groups are actively recruited. When qualified candidates who are members of an underrepresented group are identified by a search committee, Yale officials said substantial resources will be available to departments to try to hire that person.
Graduate School Dean Jon Butler said the resources will be made available to qualified individuals even if their area of scholarship was not the first priority of the department.
“In the course of a search, we often come across people in parallel areas or in nearby areas,” Butler said. “That’s an area where we might seek growth in the numbers of the faculty.”
Dillon said she was hopeful that the new standards for search practices will be effective. In the past, Dillon said, the decentralization of academic departments meant search committees’ interest in diversity varied widely.
“One of the problems has been that hiring takes place primarily at the department level,” she said. “It depends very much on the culture of the department as to whether people have a commitment to pursuing diversity in their hiring practices.”
Members of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization, who have advocated for greater diversity in the faculty, said while the program addresses important issues, they are there not convinced there is enough accountability built into the initiative.
“Where is the binding mechanism that will ensure the success of these programs?” GESO chair Mary Reynolds GRD ’07 said. “Who actually is accountable for the success of these programs?”
Though the numerical targets set by the program focus on faculty hiring, University administrators also hope to diversify the graduate school’s student body in order to ensure a future pool of minority professors for Yale and other universities.
All departments will be required to appoint a diversity representative to seek graduate school applicants from underrepresented groups, including minorities and students who are the first in their families to go to college, Butler said. There are no numerical targets for increasing diversity in the graduate school, he said.
“The program reflects our own experience,” Butler said. “It isn’t just an appointments program, but it has to do with mentoring and broadening the pipeline of emerging Ph.D.s who will take faculty places.”
The initiative will also place emphasis on mentoring, child care and family leave programs for all faculty, including minorities, to try to improve retention once junior faculty arrive at Yale.