Nine months after an external review found Yale to be lacking in faculty and administrative diversity, the University appears to be seriously considering the review’s recommendations.
On Nov. 6, Provost Benjamin Polak released to the faculty the findings and recommendations from the February 2014 Yale Diversity Summit, which provided 16 recommendations to the administration on how to improve diversity among faculty and administrators. The suggestions ranged from demanding greater transparency in diversity metrics to creating a pool of resources to target diverse faculty appointments.
The summit included an external visiting committee — made up of nine professors, researchers and physicians from across the country — that spent two days interviewing faculty and staff in an effort provide University administrators with strategies to improve diversity at Yale. According to the report, the committee found that faculty are largely frustrated with Yale’s lack of commitment to diversify the professoriate.
“Yale seems to be lagging peer institutions in its demonstrated commitment to faculty diversity and inclusion,” Dean and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the Duke University School of Medicine and visiting committee member Nancy Andrews ’80 GRD ’80 said in an email. “As an alumna, I sincerely hope that Yale will aspire to leadership in this area, as it has in many others.”
The report added that the University may also be ineffective in creating an environment for diverse faculty to be successful.
“What stands out in the material the Committee read and in the sessions held on campus is the level of frustration expressed among some that the University is simply not sufficiently aware of the need for greater diversity,” the report stated.
Astronomy and physics professor Priyamvada Natarajan, a former chair of the Women’s Faculty Forum, said the data included in the report is “sobering,” particularly in diversity of top leadership. Despite Yale’s success in increasing the diversity of its student body, it has not had comparable success in improving the diversity of its upper level administration.
According to the report, of the 23 senior administrators in the University cabinet — the senior-most deans and vice presidents — in February 2014, there were 10 women and only one non-white member.
But the release of the report two weeks ago accompanied the announcement of a new deputy provost for faculty development and diversity, Anthropology Department chair Richard Bribiescas , a development that some faculty suggested marks a broader effort on the part of the administration to improve diversity on campus.
This new deputy provost will be responsible for helping recruit and promote faculty, providing advice for tenure and appointment processes and leading the development of a University-wide faculty diversity initiative.
“I really hope the recommendations will be a call to arms for the administration to provide more resources to increase diversity at Yale,” psychology professor Laurie Santos said. “I also take the release of the report, combined with the recent announcement that [professor] Bribiescas will assume the position of deputy provost for faculty development and diversity, as very good news for increasing diversity on campus.”
The committee concluded that the University will only be successful in its goals to improve faculty diversity if it allocates more human and financial resources towards recruiting and retaining diverse faculty appointments. Andrews stressed that diversity efforts require a sincere and sustained message that diversity and inclusion are important from institutional leaders.
Additional recommendations in the report included suggestions to organize a Partner-Placement Service to assist the spouses of prospective faculty in finding employment in or near New Haven, establish a leadership institute for faculty who want to take on administrative responsibilities and train department chairs on mentorship and advancement of junior faculty.
Santos said she particularly supported the suggestion to increase undergraduate resources that promote more research opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds. She added that many of the current diversity issues would be easier to solve if Yale invested in nurturing a pipeline of talented undergraduate and graduate students from underrepresented backgrounds.
Bribiescas said he was committed to not only enacting the recommendations outlined in the report, but also dealing with other issues that may arise in speaking with faculty.
“I want to make sure that faculty know that we are not in the business of churning out reports, reading them, then burying them and then generating a new report a few years down the line,” he added.
Polak said that having a more diverse faculty is a key priority for the University, and added that Bribiescas will serve as a “point person” in enacting the recommendations.
Most faculty interviewed reacted positively to the report’s recommendations and were optimistic that they could create tangible change.
Current chair of WFF and immunobiology professor at the School of Medicine Paula Kavathas said the committee’s recommendations are very reasonable and achievable.
“The whole idea of being welcoming to diversity of campus is intricately tied to numbers,” Natarajan said. “There are many brilliant scholars across the world, so there is no reason we cannot find a whole bunch of amazing candidates and we must have the flexibility to hire them when find them, so having that pool of resources in place is very, very important.”
The report’s last recommendation was to “disseminate the results of the Yale Diversity Summit.” The report is not publicly available on the Provost’s website, nor was it provided to students.