Aydin Akyol

University President Peter Salovey and Provost Ben Polak on Monday announced a new initiative to allocate $26 million for the purposes of faculty salary adjustments and recruitment, three years after Yale committed $50 million to diversifying its faculty in 2015.

The University unveiled the largest faculty diversity initiative in its history in the fall of 2015, during a period of heated campus discussions surrounding issues of diversity and inclusion. Designed to incentivize Yale schools and departments to seek out and hire faculty members from historically underrepresented groups, the initiative funded faculty salaries and professional development programs and sponsored “pipeline programs” to help graduate students pursue their intellectual and professional goals.

According to Polak, the new initiative — which will be financed with central University funds — will augment the University’s ongoing efforts to recruit high-quality faculty members from diverse backgrounds. While the 2015 Faculty Excellence and Diversity Initiative has “brought excellent and diverse faculty across every single school,” Polak said, the University administration recognizes “that transformative hires … require extra [re]sources to bring in.”

“Excellent faculty drive the discovery of knowledge,” Salovey and Polak wrote in a facultywide email announcing the initiative Monday morning. “It is essential that we recruit and retain preeminent scholars in every field. With this goal in mind, we are launching an initiative that will earmark an incremental $26 million to spend on these goals over the next five years, at approximately $5 million per year.”

While the new initiative is not specifically aimed at making the University faculty more diverse, Polak said recruiting “transformative faculty” members will help departments and academic programs recruit and retain faculty members from all backgrounds.

“When a department or school makes a transformative hire, it changes the whole feel of the department,” Polak said. “Clearly, these superstar professors attract students — that’s a great thing — but they also attract grad students, post-doctoral students and other faculty to come join them. They can generate excitement around the field and bring people with a full range of experiences.”

To avoid “singling out” certain faculty members, Polak declined to give examples of “transformative hires” funded by the 2015 initiative. He said the University will not disclose who receives a raise or is recruited under the new initiative either.

It remains unclear how exactly the $26 million allocated under the new initiative will be distributed across different schools and departments. According to Associate Provost Megan Barnett, deans of every school meet with Polak at least once a month to discuss the faculty recruitment process. While the Provost’s Office does not micromanage faculty searches and recruitment, it regularly checks in with departments about new hires, Barnett explained.

After the announcement of the Faculty Excellence and Diversity Initiative in 2015, the University made 24 new faculty appointments in September 2016 and another 26 in October 2017. Between 2015 and 2017, the percentage of newly hired female ladder faculty members in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the medical school increased from 40 percent to 49 percent, while the percentage of faculty members identifying as Asian-American, black, Hispanic, Native American or international saw an uptick of 4 percent, according to the University’s Faculty Development & Diversity website.

However, at the University-wide town hall meeting last February, students and faculty members called for increased efforts to recruit faculty members from diverse backgrounds. According to former Deputy Dean for Diversity and Faculty Development Kathryn Lofton and Darin Latimore, the medical school’s chief diversity officer, while the abstract idea of diversity is celebrated on campus, many faculty members still balk at the practical implications of actively seeking out and hiring professors from different backgrounds.

“They think I’m asking to [dumb] down excellence because I’m talking about diversity and excellence, but I’m not,” Latimore said at the town hall meeting.

Asked about cultural barriers preventing the University from further diversifying its faculty, Polak referred the News to Deputy Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity Richard Bribiescas, who did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

While the University is making progress in bringing in more women and ethnically diverse faculty members, Polak said “it will take quite a while to change the University’s look because faculty members hired 40 and 59 years ago tend to be a lot less diverse.” Implicit biases against women and minorities in our society also create a “pipeline problem,” where fewer women and people of color are entering academia, Polak added.

According to Dean of Yale Divinity School Gregory Sterling, extra funding from the 2015 initiative made it “possible to be more aggressive” in diversifying the faculty. While recruiting the best faculty members is always challenging — especially when they come from underrepresented groups — “the new program should help,” Sterling said.

In a statement to the News, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Tamar Gendler said the new initiative will allow the University to make “ambitious offers to faculty whose research is field-shaping and whose teaching is renowned.”

The total number of faculty members employed at Yale across Yale College and the graduate and professional schools in the 2016–17 academic year was 4,483.

Serena Cho | serena.cho@yale.edu

Correction, Sept. 18: A previous version of this article mistakenly stated that the University unveiled its largest faculty diversity initiative after the 2015 campus protests. The initiative, in fact, was announced on Nov. 3, 2015, before the protests.