Faculty Diversity Still a Priority in Hard Times

Nikita Lalwani and Lauren Rosenthal, Yale Daily News, March 1, 2010

Despite a budget shortfall that has forced the University to delay or suspend many faculty hires, administrators and department chairs said they are still committed to increasing the diversity of Yale’s faculty in the next few years.

Chief among the advocates for diversity is Yale College Dean Mary Miller, who plans to continue a decades-long push that she said precipitated her own promotion to tenure. Miller said that over the past year, as the dean who oversees the humanities in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, she has encouraged department chairs and hiring committees to consider culturally and ethnically diverse candidates and to call on similarly diverse scholars to help departments make their hiring decisions. But in the wake of a University-wide budget shortfall, Miller has had to reevaluate her strategy by appealing to department chairs with specific hires and setting the faculty up for diverse tenure appointments in better economic times.

Miller acknowledged that her goals for faculty growth would be challenged by the budget cuts. To combat this, she said she advocates keeping “success in the pipeline”–hiring junior faculty now and promoting them to tenure when departments are under less financial strain.

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Graduate School Dean Jon Butler, who oversees the social sciences and sciences in FAS, said budgetary constraints have been a constant topic of conversation for deans and departments alike. Both he and Miller have been working with departments to develop long-term hiring plans and manage vacancies that might need to go unfilled until the University’s finances recover.

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Miller pointed to the Geology and Geophysics Department as exemplary in its efforts to recruit and hire more diverse faculty. But the department will not be hiring any faculty at all for the next few years, department chair David Bercovici said, bringing progressive hiring, at least in his department, to a halt.

Although Bercovici said he looks for candidates with diversity in research, gender and ethnicity, his No. 1 priority is outstanding scholarship. His department has hired seven faculty over the past three years, and he said they have positively changed the face of the department.

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Miller’s push for diversity is not entirely new. In 2005, University President Richard Levin and then-Provost Andrew Hamilton released a set of seven-year goals intended to increase the diversity of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Levin and Hamilton said the University would add 30 minority faculty and 30 female faculty to fields in which women were underrepresented, and announced plans to reevaluate how the University conducts searches with the goal of making them more thorough.

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But English Department Chair Michael Warner said his department has made three diverse hires this year while pursuing two others. Although the English Department is mindful of the need for gender diversity, Warner said, the department has a more pressing need for ethnic and racial diversity.

“We are also interested in the diversity of scholarship and method that often comes with such hires,” he said. “We have to find ways of going beyond token inclusion or the rote application of census categories and expand the kinds of knowledge we are interested in.”

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Miller, who joined Yale’s faculty in 1981, was promoted to tenure under recommendations made in the landmark 1984 Crothers Report, formally titled the “Report of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Committee on the Education of Women” and named for the committee’s chair, chemistry professor Donald Crothers ’58.

The report–which recommended that Yale double the number of tenured female professors in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences–is now “ancient,” Miller said, but it continues to influence the University’s hiring practices.

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