February 28, 2002

Publication Releases Demographic Data

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According to the winter issue of the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, Cornell is the only school among a survey of the nation’s 27 highest-ranked universities that declined to provide faculty statistics by race. The administration has denied the report, saying that it never received a request for such information.

“The refusal to divulge statistics on black faculty is not a new policy,” said Robert Bruce Slater, managing editor at the Journal. “This is not the first time the University has refused to report faculty statistics. On the other hand, the admissions office is always very forthcoming with data on incoming black students … despite the fact that Cornell often has the lowest percentage of black freshmen in the Ivy League.”

Several key members of the administration are unaware of any request for such statistics.

“We have absolutely no reason to withhold the information since we publish it widely,” said Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president for University relations, citing the annual report “Diversity and Inclusion” and the Cornell University Fact Book, which contains statistics for the 2000-2001 academic year at the website of the Office of Institutional Research and Planning.

“Vice Provost [Robert L.] Harris [Jr.], the Cornell News Service and our office of institutional research all responded that they were unaware of the request,” Dullea added.

The Journal acknowledged seeing these reports but maintained that their requests were still not fulfilled.

“[T]he data available via the Fact Book is not the data we requested,” said Curtis Conway, research director at the Journal.

“The data is from 2000-2001, while we requested data for 2001-2002. Also, the Fact Book data includes part-time faculty. We still don’t have the comparative figures from Cornell for full-time and tenured faculty.”

Conway said that requests for data had been sent “several times” to the office of Sarah Reistetter, program manager for diversity and equity. Reistetter could find no evidence of any such request.

According to the Fact Book, there were 47 tenure-track and tenured black faculty members at Cornell last year, composing 3.1 percent of the total faculty.

The Journal’s survey found that Columbia University has the highest percentage of total full-time faculty positions for black academics among the top 27 universities, while CalTech has the lowest. In the Ivy League, Princeton University and Harvard University have the lowest.

“I suspect Cornell is closer to Harvard and Princeton than it is to Columbia,” Slater said.

In a letter to Slater dated Feb. 25, Robert L. Harris Jr., vice provost and associate professor of African-American history, wrote: “[the numbers in the Fact Book place] us fourth in the Ivy League in absolute numbers and in the middle of your chart for the nation’s highest-ranked universities. … Although we still have progress to make, we have increased our black faculty by 18 percent over the past decade at a time when the total size of our faculty decreased by 6 percent.”

He also expressed concern that the survey “can be deceptive,” writing: “For some of the schools listed, the total number of black faculty includes medical, clinical and library faculty. The data would be more comparable if it included only teaching faculty in degree programs and excluded clinical, medical and library faculty.”

Archived article by Andy Guess