President Bollinger and Provost Coatsworth Announce Next Phase in Commitment to Faculty Diversity

April 2, 2012Bookmark and Share

Dear Fellow Members of the Columbia Community:

The experience of being on the Columbia campus makes clear that a diverse university community is essential to achieving academic excellence. Indeed, fostering the uninhibited exploration of competing ideas and beliefs—expressed by people of different backgrounds and perspectives—makes possible the distinct brand of scholarship, learning, research, and public service that are Columbia’s reason for being.

We can be proud that we have achieved notable success in building a student body that is one of the most diverse, both culturally and socio-economically, among the nation’s great universities. Yet all who are familiar with the University’s commitment to opening doors to those who have been underrepresented in American higher education, and our nation’s more uneven history of pursuing the same goal, appreciate that building a diverse university community is not the work of a moment or only of admissions offices. It requires a sustained effort and the attention of us all.

In recent years we have devoted increased attention to the challenge of enhancing the diversity of our faculty. Today we announce a significant expansion of these ongoing efforts through a $30 million commitment to the recruitment and support of outstanding female and underrepresented minority scholars. Recognizing that enhancing diversity is a core academic responsibility, we asked the deans to lead this process for their schools. Their work was supported by the Provost’s Office of Academic Planning, directed by Vice Provost Andrew Davidson. The result has been the creation of three-year plans, responsive to each school’s distinct priorities and needs. The plans address key points of the faculty career cycle, with specific strategies for achieving the diversity goals of each of our schools.

Employing this flexible, collaborative framework, Columbia is poised for new investments in the recruitment of outstanding faculty and postdoctoral scholars from underrepresented groups to more closely reflect the composition of the national pool of qualified candidates; and a small-grants program for junior faculty designed to contribute to their career success. In addition, we will provide some support for enriching the pipeline leading to faculty appointments with the goal of enhancing the participation of pre-doctoral and Ph.D. students from underrepresented groups.

The expansion of these activities across our campuses reflects a shared financial commitment, with $15 million from the University’s central budget matched by contributions from the individual schools, resulting in the total of $30 million to meet the costs of this effort. The sizeable dedication of resources comes with an insistence on accountability and achieving measurable movement toward our goals. The Provost will be appointing an advisory committee of senior faculty to help guide this process. The Provost’s Office of Academic Planning will work with schools to design and implement mentoring and professional development programs for junior faculty; create training materials for search committees; and exchange information on best practices. In the coming weeks, the Provost’s Office will be working with the deans on plan implementation.

The announcement we make today builds on recent successful efforts, led by former Vice Provosts Jean Howard and Geraldine Downey, including a diversity initiative focused on the recruitment of Arts & Sciences faculty and one supporting fellowships for junior faculty at Columbia’s professional schools. Under the leadership of Vice Provost Andrew Davidson, our focus now turns to working to enhance faculty diversity at all of Columbia’s schools and to employing the considerable resources that have been made available as efficiently and effectively as possible to achieve this goal.

With the help of the many deans, faculty members, alumni, and administrators dedicated to this important endeavor, we look forward to this next phase in our efforts to expand and strengthen Columbia’s unique academic community.

Sincerely,

Lee C. Bollinger, President

John H. Coatsworth, Provost

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