Columbia Receives INSIGHT Award for Leadership on Diversity

May 24, 2016
Spring Low Steps

INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, which focuses on inclusion in higher education, has recognized Columbia and President Lee C. Bollinger for the University’s extensive efforts to build a diverse faculty and student body.

The magazine noted that Columbia's work began a decade ago with its Faculty Diversity Initiative, "a proactive effort focused on attracting and retaining the best and brightest scholars,” said INSIGHT. The University has invested $85 million in the effort to support the recruitment and retention of underrepresented faculty across Columbia, building greater diversity by race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation.

Insight Into Diversity Champion AwardThe Diversity Champion Award is given to selected institutions that rank in the top tier of Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award recipients. Columbia won the HEED Award in 2015 and remains one of just two Ivy League schools to have received that honor.

Through its need-blind admissions and increase in financial aid, Columbia has in recent years expanded college access to low-income, first generation and historically underrepresented students. Its undergraduate student populations are among the most culturally and socio-economically diverse among its peers. “Indeed, the University’s recent demographic figures reflect this,” wrote INSIGHT, citing the diversity of the Columbia College class of 2019.

The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education has ranked Columbia first for nine years in a row for its first-year enrollment of black undergraduates. In 2016, Columbia ranked fourth among the top 25 schools nationwide on the U.S. News & World Report measure for economic diversity.

INSIGHT also named Bollinger as a recipient of its 2016 Giving Back Award for diversity leadership. The award recognizes the contributions of college presidents and chancellors who foster an environment of inclusion and social responsibility in service to underrepresented populations in their campus communities and beyond.

Bollinger is a highly visible public advocate of affirmative action measures that recognize and respond to systemic racial inequality in the U.S. As president of the University of Michigan, he led the school’s legal defense in Grutter v. Bollinger, a 2003 Supreme Court decision that upheld and clarified the importance of diversity as a compelling justification for affirmative action in higher education. While at Columbia he continues to write in prominent media outlets—including The New York Times, Washington Post, Time magazine and, most recently, the Harvard Law Review—critiquing legal efforts such as the Fisher v. University of Texas case, which threatens higher education’s efforts in building more diverse, inclusive campuses.

“We have been committed to these values for a very long time,” said Vice Provost for Faculty Diversity and Inclusion Dennis A. Mitchell. “You can always find faculty and administrators who will do this work, but without leadership at the very top of the University, you usually don’t see progress.”