This story has been updated to reflect the version in print on Sept. 8.
Yale has hired 26 new ladder faculty members and 13 visiting professors in the first wave of a five-year, $50 million faculty diversity initiative unveiled in November 2015.
The new faculty span across the University, Provost Benjamin Polak announced in a facultywide email Wednesday. Polak said Yale’s faculty diversity initiative — modeled off similar efforts at Columbia University and Brown University — had a successful first year due to widespread cooperation from the deans of all 12 professional schools and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
“We think it’s off to a good start, but there’s a lot of work to be done,” Polak told the News.
The initiative aims to incentivize each of Yale’s schools to seek out and hire faculty from historically underrepresented groups. Half of the $50 million initiative is funded by the Provost’s Office and the remaining money is put up by each of the University’s schools. Deans nominated new visiting professors to be funded through the initiative.
Polak would not release the names or fields of the 26 new ladder faculty, some of whom have already begun teaching and others who begin in the spring.
Among the new hires are 13 visiting professors who will teach for either one semester or more as part of the new Presidential Visiting Scholars Program.
These hires follow student activists’ call for increased faculty diversity during wide-ranging protests and discussions about institutional racism on campus last fall.
“I was greatly moved by the student protests last spring, and was encouraged by the faculty and administration’s response to enhance Yale’s offerings in ethnic studies,” said Columbia professor Gary Okihiro — the founding director of Columbia’s Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity — who this semester as a visiting professor is teaching “Intro to Third World Studies.”
Marisol Orihuela, a deputy public defender in Los Angeles, began teaching in July at the Yale Law School as a visiting clinical law professor. Orihuela said Law School professors and students are doing groundbreaking work in criminal justice by addressing the problems of mass incarceration and sentencing.
“As an immigrant woman of color in the legal profession, diversity is something I cannot ignore,” Orihuela said.
Miriam Gohara, a clinical associate professor at the Law School, had been teaching there since January when Law School Dean Robert Post nominated her to be a visiting professor under the new visiting professors program.
Gohara, whose interests in criminal justice and punishment abut much of the current research at the Law School, said she looks forward to engaging with Yale students in her courses and through various campus affinity groups.
Michael Mendez, a visiting professor in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies who previously worked at the University of San Francisco, said the initiative was widely advertised and that he met with at least 15 faculty members as well as staff and students during his interview process.
On July 1, Mendez was hired for three years for an endowed position at F&ES, and only later learned his salary would be partially funded through the visiting scholars program. He will be teaching courses on environmental policymaking through the lens of social equity.
Polak said he hopes that some of the visiting professors will choose to stay at Yale once their terms conclude. But no permanent positions have been guaranteed for the scholars in the program.
“Every now and then one of them might decide Yale’s a great place. Being able to have them come and visit Yale, that’s a wonderful thing,” Polak said, adding that the Provost’s Office exceeded its goal of finding 10 visiting professors.
Polak said he cannot predict how many faculty will be added through the initiative over its remaining four years.
“It might go up next year. It’s also possible that there was pent-up demand for this. I don’t know which way it will go,” he said.
A third part of the diversity initiative targeted the pipeline problem of academia by funding an Emerging Scholars Initiative at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences that offers accepted students $3,000 top-up stipends to attract them toward Yale. Fifteen new graduate students are receiving such stipends this fall. This year, the Emerging Scholars Initiative also funded 10 restricted research grants of $2,000 each.
“We’re trying to make it a little easier for people to go into graduate school. There might be obstacles for students who are first-generation, from a diverse background or women in science,” Polak said.
Roughly one quarter of Yale’s 4,400 faculty members last year were tenured.