2015 marked the year of student-led protests targeting the lack of diversity on university campuses nationwide. At Yale, where we teach, it was a string of electronic communications about diversity conscious Halloween costumes that led to a tumultuous exchange between students and educators. Many in the student body and their faculty allies perceived that the administration was not cultivating and encouraging an inclusive and safe environment. While this conversation is not new to the Yale campus, at a time when students are voicing similar concerns across the country, the need to address these concerns is more imperative than ever.
There have been many previous organized attempts at promoting diversity at Yale. In February of 2014, for example, the President and Provost convened a Diversity Summit to re-evaluate the climate of inclusiveness on campus. The resulting Diversity Report, confirmed part of what students would protest months later - that while concerted efforts to increase diversity of the student body dating back to the 1970s had been largely successful, the faculty and upper level administration had not fared as well. Among tenure-track faculty in the Arts and Sciences, only 29% are women; broken down by race, just 9% are Asian followed by 3% black and Hispanic respectively. This lack of diversity also afflicts the leadership level. Of the current 29 Department Chairs at the School of Medicine, 24 of them are white men. A July 2015 report on Gender Equity released by the Yale School of Medicine confirmed that in the largest graduate school at the University, the statistics are similar: only 8% of Department Chairs are held by women, which is below the national average as reported by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).
The latest conversations have resulted in tangible progress. The University committed more than $50 million over the next five years to promote faculty diversity across campus. Yale hired its first university-wide Chief Diversity Officer and the search is underway for an additional diversity officer for the medical school. The Associate Dean of Faculty Development and Diversity now meets regularly with the Yale Women Faculty Forum, a university-wide group that promotes gender equity for faculty and the Dean of the medical school has been meeting with the Committee on the Status of Women in Medicine and the Minority Organization for Retention and Expansion, two medical faculty-led groups whose voices are critical in this ongoing conversation. There are also now 50% women and under-represented minorities on all search committees for chairs, a major change since the 1990's.
But there is still much to be done. For example, the Diversity Report identified creating leadership accountability as critical and recognized that the university must work to ensure the success of the diverse faculty it recruits. To that end, the report went on to suggest that the administration should use annual evaluations of leadership to assess progress on achieving diversity. This is a great first step. But progress towards the goal of faculty diversity should be codified in a concrete way such as making it part of each Department's Annual Report. The university could set specific benchmarks for improving and maintaining diversity within each department and hold leaders accountable for achieving them.
The Report also recommended greater transparency in diversity metrics including comparison of Yale data with that of the University's peers in this area. Again, this is an important recommendation and keeping in mind transparency, we suggest that all metrics related to the diversity efforts be housed in an easily accessible place on the Yale central website.
Naturally, all of these changes will not come as second nature and training plays an important role. As the report recommended, department chairs must be trained to promote best practices in the mentorship and advancement of junior faculty, cultural competence and diversity training. But this alone is not enough to ensure real change. Mandatory training for department chairs in this area has been in place for years without resulting in palpable change. In order to create an environment in which diverse faculty are strategically mentored and encouraged to establish and develop their careers, we need new models of engagement that actually challenge the status quo, and force us to confront long-held unconscious biases that continue to propagate.
As faculty members, we know that with diversity of opinions, with varying backgrounds, colors and creeds, comes the kaleidoscope of thought that leads to greater innovation, collaboration and excellence. The Diversity Summit Report's first recommendation was that there should be a tone of urgency for targeting faculty diversity with the premise that "diversity and excellence are complementary pursuits." As a university, we must see this through for ourselves, our community, and the future success of Yale.
This piece was co-authored by Christine Ngaruiya, Anees Chagpar, Paula Kavathas, Laura Morrison, Lynne Regan, Joan Cook, Anna Reisman, Deepti Pradhan--current and former Fellows at the Op Ed Project