A century ago, neither of us would have been welcome on Yale’s faculty. As a Mexican-American first-generation college graduate, and a Jewish-American woman, we would have been excluded from America’s elite institutions of higher education. For most of its first three centuries, Yale’s faculty consisted mainly of males of European descent. But homogeneity is not often conducive to scholarly excellence or the emergence of new ideas, and Yale was able to develop into a world-class university not because of this homogeneity, but in spite of it. Like other institutions of higher learning, Yale’s lack of faculty diversity is rooted in social and economic obstacles that limited the opportunities for many. This legacy of racism, sexism and marginalization is well-documented in a number of the classes that Yale shares with the world through its Open Yale Courses initiative. The lack of faculty diversity over the years represents a legacy of lost opportunities to make a great university even greater. We are committed to ensuring that such opportunities are not lost in the future. A diverse faculty opens the institution to new voices and ideas, and offers modeling and mentoring for successive generations.
But faculty diversity will not simply happen. We need to make it happen.
The creation of the position of the deputy provost for faculty development and diversity is an important part of this commitment. As deputy provost, I (Rick Bribiescas) have worked with deans and directors across the campus to heighten awareness and promote best practices. Within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, I have trained the committees responsible for tenure and promotion on issues of bias and equity, and I have prepared a comprehensive set of materials which are being used by all FAS faculty search committees to ensure that they identify an excellent and diverse pool of candidates and take proactive steps to counter the effects of implicit bias. Indeed, much of the key research on implicit bias in hiring has been conducted by Yale faculty, including by Jack Dovidio in Psychology working with Yale colleagues Jo Handelsman, Corinne Moss-Racusin and Tori Brescoll GRD ’06; by Mahzarin Banaji, who began her seminal work on implicit bias while she was on the faculty here at Yale; and by Jennifer Richeson who will be joining Yale’s psychology faculty in July 2016.
In the past year, Yale has made consistent strides towards diversifying the faculty and the leadership of the University. For example, of the 28 FAS faculty who are either arriving in 2015–16 or who were hired during the 2014–15 hiring cycle, 15 are men and 13 are women, including two women in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, one in Computer Science, one in Statistics, one in Economics and one in Philosophy — all of which are departments where women faculty have been underrepresented. Of those 28 faculty, three are of African descent and six are of East Asian or South Asian descent. All of the faculty who have been hired are world-class scholars, teachers and mentors whose presence on campus will contribute to the university’s commitment to leadership in the creation, preservation and dissemination of knowledge. We have also made important strides in increasing the representation of women and faculty of color within the Yale leadership, including leadership of the residential colleges, the FAS, Yale College, the Graduate School and several of the professional schools.
Despite our efforts, the natural ebb and flow of faculty will result in departures. However departures that are hastened by campus-climate issues or weaknesses in faculty development are unacceptable. As FAS dean, I (Tamar Gendler) have instituted a policy of meeting with each departing faculty member to solicit their advice about how Yale can become even more effective in mentoring and supporting its faculty of color, its women faculty and any other faculty for whom Yale has not been as effective in its support as we seek to be for all our faculty. I have already learned a great deal from these conversations and I have begun to implement many of their suggestions.
Finally, we are committed to providing the resources that will allow FAS departments to achieve our campuswide goal of a faculty that is diverse and excellent. At a recent meeting of the FAS department chairs, I, as FAS dean, announced a three-year initiative which includes adding additional resources to the FAS faculty “slot pool.” These resources (in administrative parlance “half-slots,”) could, if combined with existing departmental resources, bring as many as 24 faculty to the University who add excellence along a range of dimensions: these might include faculty who bring diversity, faculty who work at the intersections of traditional disciplinary boundaries, faculty who work in areas where we need additional strength or faculty who represent targets of opportunity along some other dimension. This initiative will advance our commitment to attract to Yale world-renowned researchers, teachers, scholars and mentors, and an excellent faculty in all of these dimensions is a diverse faculty.
As the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the deputy provost for faculty development and diversity, we have the responsibility for and the privilege of making that ambition a reality. We are energized by the progress we have made so far; but we are not content. We welcome the campuswide conversation that has begun around these questions, and we look forward to working together to build an excellent, diverse and supportive community.
Richard Bribiescas is the Deputy Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity. Contact him at email@example.com . Tamar Gendler is the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .