University announces new effort to increase faculty diversity

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Columbia, as part of an ongoing effort to diversify its faculty, has announced that it is setting aside $30 million to recruit professors from minority groups traditionally underrepresented in American higher education, as well as women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Funds will also support the academic careers of underrepresented students, postdoctoral researchers, and junior faculty. Half the monies will come from the University’s central administration, through the provost’s office. Columbia’s schools will chip in the rest.

The goal, wrote President Lee C. Bollinger and Provost John H. Coatsworth in an April 2 announcement, is to build a faculty that “more closely reflects the composition of the national pool of qualified candidates.”

Over the years, the University has made a significant effort to diversify its faculty, especially in the Arts and Sciences; since 2004, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences has hired about thirty scholars from underrepresented groups. “Columbia has made notable progress in attracting, recruiting, and retaining talented faculty from underrepresented groups, but there is more to be done,” says Andrew Davidson, vice provost for academic planning, who is leading this effort. “These investments give us the opportunity to keep up the momentum.”

The new effort, he says, will broaden the undertaking to include all of Columbia’s schools. He recently sat down with deans across Columbia to review the composition of their faculties.

Vice provost Andrew Davidson, pictured with nursing dean Bobbie Berkowitz, is leading an effort to increase the racial and gender diversity of Columbia faculty / Photo by Jenica Miller

“John Coatsworth and I understand that each school has different needs and circumstances,” Davidson says. “We asked each school to develop its own three-year strategic plan to enhance the diversity of its tenured and tenure-track faculty, shaped according to its specific situation.

“All Columbia schools are choosing to emphasize the recruitment of faculty members from underrepresented groups,” Davidson continues. “On top of this, some schools are focusing on the recruitment of postdocs as a possible pathway to enhance the diversity of their faculties, while others are concentrating on work earlier in the pipeline.”

Columbia’s schools will compete for the new funding; the provost will appoint a committee of senior faculty to review recruitment proposals and make recommendations. Proposals will be judged on candidates’ scholarly excellence and their potential to contribute to Columbia’s diversity mission through teaching, research, and service.

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