The University is set to create another top-level administrative position devoted to diversifying Yale’s faculty.
Following weeks of student protests and demands for more faculty of color, University President Peter Salovey announced on Nov. 17 that he would invite a senior member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences to take the new role of “deputy dean for diversity in the FAS and special advisor to the provost and president.”
Although the position has yet to be filled, questions remain about how the new deputy dean’s responsibilities will differ from those of the deputy provost for faculty development and diversity, a role currently filled by Richard Bribiescas that was created last year at the recommendation of an external review on faculty diversity at Yale. The review, authored in Feb. 2014 by nine educators from across the country, identified gaps in Yale’s efforts to diversify its faculty and cited that of the 23 members of the University President’s cabinet only one member, Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews, was not white. Today that number is two.
Some professors interviewed said the new position is necessary because it is important for Yale to have figures in positions of power pushing for greater diversity at all levels of the University.
“There’s still something missing in FAS,” said Frances Rosenbluth, a political science professor who recently served as deputy provost for social sciences and faculty development and diversity. “The University is always evolving in its structures. They are trying to figure out who does what and they decided there are missing pieces.”
While Bribiescas works closely with University Provost Benjamin Polak, the new deputy dean will report directly to FAS Dean Tamar Gendler, Polak said. Together with Gendler, the deputy dean will be tasked with forming a new committee to advise the administration about faculty diversity and help create ways to make Yale more inclusive for faculty of color, women faculty and underrepresented minority faculty.
Polak added that since FAS faculty account for about one-third of the entire University faculty, diversity among that body is especially important.
“Rick Bribiescas and I look forward to working with the person once they are appointed,” Polak said. He did not specify when the new position will be filled or which senior faculty members are being considered for the position.
While faculty and administrators interviewed highlighted the unique challenges the new deputy dean will face, they also said the University seems to be throwing more support behind the issue of diversity than it has in past years.
“This person will have wind in their sails to get things done,” Rosenbluth said.
The funding for the new deputy deanship has not yet been discussed, Polak said. He added that he expects to discuss how the position will be funded with Gendler during the annual FAS budget meeting later this academic year. He said he “does not anticipate a problem” finding sufficient funding for the position, which would include salary. In November, Salovey and Polak announced a $50 million faculty diversity initiative, which allocates $25 million to the Provost’s Office to help pay the salaries of underrepresented faculty who are hired at the professional schools or the FAS. The $50 million initiative also allocates funding to address the problem of faculty retention by establishing programs to guide faculty through the tenure process. According to Salovey’s email, the new deputy dean will help facilitate support and mentorship of untenured faculty.
Still, it remains to be seen which responsibilities the new position will have — specifically, whether the role will be advisory in nature or if the new dean will also have executive power. Rosenbluth said she hopes the new position will be “plenipotentiary,” with the full power to take action and make changes independent from other administrators. Still, the new deputy dean should have “the ear of the president and the provost,” she added.
Rosenbluth suggested that Yale may be coming into step with schools like the University of California, Berkeley, which have high-level positions devoted exclusively to faculty diversification. The deputy dean and deputy provost positions created at Yale in the last two years may be similar to the role of vice chancellor for equity and inclusion at UC Berkeley, she said. This vice chancellor oversees an operation with over 150 full-time staff members and an annual budget of $20 million devoted to resolving systemic inequities in academia.
Physics and astronomy professor Priyamvada Natarajan, who from 2011–13 chaired the Women’s Faculty Forum, said she is glad the University is expanding the number of top-level administrators devoted to issues of diversity. Natarajan said in the past, the deputy provost for social sciences and faculty development and diversity was the sole administrator concerned with faculty diversity and was burdened with too much responsibility.
But, Natarajan said creating administrative positions is not the only way to solve the faculty diversity crisis at Yale. Yale should pursue other methods of promoting diversity, she said, though she did not offer specific alternatives.
The creation of a new position comes at a time of extensive administrative restructuring. In February 2014, Salovey announced the first major change to the administrative structure in half a century by creating the position of dean of the faculty of arts and sciences, which is tasked with faculty appointments, promotions and the FAS budget. The same year, Yale faculty approved the formation of an FAS Senate, a body of 22 FAS faculty.
Sebastian Medina-Tayac ’16, a staff reporter for the News and the former president of the Association of Native Americans at Yale, said that a diverse administration without a diverse senior faculty gives students even less access to the few professors they can relate to, even while it makes the administration more aware of issues of race and diversity.
“In my experience, faculty of color are hugely overburdened,” he said, adding that the new deputy deanship should be filled by a professor of color. Administrators like Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway, Timothy Dwight Master Mary Lui and Ezra Stiles Master Stephen Pitti are already leading the charge, but these administrators are stretched thin and must mentor many students of color while also teaching and fulfilling the roles of an administrator, he said.
The Diversity Summit reported that 74.4 percent of the FAS faculty in 2013 was white.