More than two years after Penn launched an ambitious plan to jumpstart the hiring of minority faculty members, a report released Tuesday shows that those efforts have yet to move the needle substantially.
The number of racial or ethnic minorities who are members of Penn’s standing faculty increased by 2.2 percent from 2009 to 2012, with some schools lagging behind, according to Tuesday’s report on minority equity, published in the Penn Almanac.
The report, released once every three years, shows that faculty diversity across all of Penn’s 12 schools has increased slowly but steadily over the past decade; that the administration’s renewed focus on retaining minority faculty members is paying off; and that Penn, while still lagging behind some of its peers, is closing the faculty diversity gap throughout the Ivy League.
In fall 2012, according to the report, 20.5 percent of the University’s standing faculty identified as minorities: 3 percent as Hispanic/Latino, 3.2 percent as African American/black, 13.9 percent as Asian/Pacific Islander and 0.4 percent as two or more races.
Administrators say they are pleased with the report’s takeaways, but not complacent.
“I’m pleased that the trends are headed in the right direction, but we still have more work to do,” Penn President Amy Gutmann said. “I’d like to be progressing even more quickly.”
Gutmann has made faculty diversity a public priority since taking office in 2004. In the 2011-12 academic year, Gutmann and Provost Vincent Price announced that the University would be setting aside $50 million for faculty diversity efforts over the next five years with a new Action Plan for Faculty Diversity and Excellence.
The University plans to publish an update to the action plan early next semester. That update, unlike Tuesday’s minority equity report, will contain data on faculty hires that took place after the fall 2012 semester.
As of fall 2012, the School of Engineering and Applied Science had the largest proportion of minority faculty at Penn, at 36.2 percent. The School of Veterinary Medicine, at 9.4 percent, had the smallest.
With the exception of the School of Social Policy & Practice, all schools saw increases in their minority faculty representation from 2009 to 2012. The largest increase, 5.4 percent, came at the Graduate School of Education.
As of fall 2011, Penn’s proportion of full-time minority faculty members ranked fifth in the Ivy League, ahead of Dartmouth College and Cornell and Princeton universities, according to the report.
“None of these [Ivy League] schools can boast about having achieved their diversity and inclusion goals at this juncture, including us,” law and philosophy professor and Vice Provost for Faculty Anita Allen said.
Allen, adding that she was “pleased with the progress, but not the bottom line” of Tuesday’s report, emphasized the growing importance of retaining minority professors, in addition to recruiting them, across the University.
Between 2009 and 2012, the hiring of minority faculty members at Penn outpaced departures. During that time, 31.6 percent of new faculty hires identified as racial or ethnic minorities, compared to 17.6 percent of departures. Part of that upward trend, Allen said, may be a result of the University’s growing investment in programs like the Faculty Opportunity Fund, which provides financial support to schools for the hiring and retention of top minority scholars.
“We want to keep our superstars, and a lot of our minority faculty are superstars,” Allen said.
The report, while focusing primarily on diversity at the faculty level, also touched briefly on administrative diversity. The proportion of minorities among school deans, department chairs and center directors who report directly to the provost increased from 9.8 percent in fall 2010 to 11.5 percent in fall 2012, the report said.
The issue of administrative diversity came to a head last semester, when a group of Africana Studies faculty wrote an open letter to Gutmann in The Daily Pennsylvanian, expressing frustration that she has never appointed a dean of color during her presidency.
Minority faculty recruitment can be made easier by having minority scholars in positions of academic leadership, said Grace Kao, professor of sociology, education and Asian American Studies, who was also outspoken last semester about Penn’s dean hires.
“There’s something to be said for the effect of role models in higher-up positions,” Kao said. “But when it comes to diversifying the faculty, that’s not nearly sufficient by itself.”
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