The UR Task Force on Faculty Diversity and Inclusiveness met for the first time on Tuesday. The task force, which is comprised of both faculty and administrators from all of the schools at UR, was formed by a mandate from President Joel Seligman.
“The task force will address the mechanics of how we can achieve a program of faculty diversity and inclusiveness consistent with the best practices in the nation,” Seligman said.
UR is currently trying to expand its faculty to include more diverse members. Currently at The College, 13 of the 319 tenured and tenure track professors are from underrepresented minorities.
At the William Simon School of Business, none of the 34 tenure and tenure track professors are from underrepresented minority groups. At the UR Medical Center’s School of Medicine and Dentistry, 13 faculty members of the 723 tenured and tenure track faculty are underrepresented minorities.
Overall, approximately 2.6 percent of the tenured and tenure track faculty are underrepresented minorities.
Further, at the college 21 percent of tenured and tenure track faculty are women. Fourty-eight percent of assistant professors at the college are female.
“When we look at our faculty right now we can find areas where we believe our faculty is not as diverse as it should be, even when compared to our student population,” Deputy to the President and Chair of the Task Force on Faculty Diversity and Inclusiveness Lynne Davidson said.
Seligman laid out his plans to strengthen both UR and it’s diversity last Tuesday. “Our goals are twofold – 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,” Seligman said.
To accomplish these two goals Seligman outlined the major steps he plans to take.
First, he named himself Chief Diversity Officer of the 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,” Seligman said. “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.”
Second, Seligman created the task Force on Faculty Diversity and Inclusiveness.
Finally, Seligman announced a partial endowment of $750,000 to each of the two chairs – the already established Susan B. Anthony Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and the new Frederick Douglass Chair.
The Task Force of Faculty Diversity and Inclusiveness began what will be biweekly meetings on Tuesday. “The task force will recommend how we can make our campus the most welcoming and supportive in the hiring, promotion and work environment at UR,” Seligman said.
The Task Force will be presenting their recommendations to the university no later than October 1.
“The committee will decide what’s able to be implemented,” Assistant Professor of Relgion and task force member Anthea Butler said. “It’s not going to happen overnight, you have to have the money, the funds and the climate of the institution has to change, diversity has to become a value.”
Seligman does recognize that creating diversity and inclusiveness is a very difficult task. Some of the problems he mentioned were the fact that in some fields the number of women or underrepresented minorities is small, the competition for new faculty and for the retention of standing faculty members and lastly, the small size of the university, which results in little faculty turnover.
The Task Force will be taking important steps despite the barriers in the way. “We’ll try and understand what we have in place, there are schools at the university that have taken some actions and we’ll try and understand what we have at the university that already works,” Davidson said. “We will certainly look at other universities which are doing a better job than we are.”
Seligman and the university feel that these actions as well as the final results, a more diverse and inclusive campus, are very important. “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,” Seligman said. “For all of us, a commitment to diversity is an academic imperative.”
Task Force members are excited for the upcoming months and the outcome of their work. “I think it’s a good thing Seligman has done and I think it will go someplace,” Butler said. “I’m not so naive as to think it will happen overnight, but I think it will bring a new vitality to a university that’s already good.”Jarrett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org