L. Rafael Reif, Provost

Report of the Initiative for Faculty Race and Diversity

Part I:
Executive Report and Recommendations

A. Background, Mission and Objectives of Initiative

The Goal of Diversity at MIT

A standing principle at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is the pursuit of excellence in the creation of fundamental knowledge and the generation of innovative solutions to the world's problems. To accomplish its stated mission - "to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century"1 - MIT must benefit from the ability to tap both the nation's and the world's brightest minds. The Institute has taken pride in its ability to unite people from a multitude of backgrounds to address the world's most complex problems and significant scholarly endeavors.

Diversity is core to the excellence that MIT seeks for several reasons:

  • It is intrinsic in the mission of excellence in science and engineering education that we engage a truly diverse faculty; we must diversify our faculty or we lose in competitive advantage and in mission.
  • A part of MIT's mission is to be of service to humanity - to hope to accomplish such a bold endeavor, one must also be inclusive of humanity.
  • A diverse faculty is key to communal scholarship and intellectual scope.
  • If we do not succeed in the diversification of faculty across the nation, we constrain ourselves and limit our success in all fields of endeavor.

Despite its importance, the picture of diversity among the faculty at MIT is lacking when one considers the representation of U.S. minority groups that traditionally have had more limited access to the educational opportunities and pathways that often lead to academic careers. In addition, the low levels of representation from minority groups indicate missed opportunities to gain and benefit from the top minds garnered from every aspect of American life. As was stated by current MIT President Susan Hockfield, "We cannot be satisfied until we are a community that not only seeks out diverse talent, but that truly embraces and rewards diverse perspectives, because we know that they make us stronger. In the end, we cannot be satisfied until, to everyone who earns a place at MIT, we are a community that says not 'You're lucky to be here,' but rather, 'We're lucky you came.'"2


Figure 1. URM faculty and women faculty at MIT
during the period covered in cohort analysis study.

Note: Data includes both U.S. and foreign-born minority faculty.

The U.S. population has changed significantly in the past century; at this time, African Americans represent 13.5% of the population, Hispanic Americans represent 15%, and Native Americans are 1.5%, resulting in minority groups representing a total of 30% of the U.S. population, a number that has been significantly increasing each year.3 Additionally, Asian Americans, including Pacific Islanders, make up approximately 5% of the U.S. population. On the other hand, the number of minority faculty at MIT has undergone a much slower growth. When one includes all faculty of African, Hispanic or Native American heritage, regardless of citizenship, our overall underrepresented minority faculty population is currently at 6%, indicating an increase from 4.5% in 2000. The contrast in these numbers with the population values is significant; it is clear that there is talent within the United States that has not been tapped at the highest levels of our educational system - our faculty. Clearly, this problem is not unique to MIT, but represents a characteristic of most university faculty. It also signifies a situation that is even more critical in the science, technology and engineering (STEM) fields that are core to MIT's mission. Research indicates several gains from engaging groups with a broad range of ethnic, cultural and experiential backgrounds to the task of problem-solving, deliberation, information sharing and overall performance.4,5 It is intrinsic to the mission of excellence in science and engineering that we engage a truly diverse faculty; otherwise, we stand to lose in both our competitive advantage and our overall mission.

It is clear that we need the input and contributions of all members of our rapidly changing population to achieve the goals set forth by the U.S. to lead in key areas such as energy, the environment, medical advances and health care; economics, management and public policy; as well as the interface between the sciences and humanities. As a leading institution in science and engineering, MIT must also take the lead in addressing the issue of diversity given its key role in the future development of this country and the world. MIT can utilize its leadership position to directly address the challenge of increasing numbers of underrepresented groups in its faculty; in doing so, MIT will not only maintain and improve its standing as a top U.S. and world institution of higher learning, but will also serve to provide expertise, knowledge and approaches to this critical challenge that can inform others. As an institution, MIT must commit itself to take a hard look at this issue as a means of generating true and meaningful change. There is precedent for this level of undertaking; MIT has shown leadership in the area of equity among women faculty in its well-known Women in Science Report6 and in subsequent gender studies in 1999 through 2002. Although the endeavor to improve gender representation in the MIT faculty continues to be a work in progress, we can learn from this experience and apply our best efforts toward resolving URM representation. In recent years, MIT has begun to take on the important task of faculty diversity in different ways in a number of its departments and schools (see Section G and Appendix C for examples); however, there is much work yet to be done. As an institution that prides itself on the ability to address some of the world's most difficult problems, MIT can and should lead the nation in the important challenge of increasing the numbers of minority faculty via a strong Institute-wide policy that facilitates advancement in the area of faculty diversity. It is, of course, recognized that the availability of minority candidates, particularly in the STEM fields, can be limited. By addressing both the short-term need to increase minority faculty numbers, and longer-term efforts to address the available pool of candidates across fields, it must be the ultimate long-term goal of the Institute to achieve parity of underrepresented groups with respect to the population.

In 2004, the faculty of MIT resolved to address the issue of diversity and, in particular, the underrepresentation of minorities, with the goal of taking a close look at the issues, as well as delivering and implementing solutions. In late spring 2007, the provost charged a committee of faculty to investigate the undertaking of a key Initiative at MIT on the issues of race and its impact with regard to underrepresented minority faculty at the Institute. The Initiative sought to investigate the experiences of minority faculty, as well as the practices at MIT related to key aspects of faculty life including recruitment, hiring, and promotion to tenure and full professor, and to utilize the findings to develop recommendations for increasing minority faculty numbers. The Initiative executed an extensive study that investigated the questions: whether and how race and ethnic identity have impacted MIT's ability to recruit and to retain minority faculty; whether there are local or Institutional aspects native to MIT's culture, procedures or environment that have influenced or shaped this group of faculty, as well as their opportunities and experiences at MIT; and how these influences have affected MIT's effort to recruit and retain underrepresented groups among its faculty?

The overall findings generated from this study are addressed in this report, including a set of recommendations and an implementation plan to the senior administration, the associate provosts for faculty equity and to the deans of the five schools at MIT. The Initiative also utilized input from an External Advisory Board as well as members of the MIT community.

The goal of this work is to yield long-term positive change in the MIT environment; to improve the climate at MIT for minority faculty and all faculty with regard to matters of race and ethnicity; and to ultimately achieve long-standing and sustainable increases in overall numbers of underrepresented minority faculty in order to realize the benefits of diversity in education.

Definitions of Minority Faculty

The federal definition of a minority employee includes all U.S. citizens, both naturalized or permanent residents that have African, Hispanic or Native American heritage. A broader definition of minority group includes Americans and permanent residents of Asian descent, including Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders. At MIT and most other STEM institutions, the underrepresented minority (URM) refers to those minority groups that are not represented in the STEM fields in numbers proportional to their composition in the U.S. population, which would not include the Asian group. It should be noted that the Initiative team recognizes that although Asians as a group are not underrepresented in the science and engineering fields, Asian women are significantly underrepresented among the ranks of faculty in all fields at MIT. While the focus and scope of this work was on the traditionally underrepresented minorities in science and engineering, it is recommended that attention also be paid to diversity with respect to Asian faculty, in particular Asian women, in future studies on diversity. It is thought that the recommendations of this Initiative will also positively impact numbers of Asian women and other groups with racial, gender or ethnic differences.

Table 1. Numbers of URM faculty at MIT from 2000 to 2009 using different definitions

Numbers of minorities using different definitions











Only those born in U.S.











Assume missing data on COO is U.S.











Disregard COO (Federal guidelines)












Figure 2. Plot of URM faculty based on different definitions

In reporting its numbers of URM faculty, MIT has included all faculty with African, Hispanic and Native American heritage who are citizens or permanent residents (i.e., based on U.S. federal guidelines), and newly arrived international faculty on temporary visas who either identified as an underrepresented minority or who were identified as such if he/she had not identified at all. The latter group is included in the count and is anticipated to achieve permanent resident status within a few years of their arrival at MIT. The numbers do not include faculty who meet the guidelines for minority status but who self-identified as White. Figure 1 includes data on both URM and women from 1991 to 2009, which is the period that was covered for the cohort analysis study in the research component. This plot indicates the relatively slow growth in URM faculty over an extended time period; the much more rapid increase in the minority population over the same time period reflects the degree to which the national academic environment fails to reflect the population that it serves. The data indicate the need for MIT and its peer institutions across the country to work together to significantly increase the number of minority students who enter the academic pipeline.

The data in Table 1 and Figure 2 include numbers of URM faculty at MIT over the past decade based on different definitions applied to URM faculty. It is important to note that a significant number of URM faculty are also of international origin. The broad range of cultural and national backgrounds of our URM faculty brings an important aspect of diversity to campus, and many members of the international group of URM faculty identify strongly as members of the underrepresented group. In addition, they contribute significantly to the presence and enrichment of the community of minority scholars on campus. The goal of increasing and supporting a diverse faculty provides a compelling educational benefit to all at MIT - minority and majority. Increased diversity of URM faculty from all sources, national or global, must be highly valued at MIT. Unfortunately, the numbers of URM faculty who are either U.S.-born or who have experienced a significant part of their childhood years and education in the U.S. are significantly small for some URM groups, and do not show a clear trend of increasing even over the past several years. It is difficult to tabulate data that present an accurate number of URM faculty who are U.S. born or who primarily have had an American upbringing or experience, because many faculty disregard the country of origin question on incoming faculty surveys. If one assumes that all those who do not indicate a country of origin are from the U.S., the percentage of U.S. minority faculty appears to be approximately 3.5 to 4%, a number that approaches one-tenth of the percentage of URM reflected in the general population. This estimation is the maximum possible number of URM faculty from the U.S. based on available data; the opposite bound is to assume that all of the respondents who did not indicate country of origin are international, leading to a mere 2% of the total faculty population. These numbers indicate very incremental or no growth in the numbers of U.S. underrepresented minority groups at MIT. More direct input was provided from the interviews with minority faculty; from the sample of minority faculty who were interviewed, 77% of Black respondents indicated that they were U.S. born, with the remainder from Africa (11%), the West Indies (8%) and Europe (4%). Among Hispanic respondents, 40% indicated that they were U.S. born, 35% were from South America, 15% from Mexico, and 5% each from the West Indies and Europe. The professional development, active recruiting and ultimate hiring of more U.S. minorities is a mandate based on the diminishingly low numbers at MIT and its peer institutions.7 The U.S. pool is also the one that MIT strategically has the greatest opportunity and advantage in influencing and growing in future years. It is key that MIT take greater advantage of the talent pool present in the United States by recruiting larger numbers of U.S. minority faculty; where necessary, targeted intervention and recruitment at early stages may be necessary to increase these numbers in a manner that is sustained.8 To facilitate this increase, there must be an awareness of the numbers of U.S. national minority groups interviewed and recruited at MIT
each year.

Initiative Activities

The Initiative on Faculty Race and Diversity involved four stages of effort. The first was the development of a preliminary report outlining general plans for the research study. This report, issued in summer 2007, included a description of a potential research plan based on discussions of the Initiative Committee as well as input from other researchers who have performed other studies of scale in this area. The report also provided a list of short-term recommendations meant to provide an early means of addressing retention of existing URM faculty and impetus to the recruitment of new URM faculty hires. A list of these short-term recommendations and how they were addressed by the administration is included in this report in Section H. The Preliminary Report was shared with the MIT community in summer 2007, and input was garnered from the minority faculty and from the general faculty in meetings both preceding and following its release.

The second and most extensive stage of effort was the execution of the research study. A full research team was recruited from within and outside MIT. Extensive efforts were made in a nationwide search for the Ph.D. scholars and consultants who comprised the research team, headed by Initiative Committee member Professor Lotte Bailyn of the MIT Sloan School of Management. The remainder of the team included Dr. Mandy Smith Ryan, Dr. Siomara Valladares and Dr. Carol Wright; external consultants working with the team included Dr. Clarence Williams and Dr. Sharon Fries-Britt. Biographies of the research team are provided in Appendix A. The research study was executed in stages from January 2008 through August 2009 and is outlined further in the following section. This stage of the work also included a significant analysis, during which time results were presented and discussed with the Initiative Committee, the External Advisory Board and Internal Technical Advisory Board. A summary of the major findings is given in Section D of this report, and a fully detailed research report is provided in Part II of this publication.

A third stage of this effort involved the formulation of solutions and recommendations. These recommendations (outlined in Section E) were informed by the major findings of the Initiative study and are put forth by the Initiative Committee in this report. These recommendations address recruitment and retention of URM faculty, and structural changes in administrative policy that will facilitate the increase in and the retention of URM faculty. In addition, the recommendations address the roles of the administration, academic deans, department heads and individual faculty in reaching diversity goals at the Institute. Recommendations are fully outlined in Section E of this report.

The fourth and final stage of this Initiative is the discussion and implementation of the recommendations across the administration, schools and departmental units, a period that will enable frank discussion of the findings among departmental and school units. The recommendations will be presented at School Council meetings, and faculty leadership - including department heads and deans - will provide input on the ultimate means in which they can be implemented in departmental, school and Institute policy. In many cases, the recommendations included general guides to implementation with regard to the provision of resources or support as well as actions required at different organizational levels. During the implementation stage, many of these details can be confirmed or determined. The implementation section of this report (Section F) also includes recommended responsibilities and implementation strategies. Discussion of these recommendations in more detail is anticipated at every level from departmental units to the administration, as both the recommendations and their implementation are addressed.


B. Brief Summary of Research Effort

L. Rafael Reif
Office of the Provost
Room 3-208
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307

(617) 253-4500 phone
(617) 253-8812 fax