L. Rafael Reif, Provost

Report of the Initiative for Faculty Race and Diversity

Summary Statement

Initiative Committee Members:
Chair: Paula T. Hammond, Members: Lotte Bailyn (Head, Research Team), Emery Brown, Wesley Harris (ex-officio), Barbara Liskov (ex-officio), Leslie Norford, Christine Ortiz, Hazel Sive, Marcus Thompson

Among the great challenges faced by U.S. institutions of higher learning in the 21st century, particularly in fields of science and technology, is the engagement and full utilization of our population's talent, particularly in fields of science and technology. MIT has elected to take on the important task of addressing this issue at its highest levels, among its own faculty. In order to take significant steps forward in this effort across the Institute, it is critical to understand the issues that must be faced to create a faculty more inclusive of all parts of the our population.

To this end, the Initiative for Faculty Race and Diversity was charged by Provost L. Rafael Reif to investigate the status of underrepresented minority faculty (URM: which include Black, Hispanic and Native American faculty) at MIT, and to use the findings from this investigation to inform a set of recommendations. The recommendations address Institute policy and practices, with the intent that their implementation will increase the recruitment and retention of URM faculty, and make the climate more welcoming to them. On a broader scale, we hope that these findings and recommendations will guide policy both at MIT and at its peer academic institutions, and will inspire action across the nation to address this critical issue.

The efforts of the Initiative included an in-depth study of the experiences of minority faculty on campus, including a survey and quantitative personnel data, a cohort analysis, and in-depth interviews of minority faculty at MIT and a comparison group of non-minority faculty. The report of the Initiative Committee has two components: an Executive Report (part I), and a Research Report (part II), which includes the detailed results of the research study. We strongly encourage faculty and other members of the MIT community to read the Research Report, which more completely details many aspects of the minority faculty experience, and indicates areas and issues of significance that can lead to helpful discussions.

The Executive Report is a full account from the Initiative Committee; it provides a brief background and compelling reason for this work, describes the definitions of underrepresented minority groups that are used at MIT, and summarizes the activities of the Initiative effort in Sections A through C. It presents a summary of each of the major findings of the research study in Section D and provides the recommendations of the Initiative (Section E) that were informed by these research results. Specific approaches addressed and encouraged in the recommendations include faculty recruiting, mentoring, promotion and tenure, structural policies that address support and accountability for diversity efforts ranging from the improvement of the graduate student and postdoctoral pipeline to the setting of strategic goals for increasing the numbers of minority faculty at the Institute, as well as recommendations to improve the climate for everyone at MIT. In the interest of learning from past and ongoing efforts, the report highlights, throughout the recommendations section, several interesting models of success within MIT's own departments and schools and at other institutions , and these examples are further detailed in Section G and Appendix C. Finally, we address plans regarding implementation of the recommendations and a long-term plan for future assessment of MIT's progress with respect to faculty diversity and underrepresented minorities (Section F).

Several significant findings from the research report guided the recommendations. MIT has a strong tendency to recruit faculty from its own students and from a relatively narrow source of schools for its faculty. Even though most URM faculty who are successfully hired at MIT arrive through an active recruitment process, a wider search is clearly necessary. There is also an urgent need for MIT to begin building its pipeline for future URM faculty. Further, retention is challenged by a notably higher loss of minority faculty in the years before tenure. These results are complemented by the finding that the mentoring experiences of minority faculty are less positive than are those in the non-minority group, and there is a lack of consistency from unit to unit in how mentoring is handled.

Ultimately, and perhaps most importantly, the research indicates that the experiences of minority faculty at MIT differ in a number of ways from those of non-URM faculty. Senior URM faculty tend to be less satisfied with MIT than their non-URM counterparts, although the reverse is true for the junior faculty, in contrast to the general faculty population. Minority faculty indicate greater concerns about objectivity in tenure and promotion decisions, and in many cases express frustration with regard to isolation and climate.

There is a tension around what minority faculty perceive as the non-minority view that the inclusion of diverse groups decreases quality and level of excellence. These issues become difficult to address because of a general discomfort in openly discussing matters of race in the academic settings of MIT.

In general, we have proposed a systematic and strategic approach toward the tracking and recruitment of promising URM faculty candidates, with emphasis placed on the role of each department in broadening its active search for minority candidates, while avoiding more passive selection processes. Specific recommendations address the importance of working toward the goal of a more diverse faculty on departmental and School levels, and seeking to ensure accountability for efforts toward it. This report addresses both short term recruiting and long term pipeline issues, including the formation of targeted partnerships with other universities in different disciplinary fields to seek and nurture future academic talent. It also recommends search chair and departmental leadership training that includes background on hidden bias and other relevant factors. Most importantly, we put particular emphasis on the adoption of an Institute-wide mentoring policy that includes formal mentor assignments and a structured mentoring process in order to ensure early and systematic engagement of mentors who are trained to act as informed advocates.

We recommend addressing issues of climate with further and more open discussion about inclusion and excellence, and the role of race for faculty of color, using forums or working groups that seek innovative solutions to increasing URM numbers and enhancing the climate of inclusion. This approach fits the MIT culture of generating creative and collaborative means of addressing difficult problems. The engagement of faculty, including departmental and school leadership, is needed in order to bring distinguished scholars of color to campus as faculty, visitors, speakers, and on visiting committees and boards.

Several recommendations were informed by successful examples of on-going efforts within MIT's own departments and schools; for this reason, the recommendations provide the opportunity for MIT to learn from its best local successes by sharing information and, where appropriate, providing implementation across its units. It is the hope of this committee that the recommended actions will enable MIT to enhance its academic excellence through the diversity of its faculty.


L. Rafael Reif
Office of the Provost
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Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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