Report Finds Gains and Remaining Challenges in Faculty Diversity

African-Americans comprise a growing percentage of Duke’s faculty since 1999, with a net increase of 5 to 6 more African-American faculty expected in the next academic year, Provost Peter Lange told the Academic Council on Thursday. But the situation varies according to different schools and units, and areas of weakness remain, said Lange, who presented the biennial Faculty Diversity Report.

In 1993, Duke had 44 African-American faculty in its tenure and regular-rank tracks. That total rose to 129 in 2009 and continued rising before dipping to 138 in 2012, a total that still compared favorably to Duke's peer institutions in the Consortium on Financing Higher Education (COFHE), Lange said. (See graf below)

black faculty hiring

New hires accounted for much of the change. In the humanities, for example, African-American faculty rose from 8 percent of total faculty in 1999 to more than 10 percent currently, in large part because they represented nearly 15 percent of new hires.

However, Duke's 2003 Faculty Diversity Initiative has also focused on mentoring and support of all new hires, Lange said, a factor he cited as important in Duke's strong retention rate of African-American faculty. The 80 percent retention rate for regular rank black faculty in the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences from 1999 to 2012 is similar to that for non-black faculty.

"Strong mentoring of junior faculty is important for success," Lange said. "We appreciate the novel ways faculty incorporate mentoring strategies into their various roles at Duke."

A third area of progress has been in improving the "pipeline" for minority scholars, not just in attracting them to Ph.D. programs but also in helping African-American postdocs stay in academia at a time of reduced faculty hiring.  Lange cited the Provost's Postdoctoral Program, established in 2007, that funds two scholars for two years of study. Its graduates continue to be successful in finding faculty positions at peer institutions.

Lange also discussed challenges in some of the professional schools.  At both Nicholas and Fuqua, black faculty members constitute less than 1 percent of the faculty.

"We're in serious discussions with the deans of the schools," he said, noting that every school is required to file a hiring plan that shows how it reaches out to find African-American applicants for faculty positions.

Duke's strategic Faculty Diversity Initiative, which began in 2003, applied the lessons and some of the tactics of the earlier 10-year Black Faculty Strategic Initiative to also focus on women and other minorities. Here, too, the overall numbers show increases while some areas of weakness remain, Lange said.

In Arts and Sciences, women account for a higher percentage of the faculty in 2012 compared with 1999 in all three areas: the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Similarly the numbers have increased for distinguished professorships, with more women entering the senior levels of faculty leadership.

Progress has also been steady in most of the professional schools, except this year the report noted the number of women faculty at Fuqua has declined since 1999.

"To some degree they were not aware of this," Lange said, "which is one of the reasons why we have these reports. It is on their radar now and we're working with them."

One finding of the new report is that a small but increasing number of faculty at peer institutions are refusing to self-identify their race. Lange said Duke admissions officers are finding the same thing with student applicants. 

"This is an interesting finding.  The numbers right now are small but over time, I think we can count on our overall numbers becoming less reliable."

Below: Distinguished Professors by gender in the arts and sciences and in the professional schools.  The green dot represents the percentage of new female appointments since 1999.

distinguished professor chart