The Yale School of Medicine’s new policies addressing faculty diversity are set be released at the end of the week, days later than previously planned, in order to incorporate faculty feedback presented at town hall meetings.
The school has been developing the initiatives since early November, when the Gender Equity Task Force first convened following a sexual misconduct case involving the school’s former chief of cardiology. Dean of the School of Medicine Robert Alpern presented a draft of the diversity initiatives to faculty members at town halls Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. While feedback at those meetings was largely positive, faculty members made recurring calls for improved communication and stricter accountability, both of which Alpern said will be included in the final draft of the policy proposal.
“When we came up with our ideas, the task force and chairs modified them,” said Alpern. “But now, the feedback from faculty will lead us to modify them further.”
Following the removal of Chief of Cardiology Michael Simons MED ’84 amidst charges of sexual misconduct, the medical school has made efforts to improve the climate for female and minority faculty, Alpern said.
The task force was charged with assessing existing reports on equity in promotions, compensation and resource allocation. Since the controversy surroumding the Simons case, the school has put a number of gender equity initiatives up for discussion and collected feedback via town halls like the ones held Tuesday and Wednesday night.
“The town halls have allowed [Alpern] to hear concerns and suggestions for improvement directly from the YSM community,” said Linda Bockenstedt, associate dean of faculty development and diversity and the chair of the Gender Equity Task Force. “These have been very helpful.”
Four medical school town halls have been held thus far.
According to feedback presented at Wednesday evening’s town hall, faculty members are largely supportive of Alpern’s plans. Deputy Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity Richard Bribisecas commended efforts to improve leadership training for senior faculty members, including division chiefs and chairs.
While the school already hosts retreats and other activities to improve leadership skills, Bribiescas highlighted the benefits of Alpern’s proposed initiatives, including plans to review division chiefs, who currently do not get reviewed at all.
Faculty members are optimistic about Alpern’s plans to speak more with junior faculty and to create a Faculty Advisory Council. The proposed FAC would be an elected faculty group that represents diversity in gender and race and includes junior faculty. The group would address concerns from faculty that they are disconnected from the medical school administration. The group would meet with the dean and department heads on a regular basis and serve as a liaision between faculty and the administration.
However, faculty interviewed emphasized that the initiatives need to include some sort of accountability system. One faculty member who spoke during the town hall said that the proposed initiatives need to go further.
“I think data tell us that when you put a couple of diversity spaces in, not much happens,” she said. “It’s a good first step, but I’d be interested to see what the second step is.”
Bockenstedt agreed, noting that there needs to be more accountability and monitoring to ensure the policies, once implemented, are working. Medical students interviewed expressed similar concerns.
“I definitely think such approaches bring about a fear of tokenism,” Herbert Castillo Valladeres MED ’18 said.
While he said he understands that the school’s initiatives are still in the drafting stage, Castillo Valladeres added that it is important to avoid quota systems that could make people think that a faculty member is in a leading position simply because of his or her minority status. When Castillo Valladeres is thinking about residency in three years, he will strongly consider how open an institution is to diversity, a factor that would not favor the medical school, he said.
“They haven’t made it explicit to us that they are trying to increase diversity,” he said.