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Minority faculty up since 2003

The University has seen a 44 percent increase in minority faculty and a 31 percent increase in female faculty since the creation of the Office of Institutional Diversity in 2003, according to the most recent statistics from the Office of the Dean of the Faculty.

Launched as part of the Plan for Academic Enrichment, the Office of Institutional Diversity was created in 2003 to establish "leadership and responsibility for fostering diversity goals at Brown," said Brenda Allen, associate provost and director of institutional diversity. The Diversity Action Plan was implemented in 2006, and one of its goals is to "think about all the different ways that diversity and academic excellence intersect," Allen said.

Since the 2001-2002 academic year, the last year before the creation of the Office of Institutional Diversity, Brown has hired 16 Asian faculty members, 12 black faculty members and nine Hispanic faculty members. In that time, the University has hired 69 white faculty members, according to numbers released by Dean of the Faculty Rajiv Vohra P'07.

"We've come a long way, but we still have a long way to go," Vohra said.

In the past, "the University used to look at diversity as strictly academic," Allen said. Now, the University is taking a more "integrated approach." Part of Allen's role has been to "pull out the emphasis on diversity that was embedded in each aspect of the administration" and to organize these initiatives in a cohesive manner. By taking an active role in "creating numerical strength and a depth to the diversity of faculty members, Brown has been successful in reaching many of its diversity goals," Vohra said.

Increases in the number of women and minority faculty have often been a result of targeted recruitment, Allen said. Recruitment can come in many forms, she said, whether it is inviting speakers to come to Brown or "calling up people who have been identified as particularly strong candidates to let them know of a job opportunity. We try to pass along the idea that Brown is very interested in creating diversity among its faculty," Allen said.

"The economics department has been able to take advantage of the Diversity Action Plan because of changes in the supply of candidates and the active way in which we hire them," said Professor of Economics Andrew Foster, the department chair. "In the end, what matters is what you produce in terms of teaching and research, and if we are able to increase diversity among the faculty during the process, then that's great as well," Foster said.

Programs such as the Target of Opportunity Program allow Brown to hire new faculty when vacancies in particular departments may not exist. Part of the Plan for Academic Enrichment, the Target of Opportunity Program aims to attract "stellar people in the world who will bring to Brown distinction in many fields," Allen said. The Plan for Academic Enrichment allocates 25 of 100 new faculty hires specifically for the Target of Opportunity program.

"Departments now have the flexibility to pursue excellent scholars and teachers with the goal of diversity in mind," Vohra said.

"We are able to hire a lot of new faculty through the Target of Opportunity Program," Vohra said. "Though it seems like we are close to our limit, we're really not." Vohra likened the program to a flexible trading card system. Each time a new faculty member is hired as "a target of opportunity," they take one of the 25 cards available under this program. However, when a regular job opportunity opens up in a particular department, it is filled through the traditional process, and the department returns its card back to the pile, Vohra said. In this way, targeted hiring under this process may be able to continue "indefinitely."

The program is open to all departments on campus, and several have taken advantage of the program.

"We've been successful in recruiting new women and minority faculty members to the department," said Professor of Chemistry Peter Weber, the department chair. "The process is often very competitive because other institutions want the same candidates, and it has been a combination of targeted effort and good fortune that has helped us increase diversity within our department. The Target of Opportunity program gives us flexibility, and ultimately that's what attracts people to come here."

Another way that the University has been able to encourage recruitment of new faculty, particularly women and minorities in the sciences, has been through the ADVANCE Grant, which was awarded to Brown in 2006 by the National Science Foundation. Under this grant, the University will receive $3.3 million over a five-year period. Money from this grant has been used to develop child care programs to aid new faculty members who often have to travel for conferences as part of their new positions, and Allen said it has been a factor in helping to attract and retain faculty.

"From a diversity point of view, it's important to be really open about the idea that all faculty face struggles, but women and minorities face particular struggles, and it is necessary to have specific programs and policies to support them," Allen said.

In terms of faculty retention, less information is known about the numbers of recruited faculty who remain at Brown. If they choose not to stay, their reasons for leaving are not recorded. Allen estimates that there is a 65 to 70 percent faculty retention rate year-to-year. The numbers seem to be the same across gender, she said, but recent data does suggest that minority faculty members are leaving Brown at a slightly higher rate than the rate of non-minorities.

In addition, Weber and Foster noted that few women are hired or are appointed to senior level positions in their departments.

"It's important to provide women and minorities opportunities to become successful in their careers," Weber said. "Often, those opportunities can be helped by providing role models. The lack of women and minorities in the department can really hurt our department."

Allen is working on creating a "diversity cabinet" that will allow staff representatives from the Sarah Doyle Women's Center, the Office of Student Life and the Third World Center to meet and discuss the idea of diversity in each of these different realms. "We really do have a good cohort of people working on this in every corner and now we are trying to create a mechanism to coordinate that and work together," Allen said.

Allen said she hopes the creation of the cabinet will allow continued cooperation among different groups. "At Brown, we are quite fortunate with the degree with which faculty are willing to think about things differently and to have conversations about diversity," she said.

"The (chemistry) department cannot create success but it can enable it, and as long as we do that for all of our faculty, we are doing well," Weber said.

Often, ensuring that the effort toward reaching diversity is successful is to create a "pipeline" of faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students who can all mentor one another to ensure that diversity goals continue to be met, Weber said.

"The world is becoming a smaller place, and it wouldn't be appropriate if Brown didn't reflect that diversity and if students couldn't find role models in the fields they are interested in," Vohra said.

For the most part, however, students are not directly involved in the hiring process.

"Students typically don't usually play a role in the selection process of faculty," Vohra said. "When it actually comes to making a selection of a new faculty member, I think that only the faculty members working in the particular discipline are capable of making that assessment."

Allen said one possible way to help increase diversity across the faculty may be to include students in the process. Though "policies vary from department to department, we should be doing more to make students a part of this process," she said.

While the numbers of minority and women faculty have increased over the past few years, an important distinction has to be made between creating the face of diversity and achieving a true diversity of opinions, Allen said.

"We can keep bringing new people in until the cows come home, but we have to ask ourselves, are we really reaping the benefits of having people from diverse backgrounds come together and share their perspectives?" Allen said. "We're at a point where we're no longer just touching the surface of things. I think that this work is important because the deepest, most complex form of learning often comes when there is competition between ideas, and one way to create that is through diversity."




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