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Faculty to Begin Conversation on Diversity

Council meeting begins effort to develop a new policy to guide Duke for next decade

Duke faculty leaders are starting a conversation they expect will lead to a new diversity policy to guide the university for the next decade as its international presence grows

The Academic Council will devote most of its Jan. 16 meeting to a discussion that council chair Joshua Socolar said will be "a first step in articulating a renewed vision of diversity and inclusiveness consistent with Duke's stated mission 'to promote a deep appreciation for the range of human difference and potential.'"

A convergence of several factors makes the discussion timely and necessary, Socolar said:

  • The 2003 Faculty Diversity Initiative (FDI), which applied lessons learned from the earlier Black Faculty Initiative to a wider range of underrepresented groups, is coming to an end after 10 years;
  • The extended commemoration last year of the arrival of the first African-American undergraduates at Duke 50 years ago naturally leads us to consider what might come next;
  • Duke's globalization efforts in China, Africa, Brazil and elsewhere are affecting how the university defines and approaches diversity;
  • A new provost will replace Peter Lange at the end of the academic year and likely will be interested in updating Duke's academic diversity policies. 

"These all contribute to a sense that this is the right time for faculty to consider the topic of diversity at Duke," Socolar said.  "It's not just about numbers of under-represented minorities in the faculty ranks, although that remains an important issue. The discussion should also be about the campus culture experienced by all students, faculty, and staff. It should be about what diversity means here in Durham and for our programs around the world, and about what Duke will look like 10 years from now if we continue to make real progress in carrying out this part of our  mission."

Four faculty members will make short opening remarks to start the conversation: Karla FC Holloway, James B. Duke Professor of English; Bill Boulding, Fuqua School dean; Jennifer West, Fitzpatrick Family University Professor of Engineering; and Kerry Haynie, associate professor of political science and African and African-American Studies.

This past March, the provost's latest report on faculty diversity showed Duke compares favorably with peer institutions in black faculty hiring but indicated significant areas of weakness. The report also looked at other measures of diversity and the effectiveness of retention and mentoring practices.

Socolar said this week's meeting will begin the effort toward "articulating a broad vision for diversity at Duke that can guide strategic efforts in the coming decade." Exactly how the conversation will be carried forward has not yet been determined, but Socolar said he expects it will involve collaboration between faculty and the Provost's office and that opinions will be sought from staff and students as well.

The public council meeting will be held at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the Divinity School's 0012 Westbrook Building. The full agenda is here.