Diversity Goals

Yale sets 7-year targets for hiring new female and minority faculty members -- and changes search committee process.
November 15, 2005

Yale University will change the way it does searches and enhance mentoring for junior faculty members in an effort to spread diversity throughout the ranks of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

In an e-mail message to faculty members last week introducing the seven-year effort, the president and provost promised that “financial resources would not be a barrier in the recruitment of a more diverse faculty.”

In contrast to many diversity plans in higher education, Yale set out actual quantitative goals. The e-mail sets the bar at 30 new minority faculty members over seven years – which would be about a 30 percent increase – and 30 new female faculty members in departments where they are underrepresented, which would be a 20 percent increase overall, and an 83 percent increase in the targeted departments, notably physical sciences.

“We think the presence of the goals will be a spur to great seriousness about the effort,” said Jon Butler, dean of the Graduate School.

Yale’s previous diversity campaign, which also featured pledges of unrestricted finances, was launched in 1999 and met with mixed results. The e-mail noted that, between the 1999-2000 and 2004-05 academic years, minority faculty members in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences increased 30 percent, from 67 to 87 faculty members, and female faculty members increased 43 percent overall, from 112 to 160, and more than doubled in the biology and the physical sciences, from 15 to 32.

Statistics from the Office of Institutional Research for the university as a whole, not just the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, show that the percentage of female faculty members was already on an upward trend in the 1990s. And while more minority faculty members were brought on board, most of the progress involved appointments to junior positions. Some demographic categories actually slipped over the six years. The number of full-time, black, male faculty members dropped from 13 to 9.

Yale officials hope that help is now on the way in the form of new search committees, among some other initiatives. Every search committee will have to have a faculty member who will act as the “diversity representative who will be responsible for ensuring a broad and effective ladder faculty search and who will be held accountable for the outcome of the recruitment,” the e-mail read. The representative will work with the Office of Equal Opportunity to “help discover outstanding candidates,” Butler said. Yale believes that qualified minority and women candidates are out there, “we just need to find them,” Butler said. “If we don’t succeed at [the search committee] level, we’re not going to succeed at all.”

Once the desired candidates are found, Yale wants to entice some of them to stay. To find tenured faculty members, Yale has traditionally gone outside the campus in search of big names. Butler said that, for tenure positions, the university is looking at a pool of people who earned their Ph.D.’s 10-15 years ago, and that there are fewer than the ideal number of women and minority candidates. Part of the new plan will be to increase the diversity of the student body in the graduate school, by having each department appoint a faculty member to help seek out graduate student candidates. To retain minority and women junior faculty members, Yale intends to improve mentoring and career development.

Mary Reynolds, a graduate student and chair of the Graduate Students and Employees Organization, said she is encouraged that the administration is pushing a plan, but noted that details are lacking in many areas. She noted that most of the increases in diversity have been among junior faculty members, and that Yale needs to do a better job with mentoring and child care services in order to retain women and minorities. Butler agreed, and pointed to a plan to improve child care -- a plan that is not explicitly part of the diversity plan, but which he said “is no accident.”

Emilie M. Townes, a professor of African American religion and theology and a member of the Women Faculty Forum,  said that the way job openings are written will be a major consideration in appealing to a wider pool. She said that you can “write people in or out” when a job description is so narrow that only a few people think they fit it. Townes also said that mentoring will be critical. She said that, more and more, “younger people are looking for job security over the name of an institution. They have families, and the economy is what it is.” In the absence of a traditional tenure track, she said that mentoring junior faculty members on career development and balancing family and professional responsibilities is necessary.

Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, a professor of graphic design, is not in the Faculty of Arts and Science. But in 1990 she became the first woman to be a tenured faculty member in the School of Art. In her case, Levrant de Bretteville became a default diversity representative. She was on many search committees, and helped the School of Art get to where it is now: half of the most senior faculty members are women. Levrant de Bretteville said that some women looked to her as a model of how to balance work and family. She acknowledged that there is still work to be done, but said there has been progress. “About halfway through my time here, the men started reminding us we should have more women,” she said.


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