Vice provost aims for faculty diversity

by Noah Goldstein | 2/11/15 8:03pm

Vice provost for academic initiatives Denise Anthony, who assumed the position last October, has been entrusted to help retain and recruit a diverse faculty at the College. Anthony’s new position was publicized during College President Phil Hanlon’s “Moving Dartmouth Forward” speech late last month, in which he also said the College has committed $1 million per year to further this diversity initiative.

Anthony, the former chair of the sociology department, has a four-year appointment as vice provost for academic initiatives, and said that faculty diversity is important for students’ education.

“To the extent that we are an educational institution and really training the next generation of thinkers and leaders, it is also necessary to have a diverse faculty to be training those leaders to recognize the value of diversity,” Anthony said.

Her goal, she said, is to increase recruitment and retention for underrepresented groups such as African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asian Americans in a variety of fields and women in science. Any time a department does a faculty search, that department works with the dean to create a search committee. The $1 million in annual funds will go in part toward increasing resources for department search committees, such as websites and literature on unconscious bias that search committees can utilize before they commence a search, she said. These resources will be available to any department.

Success for the program would mean an increase in the number of underrepresented faculty and in their retention, along with the full engagement of those faculty members.

Anthony said that she has been receiving suggestions and feedback from a variety of faculty members.

The College has been looking at other universities for inspiration, although Anthony declined to name any specific institutions.

Prior to her appointment, Anthony headed the faculty advisor committee for the College’s strategic planning process and served as research director for Dartmouth’s Institute for Security, Technology and Society, a College-affiliated group that pursues research in information privacy and security.

Anthony said she meets with faculty and staff from the Geisel School of Medicine and the Thayer School of Engineering daily to talk about diversity on a student and staff level.

Chair of the African and African American studies program and English professor Gretchen Gerzina, who has been teaching at the College for 10 years, said that she thinks faculty of color leave Dartmouth for a variety of reasons — the relative isolation of campus, the inability for the partners of some professors to secure a job in the area and the draw of bigger institutions who might have attributes, such as a multitude of graduate students, that the College cannot offer.

“If Dartmouth wants to keep somebody, they have the means to do it,” Gerzina said. “The question is if the reasons people are leaving are personal reasons that Dartmouth can’t address.”

Dartmouth’s faculty across all schools is 84 percent white and 61 percent male, according to the Fall 2013 College Fact Book, the most recent year available. The Geisel School of Medicine’s faculty is 89 percent white, while the faculties at the Thayer School of Engineering and Tuck School of Business are 82 and 75 percent male, respectively, according to the Fact Book.

Gerzina said that having a diverse faculty helps expose students to other important viewpoints.

“We live in a big world,” she said.“We are expected to go into that world and make changes, and if we can’t represent some [part of] that world here and get a diversity of views and representations then students aren’t very well prepared to face the global-wide community.”

Assistant professor of physics and astronomy Chandrasekhar Ramanathan said that acknowledging the issue is the first step in addressing the problem.

Ramanathan said that, for him, the College environment is comfortable, but added that the lack of diversity makes it harder to form connections with a broader community. A large part of encouraging the recruitment and retention of minority faculty is providing a comfortable environment on a work, living and community level, Ramanathan said.

Between 2006 and 2013, Yale University had a faculty diversity initiative, which focused on increasing the number of underrepresented minority faculty members and women in science. The initiative set the hiring goal of 30 minority and 30 female professors from 2006 until June 2013. As of February 2013, the University was able to retain 22 minority and 18 female faculty members, one year after the university hired 56 minority and 30 female faculty members.

Anthony’s academic initiatives also include international objectives, such as global programs and research activities.