University News

U. renews efforts to increase faculty diversity

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, October 1, 2012

As the year-long strategic planning process commences, the University aims to redouble its efforts to increase faculty diversity. Though none of the six committees that will carry out the planning process will specifically focus on diversity, all of them will prioritize the issue as they consider their charges, University officials said.

President Christina Paxson told The Herald she plans to work toward improving faculty diversity, a goal originally outlined in the Plan for Academic Enrichment. The current racial composition is heavily white – approximately 11 percent of professors are Asian, 4 percent are black, 3 percent are Hispanic, 1 percent is multiracial and less than 1 percent is Native American, according to Associate Dean of the Faculty Janet Blume.

Though boosting faculty diversity has already been a concern for the Dean of the Faculty’s office, the strategic planning process will allow committees to consider new ways of approaching that goal, Blume said.

Associate Provost for Academic Development and Diversity Liza Cariaga-Lo, who arrived at Brown this year after several years at Yale and Harvard, said the University can capitalize on its distinctive strengths to attract talented minority candidates during the hiring process. “What Brown can also do more easily and more nimbly than other peer institutions is that when we bring candidates here to campus … we have opportunities there to really sort of showcase the uniqueness of Brown as a university-college,” she said.

Cariaga-Lo said she will be working with department heads and administrators to institute new practices in outreach efforts to faculty candidates during searches. Currently, faculty search committees, which feature a mandatory diversity representative, create shortlists of potential candidates that are submitted to the provost’s  office. If there is concern that the list does not accurately represent the diversity of talent in the pool, Cariaga-Lo works with the committee to adjust it.

The University also has multiple programs to encourage hiring of top minority talent, Blume said. The Target of Opportunity Program allows departments to secure permission to hire particularly outstanding candidates even when they don’t have open faculty slots, and the pre-select program gives departments with open spots the ability to circumvent the search process if they already know of an exceptionally qualified candidate. Though neither program is exclusively used for minority candidates, they generally boost the representation of minority groups on the faculty, Blume said.

The problem of a non-diverse faculty is a concern for all top research universities, and Brown has racial demographics fairly similar to those of its Ivy peers, Cariaga-Lo said. The pool of qualified minority candidates is simply too small, she said, so the process of  attracting top professors often places the University in tough competition with peer institutions. “Like our peers, we have continued to make some minor progress, I would say, but not enough … to really sort of create the kind of critical mass that I think that we all wish we had,” Cariaga-Lo said. And because open spots are often for specific subject areas or niches, it’s difficult for departments to diversify quickly, Blume said.

Considerations of diversity are not just ethnic – achieving gender parity, especially in the hard sciences, is another major concern, according to Blume. Increasing other types of diversity, including religious background, sexual orientation and veteran or disabled status, is also a priority, she said.

In recent years, schools like Columbia and Harvard have launched $30 to $40 million initiatives to increase faculty diversity, but Cariaga-Lo said funds alone have not been sufficient to make a difference.

In various departments, current minority professors said that though a more diverse faculty would enhance the Brown education, they did not see it as a crucial concern. Glenn Loury, the only black professor in the economics department, said it wasn’t a “glaring problem” and that the lack of diversity around him has not had a major effect on his career or scholarship. He added that the University’s Africana studies department and the recently formed Slavery and Justice Center reflect Brown’s commitment to diverse intellectual pursuits. Quality should still be the top priority, he said. “You certainly don’t want to encourage departments to lower standards or whatever as they’re doing these things,” he said.

At the same time, Loury said, his race is undeniably a factor in his teaching, especially in his course ECON 1370: “Race and Inequality in the United States.” “I play with this identity dimension because it is important,” he said. “I mean, it’s a subtle thing, I think, that goes on with teaching because you’re not just imparting information. You’re inspiring people when you teach.”

Jaegwon Kim, the only minority professor in the philosophy department, said he had never experienced any racial discrimination or negative ramifications, adding that he thinks Brown does its best to hire diverse faculty members. But, he added, the opportunity to learn from professors of different backgrounds is important for students, and structural problems are to blame for the faculty homogeneity. “Ultimately, I don’t think it’s because of any prejudicial hiring or recruitment that we have so few Asians in the mainstream humanities,” he said. “It’s the availability of the pool.”

Kim, whose scholarship and teaching focus on Western philosophy, said he wished there were more minority faculty studying issues not particular to their ethnicity. “One thing I’d like to see happen at Brown or in academia in general is, say, more Asians … represented in the core areas of the humanities and the social sciences and not be relegated to the Asian studies ghetto,” he said.

Blume said greater diversity could provide more role models for students. “It’d be huge for the environment to have different viewpoints, different voices, people for students to look up to and interact with that come from maybe backgrounds similar to their own. It shows them that they too can do this,” she said. Even if the effects aren’t obvious or explicit, “your otherness is a part of who you are and how you might even subconsciously fit into a field,” she added.

Students expressed a mixture of perspectives on the mostly white, male faculty. Some felt diversity shouldn’t be a concern at all. “That’s a thing that I don’t think matters,” said Chris Farrow ’15. “It should be the quality of teaching.”

Audrey Cho ’15 agreed, saying that intellectual variety was more important. “If they are very learned in what they teach, they’re going to be diverse in their own teachings,” she said.

Some students said they were able to surmount differences of background with faculty. “It doesn’t stop me from building a relationship with my professors or anything,” said Alter Jackson ’15, an engineering student, of the lack of diversity in his department.

But others expressed gratitude for the diversity they’ve encountered in the classroom. Phuc Anh Tran ’16 said she was happy one of her computer science professors was a woman. “I really appreciate that, because in high school I had a woman teacher in computer science, and that’s what influenced me to go into (the field),” she said.

2012 Strategic Planning Committees — Summary

Doctoral Education

Peter Weber, Chair, Dean of the Graduate School

Bernard Reginster, Co-Chair, Professor of Philosophy
Andrew Campbell, Associate Professor, Molecular, Microbiology, Immunology
Karen Fischer, Professor, Geological Sciences
Francoise Hamlin,  Assistant Professor,  Africana Studies
Beth Harrington,  Associate Dean, BioMed Grad & Post-doc Studies
Matteo Riondato,  Graduate Student, Computer Science
John Steele,  Professor,  Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian Studies
Ira Wilson,  Professor, Public Health – Health Services, Policy & Practices
Crystal Ngo,  Graduate Student,  American Studies

Educational Innovation
Katherine Bergeron, Chair , Dean of the College
(Faculty co-chair to be named)
Kenny Breuer, Professor of Engineering
Jonathan  Cruz,  Undergraduate Student
Peter Johnson,  Undergraduate Student
Margaret Klawunn,  VP Campus Life & Student Services
Asia Nelson ,  Undergraduate Student
Marion Orr,  Director, Taubman Center for Public Policy
David Rand,  Professor,  EEB
Vanessa Ryan,  Assistant Professor, English
Patrick Vivier, Associate Professor,  Public Health, Health Services, Policy & Practice
Patricia Ybarra, Associate Professor,  Theater Arts & Performance Studies

Faculty Recruitment, Career Development and Retention
Kevin McLaughlin, Co-Chair,  Dean of Faculty
Edward Wing, Co-Chair,  Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences
Liza Cariaga-Lo, Associate Provost for Academic Development and Diversity
David Lindstrom,  Professor of Sociology
Vesna Mitrovic,  Associate Professor of Physics
Tayhas Palmore,  Professor of Engineering
Melinda Rabb,  Professor of English
Ralph Rodriquez,   Associate Professor,  American Studies
Tricia Rose,  Professor of Africana Studies
Kristi Wharton,  Associate Professor,  Molecular and Cellular Biology

Financial Aid
Jim Tilton,  Chair,  Director of Financial Aid
Susan Harvey,  Co-Chair,   Professor of Religious Studies
Tracy Barnes,   Director of Institutional Research
Alex Mechanick,  Undergraduate Student
Jim Miller,  Dean of Admission
Ken Miller,  Professor of Biology
Rebecca Nedostup,  Associate Professor of History
Jason Sello,  Associate Professor of Chemistry
Michael White,  Professor of Sociology

Online Teaching and Learning
Harriette Hemmasi,  Chair,    University Librarian
Dietrich Neumann,  Co-Chair,   Professor of Religious Studies
Elsa Amanatidou,  Director,  Center for Language Studies
John Cayley,  Professor of Literary Arts
Wendy Chun, Professor of Modern Culture and Media
Tom Doeppner, Associate Professor (Research) in Computer Science
Casey Dunn,  Assistant Professor,  Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Melanie Fineman,  Undergraduate Student
Andrew Ferguson,  Graduate Student,  Computer Science
Jonah Kagan,  Undergraduate Student
J. ‘Butch’ Rovan ,  Professor of Music
Karen Sibley,  Dean of Continuing Education

Kathy Takayama,  Director,  Sheridan Center
Catherine Zabriskie,  Director,  CIS Academic Technology Services

Re-Imagining Infrastructure
Russell Carey,  Chair,    Executive VP for Planning and Policy
Iris Bahar,  Co-Chair,   Professor of Engineering
Rod Beresford,  Associate Provost
Clyde Briant,  VP for Research
Agnes Kane,  Professor of Pathology
Martha Downs,  Associate Director, Environmental Change Initiative
Stephen Foley,  Associate Professor of English
Beppie Huidekoper,  Executive VP for Finance and Administration
Sharon Krause,  Professor of Political Science
Mike McCormick,  Asst VP, Planning, Design & Construction
Evan Schwarz,  Undergraduate Student
Corey Walker,  Associate Professor of Africana Studies
Matthew Lyddon,  Graduate Student,  Political Science

  • Anonymous

    This article is poorly written and distorted in its views. I am in complete support of increasing faculty diversity but I believe the choice of quotes used in this article are heavily tokenizing. Using portions of statements from minority students as a means of furthering the other side of the opinion distorts the actual opinion these students have. The Brown Daily Herald has a tendency to do this. Opinions on these complex issues cannot be summed up with one sentence answers from minority students. I am offended as a person of color from this article.

  • K. Eng '03

    Brown is going about this the wrong way. Forget about faculty diversity now, because as Associate Provost Cariaga-Lo admits, the pool of candidates is too small.

    What Brown needs to do is to encourage minority talent at the undergraduate and graduate level. Get more women, Hispanics, African Americans, Native Americans, Martians, and others to be involved in concentrations and graduate programs where they are underrepresented, and the pool of great candidates will improve in the coming decades. Actually, all universities should be doing this. Looking for short term gains in diversity will likely be costly and futile.

  • T. Freeman, Brown Parent

    Oh, great. Brown will do more bean-counting to try to ensure that more faculty members fall into certain racial, gender, religious and military identity groups. It is telling that not a word appears in this article to suggest that Brown has any desire to promote diversity of point of view, except as a by-product of the racial, gender, etc. bean-counting. This focus is exactly the reverse of what it should be.