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Initiative on Faculty Race and Diversity

The report of the Initiative on Faculty Race and Diversity has been released. Read the report, as well as introductory letters from President Susan Hockfield and Provost L. Rafael Reif.

In addition, here is a letter from Chair of the Faculty Tom Kochan:

Statement of the Faculty Chair on the Faculty Race and Diversity Initiative Report

For release on January 14, 2010

On behalf of the faculty, I want to thank the authors and participants in the Faculty Race and Diversity Initiative for their hard work, dedication to the cause of diversity and inclusion, thoughtful analysis, and the clear recommendations contained in their report. They lay out a bold aspiration, one appropriate to the leadership role we expect MIT to play: “To learn from our experiences and fashion recommendations that will inspire action at MIT and in our peer institutions across the nation.” The authors go on to challenge the Institute to achieve parity of underrepresented groups with their numbers in the broader population.

MIT prides itself in being a data driven and problem solving culture. The evidence presented in the report provides the basis for the faculty to move from analysis to action. While I urge all faculty members to read the report carefully, I want to focus on two of the recommendations that require faculty attention and leadership: broadening and deepening the talent pipeline and improving mentoring of faculty hires.

Broadening and deepening the pipeline of talented underrepresented minorities must start at the undergraduate level, if not before. We should take to heart a key finding in the report: More than one-third of the underrepresented minorities on our faculty received one or more degrees from MIT. This implies that as faculty members we need to take a personal interest in the career choices of the underrepresented minorities we meet in our undergraduate courses, encourage them to pursue PhD degrees here or elsewhere, and stay in touch with these future prospects throughout their graduate programs. Everything we know about the importance of network ties in recruitment and placement tells us this should produce payoffs down the road.

But we also need to broaden the range of institutions from which we recruit faculty. I found it sobering to learn that more than half of our underrepresented faculty members are recruited from only three universities (including MIT). We cannot hope to reach the goals set in this report unless we expand the pool of universities from which we recruit faculty. This is an area where MIT could, in conjunction with peer universities, lead the way in making progress for our institutions and for higher education in general. I am pleased that President Hockfield is also calling for a collective effort among our peer institutions to work on this issue. In the months ahead, I hope to begin working with my counterpart faculty leaders from major universities to develop strategies and pool efforts/resources to expand the minority PhD pipeline and to provide students with exposure to the top research scientists in their fields as they move through their graduate training. My guess is that if we join with other universities we should be able to raise significant funding to expand the number of graduate fellowships and to provide the networking and learning opportunities needed to make significant progress.

The report provides a thorough assessment of our internal processes for mentoring and retaining the underrepresented faculty we recruit. The authors document that we lose a disproportionately high share of underrepresented minorities at or before their promotion to associate professor and that mentoring practices and effectiveness vary widely across the Institute. We must and can do better. This report, and a parallel report on MIT promotion and tenure processes that will be released later in the spring term, offer clear suggestions for how to improve mentoring and how to reward and hold accountable faculty and department chairs for meeting their mentoring responsibilities.

I propose a concrete step to hold ourselves accountable for implementing these recommendations: I will ask the Faculty Policy Committee to create a working group charged with the responsibility to follow up and support implementation of these mentoring recommendations and to report to the faculty two years from now on progress made toward improving mentoring processes and outcomes.

These are just two key steps the faculty can take to demonstrate to itself and to others that we are taking these data to heart, are moving into an MIT-like problem solving mode, and are determined to realize the bold objectives outlined in this report.

I look forward to working with faculty and administration colleagues on these issues and welcome comments on how to best move forward on these and other recommendations in the report.

 

Thomas A. Kochan

Chair of the Faculty