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Faculty Diversity and Inclusiveness

Today my substantive remarks will focus on faculty diversity and inclusiveness. On subsequent occasions, I will address diversity of our staff and among our students. Diversity and inclusiveness are not topics that stand apart from our faculty and our University community. They are already deeply ingrained in our values and our academic mission.

The faculty of the University is our most precious resource. At the University of Rochester, the faculty from every school and department represent an extraordinary combination of talents, intellectual approaches, and methodologies. For a relatively small Research One University, we have been blessed with a faculty whose energy, brilliance, and resourcefulness have made Rochester a truly special academic institution.

Throughout our history, our faculty has displayed notable talent in designing imaginative programs and collaborations within and across schools. The program in Visual and Cultural Studies, the University Center for Entrepreneurship, and the Department of Biomedical Engineering are three examples of inspiring programs that originated with faculty leadership and demonstrated pathbreaking ways of organizing faculty research and teaching.

Few contributions that our alumni and friends can make are more precious than the creation of endowed chairs that honor the research, teaching and service of our most distinguished faculty while recognizing the vision and generosity of the donor. Beginning on March 29, when we celebrate a Distinguished University Chair that will be awarded to former University president, Thomas H. Jackson, we will celebrate each new endowed chair with a University wide ceremony recognizing the Chair recipient and expressing our gratitude to the donor.

My challenge, consistent with what I anticipate will be an expanding resource base, also is to celebrate our faculty in the many other ways you deserve. There are few challenges that are so great a pleasure. Since I have arrived here, I have had the opportunity to meet outstanding scholars and teachers whose scholarship, teaching, and energy are inspiring. To be your colleague is the highest honor that this University bestowed on me.

Last September, during my first address to the Faculty Senate, I began a conversation about diversity. I recalled that the Presidential White Paper had characterized diversity as one of our University's leading priorities. "Diversity," I urged, "is important to all of us in this University. We, more than many other segments of society in this country, are keenly aware that we are involved in a competitive, multicultural world in which knowledge itself knows no boundaries. We would be naïve not to recognize the painful and difficult efforts to address racial and gender diversity at this University and indeed at universities generally throughout our country."

In my Inaugural address, I further explained that "Diversity is a…fundamental value of this University. Universities have learned that the exclusion of persons based on gender, race, nationality, religion, or sexual orientation, among other formulae, limited their ability to provide the most outstanding teaching, research, and scholarship." I emphasized: "A commitment to diversity, however, goes beyond an ending of typological exclusions. As the United States Supreme Court majority memorably wrote in Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003), 'student body diversity is a compelling state interest that can justify the use of race in university admissions' because of such substantial benefits as promotion of cross-racial understanding, [and] the likelihood that diverse students 'will contribute the most to the robust exchange of ideas.'

"Our goal, as Grutter stressed, is a university 'that is both exceptionally academically qualified and broadly diverse.' This is a goal not limited to student admissions, but extends to each facet of our University." In addressing faculty diversity today, I am discussing the most difficult challenge in creating a diverse and welcoming university.

There have been inspiring moments in our history. All of us recall with pride the role that Susan B. Anthony played in persuading the University's Board of Trustees to admit women in 1900, far earlier than many of our peers. I can not help but be charmed by the fact that the first woman to matriculate at the University of Rochester was Julia Seligman, indeed her middle name of Frederika is also with slight spelling variation the name of my wife. In 1918, two women, Emma Josephine Knapp and Ruth Emeline Conklin, were hired as Assistant Professors respectively in Chemistry and Physiology. Our commitment to outstanding women in science now spans nearly a century. As early as 1881, the University admitted our first African American student, Henry Austin Spencer.

But when we review where we now stand at the University of Rochester, the story is an uneven one. From a historical perspective, we have made considerable progress in some aspects of being a diverse and welcoming campus. For example, in 1980, 8 percent of the tenured and tenure-track faculty in Arts and Sciences and Engineering were female. In 2005, that percentage had increased to 21 percent. When compared to our peer universities within the Consortium on Financing Higher Education, in some fields, our record is impressive. In the social sciences, 48 percent of our assistant professors are female. Among our COFHE peers, the median percentage female of assistant professors in the social sciences is 38 percent. At the University of Rochester, excluding medicine, which is not included in the COFHE data, 43 percent of all assistant professors are female. The median of the COFHE peer group is 38 percent.

In other respects, however, the data are less inspiring. In the College in 2005, for example, only 13 of 319 tenured or tenure track professors were from underrepresented minorities; in Simon, none of 34 tenured and tenure-track professors was a member of an underrepresented minority group; in the School of Medicine and Dentistry, a total of 13 faculty were from underrepresented minorities among the 723 tenured and tenure track faculty. In total, approximately 2.6 percent of our tenured and tenure track faculty are underrepresented minorities, a small improvement over the 2.3 percent in 2001. Excluding medicine, 3.7 percent of our faculty were from underrepresented minorities in 2005. The median of our COFHE peer group was 5.9 percent.

Many praiseworthy efforts today are being made to address the diversity and inclusiveness of our faculty. For example, the School of Medicine and Dentistry has asked each department to participate in a quarterly meeting that will serve as an open forum for all minority and women faculty. The meeting will provide an opportunity for networking, and will serve to identify issues that affect the academic development of the participants. Each department in the School of Medicine and Dentistry also has been asked to elect a representative to serve on the Dean's Committee for Career Development for Women and Minorities. The representative will report directly to the department chair and will serve as a liaison between the Committee for Career Development for Women and Minorities and the departmental leadership. Faculty in the School of Nursing are contacting schools that have had success with minority enrollment to discuss strategies for recruitment and to identify possible minority candidates for future faculty positions. Nursing also has implemented a required educational initiative designed to facilitate discussions about diversity. The College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering Dean's office has authorized off cycle recruitment in some areas when a candidate that would enhance diversity has been identified.

We should have no illusions as to why creating a diverse and inclusive campus of which all of us will be proud is difficult. In some academic fields, the number of women or underrepresented minorities is small. This is typically referred to as the pipeline issue. It is different in each field. In Nursing, for example, creating a diverse faculty means addressing how few men are on a faculty.

Competition for any new faculty and for the retention of existing faculty is fierce. Virtually all of our peer institutions share a commitment to diversity and inclusiveness. The combination of pipeline realities and competition has made building a diverse faculty particularly challenging at any university.

At the University of Rochester, we face a further challenge. In some schools we have seen relatively little turnover in our faculty in recent years and little or no growth in aggregate faculty size. Indeed over the past decade there has been a considerable reduction in the size of the faculty in the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering. This compounds another reality here. Because we are a small Research One University, we are particularly challenged to hire a "critical mass" of minority or female faculty in some schools or programs. There are great advantages to small size in terms of the quality of our teaching and relationships among our faculty. But being small also creates challenges and this candidly is one of them.

I have characterized a commitment to diversity as a fundamental value of our University because this commitment is shared by me, our academic leaders, and our Board of Trustees. For all of us a commitment to diversity is an academic imperative. Our students come from many races, many nationalities, many religious affiliations, and many socioeconomic backgrounds. Faculty members play a pivotal role not only in providing the most rigorous teaching and research, but also as role models for our students. The success of our faculty of both genders and many races provides inspiration to all of our students that they too can succeed.

We have come a long way in the past 100 years. Our challenge is to be truly welcoming for all students, faculty, and staff. That for me is what being part of a community means. We support each other.

At the University of Rochester, we operate within a highly decentralized structure in which responsibility for many issues has been delegated to schools or programs and endowment resources are almost entirely delegated to schools and programs.

Even in this structure, however, it is clear that the University President can take a leadership role on fundamental issues. I am here today to articulate a series of steps that will amplify this University's long held commitment to diversity. In taking these steps, I am mindful of Justice O'Connor's admonition in the Supreme Court's Grutter case that academic excellence and diversity can go hand in hand. I do not believe that tradeoffs are necessary or wise with respect to academic excellence and diversity. Our overall objective is to achieve progress in both academic excellence and diversity. We can and will make progress with respect to both objectives.

First, I intend to be the Chief Diversity Officer of this University. I was hired under circumstances in which diversity was characterized as a priority and I will devote time and effort to signal my commitment to diversity and inclusiveness. As Chief Diversity Officer, I will make an annual report to the Board of Trustees, the faculty, and the University community on our progress concerning diversity and inclusiveness.

At all times our efforts will be consistent with applicable legal standards. But I have been a lawyer too long not to appreciate that the law in this and many other areas sets outer boundaries on permissible behavior. It does not delineate every permissible action. Within these outer bounds, our University is committed to the most effective steps to achieve both academic excellence and diversity.

Our goals are two fold: To remedy the historic underrepresentation in our faculties of minorities and, in some fields, of women and to further strengthen an academic environment characterized by excellence. As the Statement of Educational Philosophy adopted by the Board of Trustees and endorsed by this Faculty Senate explains: "The University's motto—Meliora ('ever better')—defines excellence as a process of continuous improvement. We believe that such improvement requires that all individuals in our community be free to explore and share their experiences and thoughts, uninhibited by prejudice or discrimination. Thus, our pursuit of excellence requires that we create and support a community of faculty, students and staff who together and individually enhance diversity and who strive to make themselves and our community 'ever better.'"

To pursue the objectives of diversity and inclusiveness, it is essential that a senior leader who reports to me directly or through our Senior Leadership Group or the President's Cabinet, assume direct operational responsibility. I am today designating my Deputy, Lynne Davidson, to exercise primary operational responsibility for coordinating University initiatives with respect to diversity and inclusiveness. Lynne is a member of the Senior Leadership Group and of the Cabinet. Initially Lynne will chair a Task Force on Faculty Diversity and Inclusiveness that will address the mechanics of how we can achieve a program of faculty diversity and inclusiveness consistent with the best practices in the nation.

Second, while hiring and promotion are often the aspects that receive the most attention with respect to diversity, they are not in any sense the full story. It is critical that we create an environment at this University that is welcoming to individuals of different races, both genders, different sexual orientations, different nationalities, different religious affiliations, and different philosophical views. The Task Force that Lynne Davidson will chair will recommend how we can make our campus the most welcoming and supportive in the hiring, promotion and work environment at the University of Rochester. The Task Force will address issues as disparate as how we should define diversity, how schools or programs should report on their progress, and how we best can address topics such as recruitment, retention, mentoring, child care, and spousal or partnership employment. I give everyone fair warning that our ability to implement recommendations of this Task Force will be constrained by our resources and may occur in phases over time. All recommendations will be reviewed by legal counsel before completion of the final Task Force Report. I will ask the Task Force no later than October 1, 2006 to report to me on what works and what does not work at this University and what efforts have achieved success elsewhere and might be implemented here. I will report back to the Senate after I have reviewed the Task Force's recommendations.

As with the recently announced Steering Committee on Technology Transfer and Corporate Alliances and the earlier review of University Communications, I expect that the Task Force on Faculty Diversity and Inclusiveness will result in significant proposals for improvement that potentially will be implemented. Accordingly membership on this Task Force will include the Provost, the Senior Vice President for Health Affairs, the dean of each School, the University General Counsel, the Associate Vice President of Human Resources, the Co-Chairs of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, and Professors Anthea Butler, Fredrick Harris, Ellen Koskoff, and Vivian Lewis. I will serve as an ex officio member of the Task Force and look forward to regularly attending meetings. An initial meeting will be scheduled for February 28th.

Third, I am also charging each Dean and the Senior Academic Officer of each program with responsibility for addressing diversity and inclusiveness within her or his academic program. This will mean not only a reporting responsibility, but I am today also charging each Dean and Senior Academic Officer to address within their Strategic Plans how they will make diversity and inclusiveness a part of their missions. As with my annual report on Diversity and Inclusiveness to the Board of Trustees and the University community, I will ask each Dean and Senior Academic Officer to report annually to me on diversity and inclusiveness within her or his school or program.

Fourth, our ability to achieve both academic excellence and diversity at this University turns to some degree on resources. Under applicable Constitutional legal standards, I do not believe that it is permissible today to use University resources to create a named Professorship specifically reserved for persons of any race or gender. But we can create Chairs to honor outstanding figures in our history. While there is relatively little presently in the cupboard of the University President, there are sufficient resources today to announce that I will provide $750,000 funding to partially endow the earlier established Susan B. Anthony Professor of Gender and Women's Studies, currently held by Professor of Anthropology, Signithia Fordham, and $750,000 to partially endow a new Frederick Douglass Chair. Both of these Chairs reside in the College and the Chair recipients are or will be chosen by the Dean of the Faculty of the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering with final approval, as with all Chairs, by the University Board of Trustees. I pledge my best efforts to help secure full funding for these Chairs in the years to come. In the College full funding of a chair currently requires $1.5 million. Chair recipients typically in the future may be announced once they are at least half funded. With respect to the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Chairs, let me emphasize future recipients, like these recipients, will be chosen on the merits regardless of gender or race. Part of the merits involved in Chair selection will be research, teaching, and service consistent with the values of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass.

I am particularly proud to be a voice for this series of initiatives. They are grounded in our academic mission and our long held values. None of us should have any delusions that achieving progress in both academic excellence and diversity will be easy or fast. But what I pledge today are best efforts and that these objectives will be priorities for my presidency as long as I am privileged to serve.