Columbia University this week 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.
The new resources will also improve the search, selection and recruitment process, and help to meet the work-life needs of faculty members - such as providing child-care services to retain faculty.
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. 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 investment also allows for continued expansion of university-sponsored events on diversity matters. In the coming academic year, the Presidential Advisory Committee on Diversity Initiatives will work closely with the provost and other departments to oversee the new investment, and work with the Office of Institutional Research to synchronize data collection for the Office of Equal Opportunity.
"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."