MIT Lags in Hiring, Promoting Black, Hispanic Faculty, Internal Report Says

Tracy Jan, Boston Globe, January 14, 2010

MIT must do a better job recruiting and retaining black and Hispanic faculty, who have a significantly more difficult time getting promoted than white and Asian colleagues, according to a frank internal study released today by the university.

In some departments, such as chemistry, mathematics, and nuclear science and engineering, no minorities have been hired in the last two decades, according to the report, which was more than two years in the making.

MIT’s first comprehensive study of faculty racial diversity and the experiences of underrepresented minority professors highlights a national problem across academia: the need to improve the pipeline of black and Hispanic scholars.

Blacks and Hispanics make up only 6 percent of MIT faculty, an increase of 4.5 percent since 2000 but far below the university’s goal of achieving parity with the nation, where underrepresented minorities make up 30 percent of the population.

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Hockfield [President Susan Hockfield] plans to share the report over the next several days with peer research institutions in the hopes of establishing closer ties that will help with producing a greater number of minority engineers and scientists.

The report recommends that MIT expand its recruitment efforts beyond the small number of schools such as MIT, Harvard and Stanford from which it tends to draw many of its faculty.

Senior professors from underrepresented groups told researchers that they feel less satisfied with MIT than their white colleagues and expressed greater concerns about objectivity in tenure and promotion decisions. In many cases, they also expressed frustration with regard to isolation and climate, the report said.

The report suggests that MIT address the issues of climate with more open discussion about diversity and its connection to excellence–something faculty surveys indicate that many white professors do not believe.

“These issues become difficult to address because of a general discomfort in openly discussing matters of race in the academic setting of MIT,” the report said.

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