With peer institutions making demonstrable strides towards increasing faculty diversity, some Yale faculty members are hoping the University will keep up.
In the 2014–15 school year, Harvard reached gender parity in its junior hires for the university — 31 of 62 new hires were female. Brown University announced in the fall that it aims to double its percentage of underrepresented minority faculty members from 8.5 percent of the faculty to 17 percent by 2025.
In the fall, Yale appointed anthropology professor Richard Bribiescas to a new position as deputy provost for faculty development and diversity. But Bribiescas has not publicly specified any numerical targets for increasing faculty diversity.
Last February, an external review found Yale to be lacking in faculty and administrative diversity. The report gave the University 16 recommendations — one of which was the creation of Bribiescas’s role. But over a year after the review, many faculty members are still dissatisfied with gender and racial diversity among faculty.
Still, Bribiescas said “many crucial conversations” both on campus and with peer institutions have taken place.
“Our strategy is still evolving but will be shared with the campus in the coming months,” Bribiescas wrote in an email.
This academic year, Yale women represent only 196 of the 675 ladder faculty in Arts and Sciences, just under 30 percent of the total. In some departments, this difference is particularly stark — there are 15 tenured male professors to one female professor in the Geology and Geophysics Department, and 10 tenured men to zero women in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
Racial diversity among faculty is similarly lacking. Currently, only 16.1 percent of Yale’s FAS ladder faculty are racial minorities. In the 2004–05 school year, that number was 13.8 percent.
Still, while 10 professors interviewed said Yale’s diversity levels are far from ideal, many added that Yale is no worse than peer institutions.
On this specific issue, it may be getting even better. Among the 10 junior faculty who have accepted positions at Yale in the FAS for the coming year, seven are women. Still, roughly eight junior searches have not yet been completed, FAS Dean Tamar Gendler said.
However, according to some experts, naming specific targets is not always the best way to approach faculty diversity.
Anita Allen, vice provost for faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, told Inside Higher Ed last week that among other reasons, it is important to think carefully about numerical targets for diversity because falling short of a specific target can make even very successful diversity efforts appear as failures.
While acknowledging that there remains much to be done, several professors said the University’s efforts so far are good first steps.
“There have been positions created with an aim to diversify the department,” physics professor Meg Urry said. “There is a positive pressure to get departments to look twice at who they are hiring and remind us about our natural biases.”
She added that there are currently five women and one African-American man in the Physics Department, an improvement from the all-male department she found when she first arrived at Yale in 2001.
Other professors also noted the University’s concrete efforts towards diversifying the faculty body.
Chemistry professor Patrick Holland said recent efforts — such as diversity hiring policies — demonstrate that the University is doing more than just paying lip service.
One department that appears ahead of the curve in terms of diversity is the Astronomy Department, where nine out of 18 non-emeritus faculty are women or minorities, astronomy and physics professor and Inaugural Dean of Faculty of Yale-NUS Charles Bailyn said. This unusual diversity for a science, technology, engineering or mathematics department is the result of a concerted effort over the course of more than a decade, Bailyn said, adding that this diversity has increased the quality of the department.
Nevertheless, all faculty interviewed agreed that the University is far from reaching gender parity. Music associate professor Gundula Kreuzer said her department has an unusual gender imbalance for the humanities, adding that next year there will only be one female out of nine senior positions.
In 1952, Bessie Lee Gambrill, a professor in the former Department of Education, became the first woman to receive tenure at Yale.