After hiatus, diversity council reforms

by Jisu Song | 11/13/14 7:55pm

A committee of College administrators tasked with promoting diversity met for the first time in two years early last week.

Established in 2001, then revived in 2011, the Diversity Council had planned to release an institution-wide diversity plan by December 2012. The council put the plan on hold following administrative changeover, vice president for institutional diversity and equity and council chair Evelynn Ellis said.

Now, Ellis said she is working with the provost and other senior administrators to draft a new plan, but she said there is no set date for its release. Recruiting and retaining minority faculty will be one focus of the upcoming plan, Ellis said.

At last week’s meeting, members discussed expectations for moving forward as a more active council.

Ellis has also met with Dever and vice provost for academic initiatives Denise Anthony to further discuss the council’s initiatives.

“What helps, in addition to having a leader in diversity, is having top leadership that believes very strongly in your diversity plan,” Ellis said.

Anthony said that in the future, the council aims to increase diversity across all of Dartmouth’s campus through its initiatives.

College President Phil Hanlon addressed recruitment and retention of underrepresented minority faculty at a faculty meeting last month, noting that the College has committed $1 million to this goal. In five years, the College aims to have minority and international professors comprise 25 percent of its faculty, Dever said at the October meeting.

Minority and international professors comprise 17.5 percent of Dartmouth’s arts and sciences faculty, a figure that has not shifted significantly in the past decade, having stood at 17.5 percent in 2003.

In June 2012, the Alumni Council formed an ad hoc committee on diversity and inclusion, following “concern that a series of high-profile departures of administrators and faculty of color perhaps indicated an underlying challenge faced by Dartmouth in hiring and retaining faculty and staff of color and other historically underrepresented groups,” according to a report it published in October 2013.

S. Caroline Kerr ’05, who co-chaired the committee, said Dever has reviewed the 2013 report, noting that she has “complete confidence that [Dever] gets this issue and realizes it’s critical to address for Dartmouth.”

Chris O’Connell ’13, former inter-community council co-chair and assistant director of admissions, said increasing the number of minority professors would do more than boost diversity for its own sake.

Finding a faculty mentor who shares a part of their identity could benefit students by providing them with a support network, O’Connell said.

Physics and astronomy professor Stephon Alexander said that while discourse about ideas and drafting the plan are important, it is crucial that these ideas are put into action. Alexander directs the E. E. Just Program, which supports minority students in STEM fields. He noted that while diversity at Dartmouth right now is not where it could be, he is optimistic that Hanlon and Dever will begin to tackle the issue.

Thayer Engineering School Dean Joseph Helble, who sits on the Diversity Council, said the committee provides structure for discussions surrounding Dartmouth’s diversity needs.

“If we don’t have a council like this, we’re relying on those conversations to happen randomly, and that doesn’t help us get to where we need to be,” Helble said.

Anthony said that the council will provide an important source of accountability, noting the administrators’ commitment to the issue.

She said several offices are working to tackle these issues, including the athletic department and the Dean of the College’s office, but said the council will provide focus on an institutional level.

 

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