The University of Pennsylvania’s Major Effort to Boost Faculty Diversity

upennThe University of Pennsylvania has issued a comprehensive report detailing its effort to increase the racial diversity of its faculty. In 2011 President Amy Gutmann and the university’s provost announced that Penn would dedicate $50 million over the ensuring five years to increase the diverse of its faculty. The effort included emphasis not only on recruiting minority faculty but on retaining minority faculty members already employed by the university.

The results have shown slow but steady progress. Since the year 2000, the percentage of all faculty at Penn who were racial or ethnic minorities increased from 12.8 percent to 20.5 percent. President Gutmann stated, “I’m pleased that the trends are headed in the right direction, but we still have more work to do. I’d like to be progressing even more quickly.”

A majority of the minority faculty members are Asian. According to the new data released by the university, in 2012 Black/African American faculty were 3.2 percent of the 2,537 standing faculty at Penn, up only slightly from three years earlier. Blacks were 4.3 percent of the assistant professors, 3.6 percent of the associate professors and 2.3 percent of the full professors. There were significant percentages of Black faculty in the schools of education, nursing, and social policy and practice. There were no Black full professors in the schools of dental medicine or engineering. There were no Blacks whatsoever on the 117-member faculty of the School of Veterinary Medicine.

The University of Pennsylvania has been extremely active in efforts to improve the racial diversity of its faculty. Here are just some of the steps the university has initiated:

  • The Faculty Opportunity Fund provides a financial subsidy to schools for the hiring and retention of faculty members who can contribute to the diversity and excellence of Penn.
  • All 12 schools at the university have developed diversity plans and have appointed diversity search advisers.
  • The provost’s office has provided direct financial support to academic departments that seek to advertise their job openings in minority serving publications.
  • A predoctoral fellowship program has been established to attract minority scholars to Penn a the university has continued with a postdoctoral fellowship program for the same purpose.
  • The provost’s office offers workshops on effective faculty searches to search committee members and other faculty members.
  • A Diversity at Penn website was established.

The University of Pennsylvania’s major effort to boost faculty diversity, and its slow progress in achieving that goal, demonstrates the significant difficulty facing higher educational institutions in achieving greater diversity ontheir faculties. It seems evident that colleges and universities must take a proactive stance to achieve any degree of success.

Faculty diversity doesn’t just happen. Colleges and universities must work to make it happen. The University of Pennsylvania report offers a wealth of information that other educational institutions can use as a blueprint to begin or bolster their own faculty diversity efforts.

Readers can download the full report by clicking here.


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