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Editorial: Institutional diversity

As members of the class of 2015 may be noticing, Brown is fortunate to attract a diverse student body. Unfortunately, this diversity is not mirrored among the faculty. As The Herald reported in February, roughly one-third of Brown faculty are women, and one-fifth are members of  racial minorities. These statistics are upheld with the newest round of faculty hired for the 2011-12 academic year, and the discrepancies are more significant when further categorized by discipline.

The reasons for the discrepancies, such as tenure policy and limited diversity within the hiring pool, are numerous and in many ways not immediately controllable. In fact, many other Ivy League schools face a similar problem, and Brown's numbers fall in the middle of the pack for minority representation among faculty. Moreover, the breakdown among professors of color can often be skewed, with black or Hispanic faculty making up a smaller percentage than Asian faculty.

But this is not merely a question of numbers. According to an article from Inside Higher Ed, a study done among community college students by three professors of economics showed that students of color were more likely to stay in class and earn better scores when instructed by professors of color. Though the authors call for more research to be done before drawing definitive conclusions on the matter, the study further demonstrates the importance — for professors and students alike — of increasing racial diversity within the faculty.

It is reassuring to know that Brown takes this issue seriously and that, thanks to President Ruth Simmons, the University has had an Office of Institutional Diversity in place for the last eight years with input regarding faculty hiring. Other schools have taken additional approaches to recruiting diverse faculty, such as Penn's decision to set aside special funding to hire and retain women and minorities in tenured positions, and Brown may want to consider adopting similar tactics.

As the Office of Institutional Diversity looks to hire a new permanent director, we encourage not only an emphasis on recruiting faculty of color but attention to Brown's initiatives to supply professorial candidates later down the line. It is crucial to provide support for Brown's programs, such as the Leadership Alliance and the Mellon Mays Fellowship, which provide underrepresented minority students with research experience and guidance for applying to graduate programs. Consciously supporting institutional diversity has allowed the numbers to rise over the last decade, though progress is slow. But a commitment to improving this aspect of the University and nationwide trends in academic diversity is likely to prove fruitful in the long run.

Editorials are written by The Herald's editorial page board. Send comments to



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