Jason C. Locke, associate vice provost for enrollment, said the class of 2022 was “the most diverse class in university history,” with 8.3 percent identifying as African American, 18.7 percent Asian, 15.3 percent Hispanic and 5.1 percent as biracial or multiracial — the faculty demographics do not reflect the same level of diversity.
Last week, Provost Michael Kotlikoff announced that Cornell will be directing an increased amount of funds towards recruiting more “diverse” faculty — about $60 million over the next five years. This initiative is similar to one started three years ago at Yale, which follows a plan of $50 million over five years, as reported by Yale News.
The funds come from a combination of sources already in Cornell’s budget, including from the colleges and from the central university, according to the Provost’s Office for Faculty Development and Diversity.
Cornell wants to hire more diverse faculty to expose students to “the innovation and excellence” that diverse faculty bring, according to Avery August, vice provost for academic affairs.
“Our undergraduate students, graduate students and postdocs are graduating into a complex, diverse world, and we’d like them to be able to engage successfully with diverse faculty with diverse sets of views and backgrounds,” August said in an interview with the Sun. “Research has also shown that diverse teams are more successful in solving problems and creating innovation.”
The proposal is only one part of the larger administrative movement to increase campus diversity and inclusion as informed by the report offered by the Presidential Task Force on Campus Climate.
According to the University’s 2017 Common Data Set, minority faculty members only made up 391 of a total of 2,168 faculty members, about 18 percent. Administration, however, is not only focusing on ethnicity when discussing making the faculty “diverse.”
“When we speak of diversity we look at human and social diversity (some aspects can be ability, sexual orientation, race, gender, ethnicity, but we’d like to keep it broad),” said Yael Levitte, associate vice provost for faculty development and diversity. “One of the recommendations of the taskforce is that every faculty candidate will be required to write a statement about how they contributed in the past or can contribute in the future to diversity.”
In 2016, Professor Marybeth Gasman of the University of Pennsylvania wrote in the Washington Post, “The reason we don’t have more faculty of color among college faculty is that we don’t want them. We simply don’t want them.”
She went on to explain that there are a number of factors — including college education, socioeconomic background, race-based favoritism — that influence recruiters in making sometimes discriminatory hiring decisions.
Gasman also pointed to faculty task force teams as a main issue in unfair practices because “they are not trained in recruitment, are rarely diverse in makeup, and are often more interested in hiring people just like them rather than expanding the diversity of their department.”
According to August, Cornell “approached the various ethnic programs, [feminist, gender and sexuality studies], and disability studies directors for suggestions” to avoid these problems.
Last month, The Sun published a story about the white majority of hotel school tenured professors. Immediately following publication, Dean of the Hotel School Kate Walsh wrote a response, affirming that “[the Hotel School is] dedicated to building a diverse faculty,” and that, “as with all searches throughout the SC Johnson College of Business, last year our candidate lists were reviewed and approved by the college’s associate dean for diversity and inclusion.”
Increasing faculty diversity is not just a Cornell problem, it is a movement happening at every other Ivy League school. An article published in 2016 in The Dartmouth — Dartmouth’s college newspaper — ranked Yale’s minority faculty percentage highest at 30 percent and Dartmouth’s lowest at 14.7 percent. According to their respective websites, Harvard, Dartmouth, Brown, Columbia, Princeton, Yale, and Penn have all made commitments to increasing faculty diversity in the last few years.
“Our students take classes across colleges. We celebrate interdisciplinary collaboration among colleagues,” Levitte said. “Diversity will enhance the experience of all faculty, students and staff.”