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Columbia Dedicates $15M to Enhance Ongoing Efforts to Diversify Faculty

Columbia Dedicates $15M to Accelerate Ongoing Efforts to Diversify Faculty: Funds to Be Used in Arts and Sciences

New York, August 3: Columbia University today announced the dedication of $15 million to jump start a new recruitment campaign and to accelerate other ongoing efforts to diversify its faculty. The University Trustees, at their June meeting, unanimously approved the new funding commitment.

The University seeks to add between 15 and 20 outstanding women and minority scholars to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences over the next three to five years. It also will enhance efforts underway to change the process and culture surrounding faculty searches, recruitment, hiring, retention and promotion.

"These funds allow us to bring on board a critical cluster of new talent in the Arts and Sciences that in turn may help us recruit other scholars from underrepresented groups," said Jean Howard, who was appointed Columbia's vice provost for diversity initiatives in September 2004. "But," she cautions, "the investment in and of itself is not sufficient to bring about the fundamental and far-reaching changes we are committed to make. Those will take time and a continuous University-wide effort."

"Building a diverse university community," said Lee C. Bollinger, president of Columbia "requires sustained commitment, concerted effort and the attention of us all. With this investment we are reaffirming Columbia University's commitment to our core values of inclusion and academic excellence."

The added investment and its use stem from the work of a faculty committee that advised the vice provost for diversity on key ways to step up efforts to achieve a more diverse community of scholars.

In response to their recommendations, the investment will significantly strengthen a coordinated set of initiatives that, among other things, improve the faculty hiring process to more successfully identify and recruit outstanding scholars from historically under represented groups; address the work-life issues of an increasingly diverse faculty; the acute problem of the dearth of women and minority faculty in natural sciences and engineering; and extend the University's dialogue in this important area.

Improving the Search, Selection and Recruitment Process:

The new resources will help underwrite promising efforts in various departments to widen the pools from which search committees select faculty; lengthen search time and expand recruitment efforts; experiment with strategies such as cluster hiring and coordinated appointments; create dual career and partner placement policies; undertake more interdisciplinary hiring; centrally organize information about how to access existing networks of outstanding minority and women candidates; and sponsor workshops on issues relevant to successful identification and recruitment of outstanding candidates.

Meeting the Work-Life Needs of Faculty:

Recognizing the importance of child care for recruiting and retaining outstanding faculty, the University has begun a needs assessment and feasibility study for Morningside and uptown campuses in regard to child-care. The assessment is being conducted by the Bright Horizons Child Care Corporation, which manages Columbia's Lamont Doherty Child Care Center and provides child-care services to other leading universities, such as MIT, Yale, Duke and Princeton. The report is expected in January 2006.

Targeting the Specific Needs of Natural Sciences and Engineering:

For historical reasons, women and minorities continue to be under-represented in some fields. The problem is particularly pronounced in the natural sciences and engineering. The vice provost for diversity, working with the New York Academy of Sciences, is establishing a consortium of area universities, medical schools and industries with a view toward creating, among other options, a high-end job bank for science positions in the New York area. This fall, the consortium will hold its second meeting, exchanging information about initiatives at peer schools; discussing strategies for building pipelines to facilitate the careers of women and minorities in academic science; and examining ways to respond to dual career problems as they arise in the sciences.

Encouraging Pursuit of Scientific Careers:

In addition, the vice provost's Task Force on Diversity in Science and Engineering has been tasked with finding ways to strengthen the pipeline bringing women and minority students into the University's undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral programs. The committee will work in conjunction with the National Science Foundation's ADVANCE program in the Environmental Sciences and with Columbia's Presidential Advisory Committee on Diversity Initiatives to build on, refine or modify successful initiatives undertaken by those groups. A series of working papers over the next 18 months will detail new steps to enhance diversity efforts in the fields of science and engineering.

Deepening and Extending the University Dialogue:

The investment also allows for continued expansion of University-sponsored events on diversity matters. Last year's guest speakers included Princeton President Shirley Tilghman, who spoke about the hurdles of recruiting and retaining women in science; MIT Biology Professor Nancy Hopkins, who described the institutional transformation around gender issues that occurred at MIT; and Georgetown University Law Professor Chuck Lawrence, who spoke about the continuing need for affirmative action.

Moving Forward:

In the coming academic year, the Presidential Advisory Committee on Diversity Initiatives will continue to maintain the accelerated momentum. It will:

  • work closely with the provost and a range of departments and centers in the Arts and Sciences to oversee the new investment;
  • extend the diversity committee's work into the professional schools
  • undertake information sessions for search committees starting in the fall designed to eliminate unconscious bias against diversity candidates, and to outline best practices for successful searches;
  • work with ADVANCE to prepare appropriate materials and continue to sponsor events designed to extend the University conversation on diversity matters;
  • encourage salary equity studies throughout the University; and
  • work with the Office of Institutional Research to synchronize data collection for the Office of Equal Opportunity and other relevant offices and committees.

"If we are successful with this multi-pronged approach at Columbia," says Howard, "The University will be a better, more intellectually vibrant community. And, just as important, the academy as a whole will benefit enormously."

Published: Aug 05, 2005
Last modified: Aug 12, 2005

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