DeGioia’s Diversity Call Unresolved
Diversity still lacking in faculty
Published: Friday, September 27, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 27, 2013 13:09
Four years after University President John J. DeGioia’s Initiative on Diversity and Inclusiveness was launched, Georgetown continues to pursue a diverse pool of faculty members — a goal of the 2009 effort that has not been fully realized.
The degree to which they have fallen short of that target, however, is unclear.
Newly installed Vice Provost for Faculty Adriana Kugler said statistics on the racial makeup of Georgetown’s faculty are not publicly available, although The Hoya and other campus media have reported on the issue in the past.
In 2011, the percentage of minority faculty members increased from 12 to 14 percent, The Hoya reported in September of that year. Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity Rosemary Kilkenny told The Hoya at the time that two black professors, eight Asian professors and one Latina professor had been hired on the main campus in the first six months of 2011.
Kugler, a Colombian-American, said the faculty recruitment process can be ambiguous.
“It’s not obvious to everyone that [the process] is pretty involved and complicated,” she said. “The departments are requesting to review a vacancy and then the university as a whole decides the university’s needs and then the departments take control back, but still working jointly with [the university].”
Department hiring committees consist of three to five representatives from their respective departments and schools.
“Already at this stage we are working with the departments and schools at making sure that we get the very best people in these hiring committees,” Kugler said. “They are the faces of Georgetown out there to the media, and we want somebody to represent us broadly — diversity reflecting diversity.”
Professor James Sandefur, mathematics and statistics department chair, said that there was a fine line between imposing a quota on a department and the active recruitment of faculty within his department.
“I think that you actively recruit, but you try to make sure it’s somebody that you really want,” Sandefur said. “So if we have a choice between a minority or a white male and they were equal in all respects, we might lean toward the minority faculty for the diversity issue.”
For the past few recruitment seasons, departments have submitted recruitment plans accounting for diversity to the Office of the Provost. Professor YuYe Tong, chair of the chemistry department, remembers participating in a few preliminary committee discussions about increasing diversity but said that the conversations failed to yield any follow up or incentives. Racial diversity within the chemistry department, he said, has increased naturally as they hire the best candidates available rather than as a motivated effort to improve statistics or quotas.
“We hire our top candidates. If it happens to be a minority, that’s good. If there were two candidates who were otherwise equal we might put a preference on the minority,” Tong said. “We’re conscious of diversity when we’re looking at the pool of candidates and debating, but we would never move them up because of it.”
Since 1999, the chemistry department has conducted 13 tenure-line faculty searches and hired four long-term, non-tenure-line faculty members. Among these hires, he said nine were minorities.
“Chemistry is independent of culture. Everyone writes the same reaction equations and deals with the same material,” Tong said. “However, [diversity] brings a more culturally rich environment. It’s always a good thing to have a diversified faculty group for the department and the students to have the benefit of multiple perspectives.”
Psychology Department Chair Professor James Lamiell said that his department has engaged in recruitment of more minority faculty.
“We do actively recruit in these ads in places where we think that they would get the attention of minorities,” Lamiell said.
Linguistics professor Deborah Tannen, who wrote an article on counteracting first impressions, applied that research to the Georgetown’s interview process.
“You have to actively recruit and also step back and second guess your own first impressions,” Tannen said.
While Tannen, Sandefur, Lamiell and Kugler agreed that increased efforts are needed for minority recruitment, Lamiell described the faculty demographic today as promising.
“I’m in my 32nd year at the university, and the picture is much better and healthier than it was three years ago. Progress is being made,” Lamiell said. “Are we where we need to be or where we want to be? No. But obviously the effort is there.”
Sandefur agreed and recalled the homogeneity of the math department faculty when he arrived at Georgetown in the mid 1970s.
“I came here in ’74, and it was essentially all white males at that point,” he said. “Embarrassingly, we were the last department to hire a female, which happened several years ago.”
The mathematics department currently has 17 tenure-line or renewable contract faculty, five females, three black faculty members, two of whom are female, one Hispanic faculty member and an Iranian faculty member. Sandefur also mentioned that the department has many international faculty members, from China to Africa to the Middle East.
However, both Lamiell and Sandefur noted the absence of racial and other minority diversity within their respective departments.