In the wake of ntrn major announcement about Yale’s newest faculty diversity initiative, excitement about a series of new hires this fall has been tempered by concerns over a lack of transparency about funding for the overall project.
Yale announced last week that 26 new ladder faculty members and 13 visiting professors have joined the University as part of a sweeping $50 million faculty diversity initiative unveiled last November. But despite the fanfare, the University’s announcement has provoked skepticism from some current professors who remain suspicious of an administration they feel has failed to address diversity issues in the past and has done little to explain its current practices.
In interviews with the News, faculty members from across campus, some of whom have publicly advocated for greater diversity in recent months, voiced concerns about a lack of specific information in the announcement, which did not reveal the names or fields of the 26 ladder appointments or even the distribution of their appointments across the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the professional schools. Some also complained that the email did not specify how much funding has gone to individual departments to support each new hire; instead, they said, they suspect the University has invested too much money in hiring big-name intellectuals for one-year or one-semester visiting stints, rather than building a diverse faculty for the long haul.
“I was happy to read about the new faculty positions, but would like greater transparency. Faculty in FAS would like a clearer accounting of how diversity funds are being used,” FAS Senate chair and classics professor Emily Greenwood said. “More fundamentally, the senate would like to see a breakdown of the funds that were announced in the diversity initiative by school so that we know what resources are available within FAS.”
Greenwood, an outspoken advocate for greater faculty diversity, noted that in a report last year the FAS Senate called for a “more transparent breakdown” of funds earmarked for promoting faculty diversity across the University.
Over the past year, faculty diversity at the University — where last semester professors of color comprised just 16.5 percent of FAS ladder faculty members — has become the subject of intense scrutiny from students and professors alike. In May, as racially charged protests continued to roil campus, University President Peter Salovey called it “the single biggest problem” at Yale.
Although some students and professors applauded the University’s five-year, $50 million faculty diversity initiative when it was announced in November 2015, others noted that Yale had committed far less money to the problem than peer institutions like Columbia and Brown, which have committed $80 million and $165 million to similar plans, respectively.
Moreover, according to an FAS professor who has worked closely on these issues, University administrators failed to consult the faculty members who compiled the FAS Senate’s diversity report as the November initiative was put into motion.
“Many of us were never consulted about who the administration should target to bring in,” said the professor, who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the topic. “We merely got an announcement one day with no advance notice.”
Administrators told the News that the announcement omitted specific information about the new appointments because of privacy concerns. The University has publicized the names of the 13 visiting professors, six of whom work in the FAS and the rest of whom are distributed across the professional schools.
Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Tamar Gendler told the News that providing greater transparency — including a breakdown of ladder faculty appointments by school — would have “violated the privacy surrounding individual faculty appointments,” given that some of the schools are very small.
Religious studies professor Kathryn Lofton, a member of the FAS Senate who also serves as FAS deputy dean for diversity and faculty development, said she understands why the announcement might seem “less than transparent” but defended the administration’s overall approach.
“We have to find a balance between appropriate levels of transparency and protecting the privacy of those who receive support from these initiatives,” Lofton said. She added that there has been significant recruitment success within the FAS.
The distribution of appointments across FAS and the professional schools is not the only aspect of the diversity announcement that has riled professors.
William Kelly, former chair of the Department of Anthropology, said the University’s 13 visiting appointments — big-name recruits, such as The New York Times’ Charles Blow — amount to an “embarrassing and guilt-ridden PR stunt” that will do little to achieve true faculty diversity.
“It should concern every FAS faculty [member] that long-standing practices of governance have been so thoroughly disregarded,” Kelly said. “An administration whose very policies and practices eroded faculty diversity can hardly be trusted when it assigns to itself the task of repairing its own mistakes.”
Inderpal Grewal, a professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies, said the University should focus more on bringing in ladder faculty than on recruiting visiting professors who stay for stints of one year or less.
“You could have all the visiting faculty come and go, and $50 million will go away with visiting faculty,” Grewal said. “We need to have more ladder faculty. I’d love to see that being more transparent. We haven’t seen that.”
Correction, Sept. 15: A previous version of this article incorrectly described William Kelly as the chair of the Department of Anthropology; in fact, he is a former chair of the department.