Courtesy of Kathryn Lofton

Religious Studies Department Chair Kathryn Lofton will serve as the inaugural Faculty of Arts and Sciences deputy dean for diversity and faculty development, FAS Dean Tamar Gendler wrote to the FAS in a Monday email.

The new administrative position, which was announced as part of University President Peter Salovey’s Nov. 17 “Toward a Better Yale” initiative, was created in order to address persistent issues of faculty diversity within the FAS. Lofton will oversee a broad range of issues relating to diversity, including recruitment, retention, budget allocation and mentorship support. She will fill the position on an interim basis for a year and a half, during which she will develop a “robust vision” for what the position should look like in the future, Gendler wrote.

Lofton told the News she looks forward to fostering discussions about the definition of excellence and how it relates to diversity and inclusion.

“My job is to work to identify what makes Yale not as equal or as open as it ought to be,” Lofton said. “It is to call for all members of the Yale community to take up the charge to rethink privilege in its many forms and to ensure the cultivation of criticism on this score from wherever it may come.”

Gendler praised Lofton for her effectiveness as a leader as well as for her wide range of leadership roles across the University. Gendler said she received 16 formal nominations and self-nominations for the position over the past few months, and she also interviewed 15 other faculty members for additional suggestions, before selecting Lofton.

“Even on a campus filled with extraordinary people, Lofton stands out as uncannily thoughtful, articulate, imaginative, energetic and — most importantly — wise,” Gendler told the News. “The job of the deputy dean will be to advise me on FAS implementation of the campuswide diversity initiative, and to coordinate support and mentoring for FAS faculty.”

As deputy dean, Lofton will oversee faculty diversity efforts at both the conceptualization and implementation stages. She will identify and establish best practices in the recruitment, retention, promotion and support of FAS faculty, with a special attention toward issues of climate for faculty who bring diversity to the institution. She will also work with FAS department chairs, search committees and faculty members to ensure that these best practices are indeed followed. Several professors recently interviewed have claimed that certain departments are not held accountable for a lack of attention to diversity.

She will also work with the Office of Institutional Research and the Provost’s Office — including Deputy Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity Richard Bribiescas — to gather and distribute analytics related to faculty diversity and excellence.

Lofton has held administrative and leadership roles at various levels of the University. She has served as Chair of the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department and has been involved with various FAS and University-wide committees, including the Humanities Tenure and Appointments Committee, the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct, the Standing Committee on Yale College Expansion and a committee that is currently evaluating Yale’s tenure and appointments policy.

Lofton is also an elected member of the FAS Senate, and has co-authored two of the Senate’s major reports: one on the new faculty conduct standards and one on how Yale will accommodate two new residential colleges.

Faculty members and colleagues praised the FAS Dean’s Office’s decision and spoke highly about Lofton’s qualities as a leader adept at navigating the inner workings of the institution.

“She is an agile diplomat who has the University’s best interests at heart and who is already inside the administrative conversations at the highest levels, having just served on the [tenure policy] review committee that just completed its very constructive recommendations for improving the tenure system,” WGSS Chair Margaret Homans said. Homans added that if Lofton is given resources and sufficient authority, she could do a “great deal” to help Yale retain and build its faculty diversity.

Ethnicity, Race and Migration Chair Matthew Jacobson called Lofton “institutionally savvy” and “unswerving” in her commitment to equity.

Jacobson added that the interim period is critical, both for defining the new deputy dean position going forward, and for thinking about the kind of scholar or professional who should hold the post in its first regular term.

“Lofton is exceptionally well-equipped to lead the discussion on both counts,” he said.

Lofton is also a professor of American Studies, history, WGSS and divinity.

  • concerned

    With respect to excellence, diversity, discrimination and Title IX, UWC procedures on sexual misconduct were recently modified yet again based on recommendations from a faculty committee led by a Yale Law School professor. Why? A Yale Law School professor ran the committee who heard my grievance and then looked the other way in regard to retaliatory damages. Because this is America, I got the chance to complain to Joe Biden about this and did so. Biden, unintentionally I am sure, then caught this professor in the act of framing me for a false allegation of sexual harassment and did what he had to do in the capacity of his office at the time. Hopefully there is someone who can be found at the law school who will distinguish excellence from privilege and impart this information to the current dean of GSAS as well as the chair of the relevant GSAS department in addition to the Dean of Diversity and the UWC committee. There needs to be further scrutiny on how these Yale committees do their work, in particular UWC, and whether they indeed have the best interests of the University at heart or whether it is all just for show. Expectations for excellence are not just for the privileged.

  • eli1

    how many diversity deans does this school need?

  • Hieronymus Machine

    My initial comment was stricken; I’ll standardize wording and try to get it through:

    Yalensis a day ago
    Detected as spam Thanks, we’ll work on getting this corrected.
    “Will anyone criticize this person for xer visible “cultural appropriation”?

    Follow-up: A colleague asked how this person qualified (implying no obvious or surface criterion one might expect of a diversity dean). Then she said, “Oh, wait, is she [fill in stereotype.]” I stated I had no idea but, lo and behold… Quelle surprise. (“Not that there’s anything wrong with that”–and I mean that. Indeed, despite xer rather banal and oh-so-’90s but prize-winning essay “Queering Fundamentalism,” I find Lofton engaging and fairly broad-minded.)

  • aham

    Some years ago Yale chose a white woman professor in a similar capacity in one of its schools. During a faculty talk by a visiting black woman scholar, that same professor who headed diversity, took the visiting black faculty member to task for her use of the term “oppressed women of color.” This is classic Ivy tone deafness. Yale needs people who will challenge its power structure, confront its liberal white and black elitist orthodoxy and paternalism, and dismantle its subconscious ordering of the races. Most of the black people at Yale cook in the cafeteria kitchens, clean the bathrooms, cut the grass, and maintain the buildings. In short, most of the black people at Yale are “The Help.” What do Yale students learn from seeing most of the black people they encounter at Yale clean up after them and cook for them? What does such a routine interaction tell white people about where black people’s place is in this society? I tell any black person that they have a better chance of going to Yale as a cook or cleaner than a student, faculty member or administrator. Yale, like most Ivy League institutions, only want assimilated blacks within their midst. Free black people need not apply. The quicker a minority student assimilates, the less painful their time will be at Yale. Given the fact that I don’t dance to every tune, assimilation was never an option. Thus, Yale became one of the most painful experiences in my life. When I attended Yale, there were not 10 tenured black faculty across the entire campus. And the 10 that were there thought just like the Yale establishment. Thus, Yale is in need of viewpoint diversity most of all. I am not for just hiring people just because we share the same pigmentation or hue. I want people who think about the world differently. I didn’t meet many of those at Yale. Thus, I felt out of place amongst most whites and blacks during my time there. I am deep in the throes of completing a seminal book about my life as a black man from the Deep South at Yale. Stay tuned.

    ***please excuse any typos. on cellphone.

  • 3rdNOB

    I remember about a decade ago that there was a Director of the Office for Diversity and Equal Opportunity at Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; she was an assistant clinical professor at the Child Study Center at Yale School of Medicine and has since moved on to another Ivy League School. The question that one might ask is, why didn’t Yale have a similar position for undergraduate at that time? If such a position existed, why is there a need to create this new position. Just wondering…..