Report Urges New Measures to Enhance Faculty Diversity and Inclusion

Faculty study recommends new structures, partnership between faculty and administration, and an inclusive campus

After 14 months of study, a faculty report on diversity and inclusion recommends creating a new office to oversee faculty diversity and harassment issues.  It also emphasizes that both faculty and the administration are jointly responsible for diversity and inclusion at Duke. 

Toward this, the report calls for a partnership between faculty and administration for increased diversity in faculty searches and an inclusive climate for retention. It also calls for school diversity plans to set and realize diversity and inclusion goals and, if departments do not make progress on their plans, the loss of hiring lines.

The 53-page report, presented last week to the Academic Council, comes as the university's numbers in hiring African-Americans and women show uneven success. They also show women and Hispanics having lower faculty percentages at all levels compared to Duke’s peers - the top 20 ranked US Schools. Simultaneously, Duke's increasing global reach raises new challenges in supporting a variety of cultures across the university. 

Presented by Professors Nan Jokerst and Trina Jones, the report notes that Duke has made progress in several areas, but says percentages of African-American, Hispanic, and female faculty are low. Mentoring and retention programs should be improved, it says, to boost retention rates of underrepresented groups.

Such action is "not only important to increase demographic diversity, but also to develop a culture of inclusion," the report said. "Inclusion does not mean extending a hand of 'welcome' or 'hospitality' to women and underrepresented groups. … In an inclusive community, members of underrepresented groups are treated as essential members whose presence will transform and reshape the University’s core identity in positive ways." 

The recommendations now go to Provost Sally Kornbluth for consideration and follow-up. Kornbluth said she will continue the discussion over the summer with the Executive Committee of the Academic Council and other faculty and institutional leaders, adding that the recommendations will inform the university's developing strategic plan.

"There are some things in here that won't require resources but will make a difference that we can implement quickly," Kornbluth said. 

Some recommendations, however, would result in significant structural and budgetary changes. One recommends recasting the current office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Diversity and Development (currently a part-time position held by Dr. Nancy Allen) into a full office with a full-time faculty vice provost for diversity and inclusion and two directors and support staff. The directors would oversee diversity and inclusion issues, as well as harassment issues.

This would remove both responsibilities from Duke’s Office of Institutional Equity. The report said, "Faculty generally do not use OIE’s services" and would be more comfortable working on diversity and inclusion issues through a faculty-directed office. 

The report also supported current Council efforts to clarify the roles of the office of the faculty ombuds and to give that position more involvement in issues of diversity and harassment. It further recommends that schools and most departments have a standing committee to advance diversity and inclusion within the unit, particularly on faculty searches and to support faculty development.

Other recommendations include:

* A university-wide mission statement to highlight the values of diversity and inclusion. There is no university-wide statement on diversity, although these are common within the various schools and OIE.

* Diversity plans in every school, department and division to set goals for diversity and mitigating bias in faculty hiring and APT decisions. 

* Expanded training modules for faculty covering issues of implicit bias, harassment prevention and cultural awareness. A priority would be training faculty leaders and those serving as mentors or on search, APT and other key committees.

* Close collaboration between faculty search committees, a department's standing diversity committee and the new Office of Faculty Diversity and Inclusion to ensure diverse candidate pools. If a search committee cannot present a compelling justification for a lack of diverse candidates on its short list, the report recommends withholding approval of the list.

* Collection of additional data on issues of diversity and making the data public. The report particularly recommends confidential exit interviews with faculty members who are leaving Duke, which now occurs irregularly.

The report acknowledged and supported Duke's increasing global reach, which it said underscored the value of diversity and inclusion efforts. But it specifically stated "efforts to increase and retain underrepresented minority and female faculty remain essential" and proposed that "Duke extend this focus to include LGBTQ faculty." 

At the council meeting, Sanford School Professor Sandy Darity, who served on one of the report's eight subcommittees, said expanding the list of what constitutes diversity should not be a "substitute for race and gender." 

"There are some groups that are a higher priority," he said. Expanding the definition of diversity should not redirect attention from women, African-Americans, Hispanics and sexual identity, he said.

Faculty at the meeting also raised some concerns about the scope of the recommendations, particularly about the possibility of additional committees and training for faculty members. 

"Faculty are already feeling overburdened, over-surveyed, overtrained," said Dr. Harvey Cohen. "Every time I hear there's another training module for me, I get sick."

Jokerst, who will become chair of the Academic Council beginning July 1, said the panel specifically didn't propose making the new training mandatory. Instead, she said, it hopes to expand the pool of people doing university service rather than asking more of select faculty members.

In addition, Jones said Duke needs to investigate effective training modules. "We backed off mandatory training because we didn't have time to learn what is effective," Jones told the council. "Poorly conceived training or training with inadequate backup would not produce the sort of returns that we hope to see."