Report on the Initiative for Faculty Race and Diversity: Excerpts and Commentary
We welcome our fellow faculty colleagues’ support in the release of the Report on the Initiative for Faculty Race and Diversity. For those who have not had the chance to read it yet, it can be found at web.mit.edu/provost/raceinitiative/.
Due to the depth of coverage of the Report, rather than create a complete summary of it here, below are some highlights of the critical findings and a sampling of some of the key recommendations that were informed from those findings. These abridged excerpts do not include several important findings and key recommendations, and we encourage faculty to examine the major findings and the corresponding recommendations in their entirety in Sections D and E, respectively, in Part I of the Report.We also invite faculty to read the research report, Part II of the Report, which gives insightful details of the research and imparts a strong sense of the MIT experiences and perspectives of our minority faculty.
Although the focus of the recommendations is on underrepresented minority (URM) groups, it is believed they will benefit a much broader group of faculty – especially all junior faculty members and the faculty in general – including those who represent a broad range of differences: gender, nationality, culture, sexual preference and identity, and physical ability. We believe these recommendations will strengthen many of the core elements of the Institute’s hiring, mentoring, and promotion processes by implementing a framework for greater oversight and self-evaluation at all levels, from department and lab to School and administration. Finally, along with the research findings, several recommendations were informed by successful examples of diversity efforts – from the building of the pipeline among graduate students and postdoctoral associates to the successful recruitment of new URM faculty – which were found within our own departments and schools. For this reason, the recommendations will provide the opportunity for MIT to learn from its best local successes by sharing information where appropriate and providing implementation across its units.
Recruiting – Some Key Findings
- MIT recruits heavily from its own and a few peer institutions: 55% of all URM faculty received their doctoral degrees from three key universities (MIT, Stanford, Harvard), with similar, though slightly lower numbers of White (50%) and Asian (43%) faculty from the same three key universities.
The narrowness of the sources of URM faculty – essentially more than half with Ph.D. degrees from only three top-tier institutions – indicates a significant lost opportunity to gain faculty from other schools. The fact that these schools also do not necessarily have a large number of minority candidates in their collective graduate student pools can exacerbate a problem presented from narrow recruitment sources.
An interesting extension of these findings, however, is that 36% of the minority faculty interviewed had a degree of some kind from MIT, showing that MIT has become adept at generating and recruiting its own faculty, which indicates potential opportunity to expand the pool among the MIT undergraduate and graduate student body.
- Hiring by School and department show patterns in which minorities are consistently not hired in certain departments. There are also positive hiring patterns that are apparent in certain other departments/disciplines. The cohort analysis included the examination of incoming hiring of all faculty from 1991 to 2009, and determined the percentage of URM hires that took place during that period. There are definite and consistent trends among the different Schools and departments. (See M.I.T. Numbers.)
Over an extended time, there are some units within MIT that had consistently low or zero hiring patterns with respect to minority faculty, indicating areas where focus, added resources, support, and new strategies – for both pipeline and recruiting – could increase numbers. In these cases, a careful assessment of current search approaches may prove helpful. There are also units that have had relative success in URM hiring in past years, indicating the potential to examine and learn more about recruiting strategies within certain fields and disciplines.
Some Recruiting Recommendations
- Faculty search chairs must be trained and informed on issues that include hidden biases, broad search policies, and existing resources for identifying potential candidates.
- Where it is possible, faculty searches that involve hiring in small groups or clusters, as opposed to single hires, should be pursued. Final top candidates should be grouped, but not ranked, since ranking can often lead to exclusion of excellent candidates based on arguments of fit or need.
- MIT should build strong pipeline programs on campus, and network with peer institutions in a targeted and focused manner. Building strong two-way relationships with these peer institutions that involve directed recruiting will expand the pool of faculty candidates, bridged by specific one-to-one interactions with peer schools, including planned efforts for sharing information and shaping programs (on the School, department, or discipline level) between deans and department heads.
- The Institute must enforce the broadening of searches to a larger set of carefully selected institutions to increase the numbers of highly qualified URM applicants. Because these relationships are strongest on a discipline level, these interactions should be engaged by department heads and academic deans in a strategic fashion by determining top schools at which URM candidates reside. In many cases, there are excellent, highly ranked institutions, particularly in specific areas or fields, which also have larger numbers of URM PhD candidates. MIT must form strong and substantive relationships with these institutions that will enable the sharing of information about potential URM candidates early in their graduate careers. Infrastructure should be provided to enable departments and units to build these relationships.
- Each department should track their top underrepresented minority undergraduate and graduate students, follow and support their academic careers and post-graduate successes, and keep information available that will enable or inform a search committee in future years.
Some Findings: Retention and Mentoring
- A significant number of minority vs. non-minority faculty leave before or at the AWOT case. The first three to five years appear more critical to the retention of URM faculty than the majority group. These numbers were statistically significant and provided a meaningful contrast in terms of expected outcomes for URM versus non-URM junior faculty at MIT. Once beyond the AWOT promotion, differences in URM versus non-URM tenure rates still indicate a difference (63% vs. 53%), though it is significantly lower and not statistically significant. The findings indicate that a disproportionately large number of minority faculty are lost within the early stages – generally the first three to five years that precede the first promotion. This phenomenon constitutes a significant loss in the number of URM faculty retained at MIT.
- Mentoring across the Institute lacks consistency, including level of commitment and a defined role for mentors. Interviews with non-minority and minority faculty indicated that poor or negative mentoring experiences are more frequent for URM than non-URM faculty, and they are particularly high among URM women. The interview data indicated a broad range of mentoring experiences reported by URM faculty. Among the most positive experiences were those in which mentors were accountable at the departmental or higher levels for taking an active role in mentoring the junior faculty member. Formal programs with such accountability and personal investment from the faculty were most successful. In these cases, mentors were reported to take on an advocacy role rather than a departmental evaluatory role, indicating a difference between the perceived roles of a formal mentor versus a tenure committee member. More negative experiences included those in which mentors were non-existent, or were not engaged or active, or in which the junior faculty received ill-conceived or overly-directive advice.
Some Mentoring Recommendations:
- Formal mentors should be assigned to all junior faculty hires as part of an Institute-wide policy on mentoring. There is not a universal mentoring policy in place today for junior faculty at MIT, and there are large variations in mentoring efforts across Schools and departments.
- It is recommended that junior faculty be assigned at least two mentors. Multiple mentors enable a balance/counterbalance in career guidance and provide the advantage of more than one perspective and greater opportunity for a good fit.
- It is also recommended that one faculty member outside of the departmental unit (and in some cases outside of the School or the Institute) be assigned a mentorship role; this external mentor can provide a broader range of advice, and may also have the ability to prod action outside of the department in difficult or strained internal situations.
- The primary role of the mentor as an informed advocate independent of the evaluation process, rather than an evaluator, must be delineated and should be encouraged. Mentors should be independent advocates who can inform fellow senior faculty of the candidate’s status and efforts, as well as act to help shape and develop the junior faculty member in a supportive fashion.
- Mentors should be accountable to the department in their role. Regular annual or biannual meetings with the mentee, followed by a presentation and update of the mentee’s progress to the department or department head, should be minimal requirements of mentors. Mentors should be chosen so that they will be engaged/invested in both the process and the person.
- Mentors should be trained/informed of their role and expectations – formal training or informationals within departments or schools may be needed to disseminate the meaning of the mentor’s role.
- Mentees also should be trained or informed on what to expect from and how to use mentors. Specific training and information on mentors and the promotion process in general can be included in the junior faculty introductory workshops now offered on teaching.
- Annual departmental reviews should be implemented for each junior faculty, beginning in the first year. It is important for junior faculty to receive feedback and advice from their departments or units as early as possible. The review should be followed by verbal and/or written feedback from the department head and the assigned mentor(s). A follow-up meeting based on the feedback provided should be arranged with the mentee during the course of the following year.
- All junior faculty should be introduced to the Faculty Personnel Record or other relevant device or form used to assemble the promotion package in the first year. This is early enough to enable junior faculty to see benchmarks for tenure evaluations, to discuss and determine the relative importance of those benchmarks with mentors, and to enable mentors to impart rubrics for success.
Some Findings: Satisfaction and Climate
- Data from the survey indicate that there is more dissatisfaction among tenured URM faculty compared to their White tenured counterparts with Asian faculty in the middle. There also is more dissatisfaction among Asian and URM tenured faculty compared to their untenured counterparts. These trends are not statistically significant, but are supported by the interviews and by the discussions heard in the faculty forums. Ironically, this data is accompanied by the fact that it is the URM non-tenured faculty, particularly the Black faculty, who are most likely to be highly satisfied with their lives at MIT (67% Black vs. 47% White). It is difficult to separate cohort factors – such as changes over time in administrative practice or departmental climates at MIT – from differences in attitude that may occur over the course of a faculty career, as URM faculty may begin to face some of the challenges described by the senior URM faculty.
- MIT non-URM faculty view diversity as less critical to the Institute’s core value of excellence. Based on responses from the Quality of Life survey to the question “I feel a diversified faculty is important for MIT’s academic excellence,” URM faculty and women both indicate diversity to be a more critical component of MIT’s core value of excellence than non-URM males. This difference in the level of valuation speaks to the climate to which minority faculty are recruited.
- Discussion of race-related issues is avoided at MIT, to the detriment of many URM faculty who may face but cannot confront such issues directly. Based on URM and non-URM faculty interviews, there is great awkwardness in openly addressing race and racial differences at MIT, leading to a sense of silence regarding race. URM faculty indicated this difficulty can lead to issues in communicating concerns from minority faculty regarding race, and can also impede the ability of faculty, in general, to move beyond unexpressed concerns or cultural misunderstandings. In other cases, for example, URM faculty may feel that speaking on diversity as a topic in any way can potentially “brand” them as someone who focuses only on this concern at the expense of other issues.
- Meritocracy is a concept that is key to the ideals at MIT. Although it is important to strive for this ideal, there is tension created by the outward presumption that true meritocracy is already essentially achieved at MIT. Such presumptions preempt the potential for hidden bias or preferential behavior, and do not acknowledge the use of relatively monolithic criteria of excellence (which often works against those who are minorities by race, gender, or field).
- There is tension at MIT around the concepts of inclusion vs. excellence. One of the greatest tensions associated with achieving a diverse faculty is the idea that by being more inclusive, one sacrifices excellence or dilutes quality. This concept and the tension generated by it was an underlying theme in both URM and non-URM interviews.
The anticipation from some members of the community that the intentional inclusion or recruitment of a minority faculty member might, in some cases, represent a lowering of standards is one that can yield negative experiences for URM faculty even before their career has begun. On the other hand, this same tension is sometimes used as a reason for the lack of progress in increasing URM faculty numbers.
Some Recommendations: Climate
- MIT must present leadership from the top levels to introduce, create, and maintain a climate of inclusion. Efforts should include:
- The president and provost should initiate systematic efforts on the importance of diversity; motivation and the initiation of innovative processes to address diversity challenges should become a part of the primary message shared with the Institute faculty.
- Leadership training of new deans and department heads should be introduced, and should include a significant and relevant diversity component.
- Implementation of a diverse faculty and student body as a part of the evaluation of success for Schools, departments, labs, and centers, and their leadership
- It is recommended that MIT harness its top and most highly respected scholars, scientists, and engineers to act as spokespeople on diversity issues. Key individuals respected for their academic achievements can be recruited as visible and influential allies in the effort to increase faculty diversity.
- Active efforts are expected from department heads and deans to seek and recognize talent from faculty of color (at all ranks) within and beyond the university. Such efforts include speaking opportunities, named seminars, invitation of visiting faculty and scholars, selection of members to visiting committees, etc.
Structural Recommendations – Systematic Support, Recognition and Accountability
These over-arching recommendations are intended to increase the level of active engagement that the Institute invests in the increased diversity of the faculty, by addressing administrative organization of effort, from recruiting to reporting. Particular action is directed toward increasing the numbers of all underrepresented minority faculty, with special emphasis on the recruitment of U.S.-born and/or educated underrepresented minorities, though these measures should also lead to increased diversity of many different kinds within the faculty. As a launch point for a university that has accomplished much by setting strategic goals for challenging endeavors, these measures include directed efforts to set meaningful goals and guidelines; to increase the level of short- and long-term strategic planning of our departments, labs, and centers around diversity efforts; to generate the needed ideas and infrastructure to support them; and to encourage sharing and discussion of practices among department heads and academic deans. Goals and efforts should reflect the academic pipeline for specific fields and should also include a comprehensive plan to address long-standing pipeline issues as well as short-term efforts in recruiting.
- Each departmental unit, lab, and center should work with its academic dean and the Associate Provost for Faculty Equity to set realistic but meaningful specific goals with timelines with respect to recruitment efforts of URM faculty. These goals should include URM faculty interview and recruitment; planning for future faculty recruitment through outreach on the graduate, undergraduate, and lower levels; and efforts to increase the graduate and postdoctoral pool, especially for fields that are highly challenged with regard to pipeline. Specific strategies and efforts should be re-assessed, and new strategies put into place if long-term increase in diversity is not achieved.
- Resources and support should be provided to all units by the administration and School deans to assist in the recruitment and/or retention of faculty from URM groups.
- Institutional measures of success and strategic plans for future diversity efforts for each of the Schools, set by the president, the provost, and academic deans, should be specified and addressed on an annual or biannual basis in a written report to the president.
- Minority hiring and retention should be critical issues in the selection of MIT administrative leadership. A clear plan to increase URM diversity, and, where possible, a track record and accountability in this area must be a necessary condition in consideration of others for appointment to department, lab, center, School, and administrative leadership roles.
- Department heads and deans should catalog specific efforts and progress toward the recruiting and retention of diverse faculty in a formal and uniform manner, with such efforts shared annually at a Deans Council Meeting. A great deal of information can be gained by sharing and comparing strategies and goals. This meeting should specifically address the sharing of lessons learned in the recruitment of underrepresented minority candidates; emphasis should be placed on the progress made and efforts put forth by each department in achieving goals.