Penn administration diversity lags among Ivies

Two of Penn’s 31 senior administrators are minorities, putting the University ahead of Brown and Yale

· February 12, 2013, 10:38 pm

Michele Ozer | DP

When Ruth Simmons and Jim Yong Kim announced last year that they would be stepping down from their posts as presidents of Brown University and Dartmouth College, the Ivy League lost its only racial or ethnic minority leaders at the time.

Months later, the void left by Simmons and Kim is representative of a broader trend in the Ivies: a lack of diversity among the upper ranks of senior administrators.

In virtually all cases, senior administrations at Ivy institutions are less diverse than individual schools’ faculties — which are, in turn, less diverse than student bodies.

Penn is no exception.

In response to an ongoing dialogue on campus about the lack of diversity in the University’s senior administration — which was prompted by a Jan. 30 Daily Pennsylvanian guest column written by six Africana Studies senior faculty members — the DP found that Penn has the third least diverse administration in the Ivy League, in front of only Brown and Yale universities.

Currently, just two out of Penn’s 31 senior administrators — which, according to an online listing, includes the president, provost, vice presidents and individual school deans, among others — are minorities.

“To hear that we’re near the bottom relative to other Ivies isn’t surprising at all,” said Africana Studies Department Chair Camille Charles, who was one of the authors of the column. “There’s still a lot of work to be done.”

In the column, titled “Guess who’s (not) coming to dinner,” Charles and her colleagues criticized President Amy Gutmann for never appointing a person of color to a deanship at Penn.

The column, which has spurred a campus-wide dialogue on diversity, prompted responses in the DP from both Gutmann and Board of Trustees Chair David Cohen, among others.

“We live in an environment where ideas and conversation related to diversity are important,” Charles said. “Whether people agree or disagree, it seems that they’re talking about these things, which is good to see.”

‘Numbers don’t lie’

In its analysis, the DP considered senior administrators and individual school deans as each Ivy defines them on their respective websites. Although the DP reached out to schools for information on minority representation, all of the Ivies — with the exception of Cornell University — either declined to provide numbers or did not respond to multiple requests for data.

The DP counted the number of African-American/black, Asian/Pacific Islander and Hispanic/Latino senior administrators at each school relative to the number of white administrators. Although there is no consensus in the higher education community about how racial and ethnic diversity is defined, these four categories are broadly used by institutions across the country.

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The analysis revealed that, compared to Penn’s 6.5 percent minority representation, 12.2 percent of overall Ivy League senior administrators are black, Asian or Latino.

Cornell came in with the highest senior administrator minority representation at 20.6 percent, while Yale featured the lowest at 3.8 percent.

Overall, black, Asian and Latino administrators made up 6.8, 3.2 and 2.2 percent of total Ivy leadership, respectively.

Although Penn is near the bottom of the Ivy League when it comes to senior administrator and dean diversity, the gap separating the University and its peers is relatively small. The largest number of minority administrators can be found at Cornell, which has seven, according to data provided by the school.

At Penn, diversity numbers are consistently stronger as the scope of data is broadened.

According to Vice President for University Communications Stephen MacCarthy, for example, 11 percent of Penn’s top 100 administrators are black, Asian or Latino.

At the professor level, Penn’s most recent Progress Report on Minority Equity showed that 17.5 percent of the University’s faculty were minorities in 2009. In addition, 20 percent of the incoming class in 2011 consisted of underrepresented minorities, MacCarthy said.

“I think it would be anybody’s gut that, as you look higher up at a place like Penn, it becomes less diverse,” sociology professor Grace Kao said.

Kao described the issue as part of a larger “pipeline” problem. As minority candidates are left out of positions like department chairs or associate deans, she said, it becomes increasingly less likely that they will be considered for senior administrator positions.

In response to the column, Gutmann has made clear that, despite the University’s $100 million investment in the Action Plan for Faculty Diversity and Excellence, there is still work to be done in increasing minority representation among Penn’s administration.

“We need to be more aggressive in making sure that the pools of candidates we’re being presented with [for deanships] are more diverse,” Gutmann said in an interview with the DP last month, adding that she wants “the same thing” as the Africana Studies faculty when it comes to diversity.

Although the issue of administrative diversity is hardly a new one on campus, multiple faculty members interviewed said it was not until taking a close look at the University’s online listing of school deans that they realized the extent to which Penn’s senior ranks consist almost exclusively of white administrators.

“I think that the lack of diversity in our upper-level administration is deeply troubling,” said Graduation School of Education professor Marybeth Gasman, who researches higher education diversity. “President Gutmann has done much to diversify the student body and has encouraged increased faculty diversity by putting funding behind the issue and holding deans accountable. That said, this is a time to reflect and act — making systemic change in terms of the administration.”

Religious studies professor Anthea Butler agreed.

“The proof is in the pudding, and in this case the proof is Penn’s numbers,” she said. “Especially when you look at our peers, the numbers don’t lie. If you don’t have the numbers, you don’t have it.”

The importance of diversity

While many undergraduates acknowledge the benefits of having a diverse student body, some have turned their attention over the past two weeks to the question of why, if at all, it is equally important to have a diverse senior administration.

College sophomore and United Minorities Council chair Joyce Kim believes the issue comes down to one of “role models.”

“I think it’s very powerful when I see an administrator who’s a minority,” she said. “It reinforces the idea that this is somebody like me who I can be as well.”

Similarly, Butler emphasized the importance of having a broad representation of administrators at the table when making decisions that will impact the student body.

“These are the people who make decisions about your everyday lives — what kinds of classes and curriculum you get, what kinds of services you get,” she said. “Even if you don’t see it, they’re a significant part of your academic life.”

Butler added that, before even beginning a conversation about diversity, it is important to have accurate data from which to draw.

Currently, the University conducts its Progress Report on Minority Equity once every three years, which contains numbers on minority faculty. Penn does not regularly publicize data on administrative diversity.

Looking to the future, Butler hopes that the current debate surrounding the Africana Studies column will prompt the University to consider compiling and releasing data on an annual basis.

“A huge part of it is about reporting,” she said. “If you don’t report these numbers every year, it’s easy to hide the fact that you’re not doing well.”

Some Ivy peers, however, said they are hesitant to provide data on administrative diversity because not all institutions stand on equal footing for the basis of comparison.

“Our position is that each institution will make its own policy decisions based on what suits specific needs or concerns, and the types of general comparisons yielded from contacting multiple institutions are not constructive,” Princeton University spokesperson Mike Caddell said in an email.

Other schools expressed a similar sentiment.

Moving forward, Charles said she has been encouraged by a number of conversations she has had with Gutmann since the column ran — including an in-person meeting on Tuesday.

“I was happy with the conversation. It seemed like there was progress,” she said. “I’d say we’re all moving in the right direction.”

A previous version of the graphic accompanying this article incorrectly identified Dartmouth College as Dartmouth University. The DP regrets the error.

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