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To: The University Community
From: Joel Seligman
Re: Improving Faculty Recruitment and Retention

December 1, 2009


Recruitment and retention of a diverse faculty in a supportive and welcoming university is a University priority. While the history of diversity and inclusiveness at the University of Rochester has been an uneven one, no one today should doubt my commitment and that of our Board of Trustees and our senior leadership to be unrelenting in making progress to create a campus that is more diverse, more supportive of all of our faculty and more academically outstanding. Our destiny as a great research university is a multicultural future in which the ability of our students, faculty, and staff to work effectively with persons of different races, national origins, religions, genders, sexual orientations, and philosophical beliefs will be vital to their success.

During my first four years here I have worked with all of you to accelerate our progress in making the University of Rochester a model for diversity and inclusiveness.

In 2006, I appointed a Task Force on Faculty Diversity and Inclusiveness which made 31 recommendations to strengthen faculty diversity and inclusiveness.

In January 2007 we created the Office for Faculty Development and Diversity that has worked with Provost Ralph Kuncl and me to implement these recommendations. We have taken a number of constructive steps under this initiative including significant expansion of our Special Opportunities Fund and efforts to generalize best practices in hiring and retention.

Progress with respect to these efforts has occurred, but has been slow.

All of us involved in efforts to strengthen the diversity and inclusiveness of our University have learned from these fledgling efforts. We have increasingly appreciated that diversity is not only about numbers, but about culture. Our journey together will be one of greater mutual respect and greater mutual understanding.

Last year, the Office for Faculty Development and Diversity completed a significant new project to go beyond data and better understand the experience of our underrepresented faculty at the six schools of our University. Between October 2008 and May 2009, then Deputy to the President and Vice Provost Lynne Davidson, Intercessor Frederick Jefferson, and Senior Associate Provost Carol Shuherk conducted in-depth interviews with 94 faculty members in all schools to assess our progress in becoming a more diverse and inclusive campus and to make recommendations for improvement, particularly focusing on retention. A majority of the 94 faculty interviewed were considered underrepresented in terms of race or gender; the vast majority were tenured or tenure-track faculty. This listening tour was buttressed by three town hall meetings.

Attached is their report, Improving Faculty Recruitment and Retention at the University of Rochester: A Diversity and Inclusion Initiative.

Let me personally thank Lynne, Frederick, and Carol for a report that is honest, detailed, and often poignant. In the report you hear the voices of our faculty in terms that are sometimes painful to read, but always authentic. These are voices that when heard give us the opportunity to learn and to improve. The report depicts a campus that is in transition, but still has far to go. I was particularly struck by three case scenarios that illustrate that while our University often does provide support for underrepresented faculty that is "connected, supportive, and flourishing," there are sometimes barriers to full support of underrepresented faculty members and, on occasion, alienation and disaffection.

Despite these challenges, I find the report a cause for optimism. As the report itself explains:

We are confident that we can provide professional support to all faculty… because we know that for many the climate already exists. We have many academic leaders for whom creating a culture of inclusion and support is as much part of their day as teaching and research. While we have drawn on models in other universities to help develop University-wide programs and policies, we need not look outside the University of Rochester for examples of what can be done at the individual level. We are fortunate that these recommendations allow us to build on models within our community.

The report articulates 14 recommendations to strengthen faculty retention and recruitment. Over the past weeks, I have met with the authors of this report, the Faculty Diversity Officers, and my Cabinet to consider how to implement these recommendations.

All of us are fully committed to the objective of achieving a campus that is diverse and inclusive, where all members of our community feel welcomed and supported, and where a commitment to diversity and academic excellence progress hand-in-hand.

To achieve this objective, I support rapid implementation of eight of these recommendations during the next 18 months as specified in the following paragraphs. I also support the aspirations of the other six recommendations, but these, as the authors of the report recognize, will require further study before they can be implemented. The following eight recommendations will be priorities during the next 18 months:

  • Recommendation 2 – Expectations Regarding Promotion and Tenure - I have asked the provost working with the Dean's Committee on Administrative Practices to take the lead in ensuring consistency at the department chair level in promotion and tenure standards, including recognition of community-based research as well as community service when this is appropriate.
  • Recommendation 4 – Diversity Grants – I will support the filling of a part-time position as early as January 1, 2010 to better facilitate the assembling of a centralized listing of potential grant funding sources to promote diversity or support disparities research. I have asked the Office for Faculty Development and Diversity to implement this recommendation.
  • Recommendation 5 – Leadership Seminars for Department Chairs and Deans - Senior Associate Provost Carol Shuherk has recently developed a successful series of leadership workshops for newly appointed academic leaders at the University. I have asked Carol to organize a pilot seminar series for department chairs and deans that will focus on diversity and inclusiveness as a topic within academic leadership. This series will begin during the Fall of 2010, with planning for this series to start during the spring semester of 2010.
  • Recommendation 7 – Faculty Pre-hire and Welcome – Provost Ralph Kuncl and I will formally communicate with all new faculty and apprise them of the individualized assistance available from the Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity and invite them to avail themselves of the services of that office as a complement to the UR Year One program.
  • Recommendation 11 – All University Conference on Diversity and Inclusiveness – We currently have significant University initiatives addressing faculty, student, and staff diversity. I will support a conference next spring to be coordinated by the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity to focus on what these programs can learn from each other. I look forward to participating in this conference.
  • Recommendation 12 – Support Programs that Build a More Inclusive Environment – During this year, we have already begun what will become an annual tradition – the recognition of faculty and students whose efforts exemplify excellence in fostering diversity through awards given at graduation. We have also launched the Presidential Diversity Awards to recognize the accomplishments of faculty, students, units, departments, and teams that contribute to diversity and inclusion through exemplary leadership. I will ask the Office for Faculty Development and Diversity to coordinate additional support of University-wide events that celebrate diversity.
  • Recommendation 13 – Provide University Support for a Visiting Faculty/Post-Doctoral Fellow Program – I believe that we can more effectively address pipeline issues in recruiting outstanding faculty by expanding our Special Opportunities Fund to provide support for qualified visiting faculty and post-doctoral fellows. As with the current Special Opportunities Fund, this support should only be provided when a potential faculty member meets our criteria for hiring, a visit as a University professor, or selection as a post-doctoral fellow. To address this, we will expand support for the Special Opportunities Fund from its current $500,000 a year to $600,000 a year beginning in 2010-2011 and to $750,000 in 2011-2012. Beginning in 2010-2011, up to one-third of the fund may be used for visiting faculty or post-doctoral fellows as a further means to expedite the hiring of qualified underrepresented faculty. In many instances, I anticipate that some faculty or post-doctoral fellows will be considered for permanent appointments. But faculty or post-doctoral fellow may be supported under the expanded Special Opportunities Fund if their visit or fellowship alone strengthens the diversity and inclusiveness of our University.
  • Recommendation 14 – Active Listening – I will support an Active Listening Tour in 2012-2013 similar to the one that led to this report and support appropriate meetings with new underrepresented faculty on an ongoing basis.

These changes will be more likely to succeed if accompanied by additional focus on the professional development and personal needs of our faculty as described in the report. The report recognized that further study of these recommendations will be necessary to appreciate how most appropriately to implement them. I look forward to further analysis of these six recommendations in the following ways:

  • Recommendation 1 – Mentoring – The faculty who participated in the listening tour emphasized the need for more effective faculty mentoring. The Office of Faculty Development and Diversity, after two well attended sessions on faculty mentoring, asked a working group to propose a UR mentoring program. Their report is expected soon and I look forward to reviewing the recommendations in this report. After review of this report, some or all of its recommendations also may be treated as short-term priorities.
  • Recommendation 3 – Prepare Graduate Students, Post-Doctoral Fellows and Residents to Be Faculty Members – Some of our schools have excellent programs such as McNair in the College of Arts, Sciences and Engineering and Graduate Women in Science in the School of Medicine and Dentistry that could serve as templates for other schools. I will ask the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity to report this academic year on best practices and methods for further implementation on means for implementation throughout the University.
  • Recommendation 6 - Develop Faculty Leadership Potential – I will ask the Senior Associate Provost to work with the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity to report this academic year on ways that the schools are currently supporting faculty participation in external programs such as Higher Education and Resource Services (HERS) and Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM) and that they then determine the costs of a more systematic approach to offering these types of opportunities to faculty in all schools.
  • Recommendation 8 – Extend Family Friendly Policies to Graduate Students, Post-Doctoral Fellows, and Residents – I will ask the Provost in consultation with the Deans' Committee on Administrative Practices and Legal Counsel to take the lead this academic year in addressing how family friendly policies for faculty as well as graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and residents might be further addressed.
  • Recommendation 9 – Attend to the Needs of Dual Career Couples – This is an ongoing challenge that we work hard to address on a case-by-case basis with the help of Cabinet members, community contacts, cooperation among deans, and the Special Opportunities Fund. I support efforts to move further to establish a centralized source of job opportunities. I will ask the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity to report to me this academic year on the state of our current efforts and to study best practices generally with respect to how peer institutions address issues related to dual career couples.
  • Recommendation 10 – Address Faculty and Staff Childcare Needs – I have asked the Office of Human Resources to research options by which we can provide augmented childcare for our faculty and staff. I am aware that this very popular program currently has a long waiting list. I anticipate a report early in 2010 on this issue.

The Improving Faculty Recruitment and Retention Report aptly characterized these 14 recommendations as Phase II of our ongoing faculty diversity initiative, which "go beyond the operational issues raised three years ago."

I appreciate that characterization. These recommendations do go considerably further by addressing the personal experience of all of our faculty. In the words of the report: "Inclusion is about everyone in the community."

At the University of Rochester we should and will seek to make our University a model for diversity and inclusiveness in the 21st century. We can be proud that both Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass chose Rochester as their home. Our aspiration is one consistent with their vision – a world in which our faculty, students and staff are supported and respected regardless of race, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation or philosophical belief.


Last modified: Wednesday, 02-Dec-2009 08:59:20 EST