Faculty diversity a priority for students and administration
Nearly 200 years passed after Dartmouth’s founding in 1769 before associate professor of biology Hannah Croasdale became the first tenured female faculty member in 1964, more than three decades after being hired. That same year, biochemistry professor at the medical school E. Lucile Smith was promoted to full professor before receiving tenure two years later.
In the years that followed, the College doubled down on its plans to make Dartmouth more diverse in terms of both gender and race. An excerpt from the College’s Affirmative Action Plan stated that “for both moral and sound educational reasons, the objective of the College is to achieve a diverse, multiracial faculty of both sexes.”
Errol Hill, the first African-American faculty member to receive tenure, was instrumental in pushing for a more diverse faculty at the College, serving as the College’s first affirmative action chairman from 1973 to 1975, according to special collections education and outreach librarian Morgan Swan.
“He was an advisor to the Afro-American society,” Hill said. “He performed in, as well as directed and wrote, a lot of plays that were performed here on campus. I think especially for students of color here on campus in the ’70s, he was a really important role model and mentor.”
In 1975, tenured white males constituted 96.3 percent of the total number of tenured faculty members in the School of Arts and Sciences and the Thayer School of Engineering. Staggeringly, while 59.9 percent of white male faculty members were tenured, only 5.4 percent of white female faculty members were tenured — a lower figure than that of both minority male and female faculty members. By 1979, the first year that the figures for Arts and Sciences and Thayer were not combined, white males constituted 91.8 percent of the total number of tenured faculty.
Ten years after the approval of the College’s first affirmative action plan, the College renewed another 10-year plan. However, the College struggled to meet its goals during this time frame. In a 1986 letter to members of the faculty of Arts and Sciences, mathematics professor C. Dwight Lair recognized some of the inherent difficulties facing the College in its recruitment of women and minority faculty members, including other schools’ development of similar affirmative action programs and the College’s “location and notoriety with regard to diversity and openness.”
At the end of the 1986-87 school year, the College’s affirmative action annual report stated that 24.8 percent of the College’s faculty who are tenured or on the tenure-track of the Arts and Sciences were women, while 7.4 percent were minorities. Of the medical school’s faculty, 17.2 percent were women, while only 3.3 percent were minorities. At Tuck, 15.6 percent of the tenure-line faculty — faculty who are either tenured or tenure-track — were women, while 12.5 percent were minorities. Lastly, none of Thayer’s tenure-track faculty were women, and only 4.2 percent were minorities, a small enough number to account for a single professor.
According to the College’s 2015-16 annual report on faculty diversity and inclusivity, there was a total number of 403 tenure-line faculty members in the Arts and Sciences in November 2015. Of those 403 professors, only 36 percent were female. This marked a three percent decrease from 2010.
While female tenure-line faculty members only accounted for 36 percent of the total number of tenure-line faculty members in the Arts and Sciences, minority faculty members only accounted for half of that number. Of the 403 tenure-line faculty members, only 72 were minorities.
The Office of Institutional Research first began tracking the percentage of female and minority tenure-line faculty members in 2004. That year, 35 percent of all tenure-line faculty members were female, while only 13 percent were minorities. Compared to 2015, the data shows that the male-female composition of the faculty has stayed roughly the same, while the percentage of minorities has marginally increased.
This comes despite research showing that students prefer a more diverse faculty. Government professor John Carey, along with government professor Yusaku Horiuchi and research assistant Katie Clayton ’18, conducted a series of experiments over the course of a year at seven colleges — Dartmouth, the University of Nevada, the University of New Mexico, the University of California, San Diego, the United States Naval Academy, the University of North Carolina and the London School of Economics — and compiled them into a manuscript entitled “The Hidden Consensus on Campus Diversity.”
During the experiments, each student was presented with comparison tables of two professorial candidates, who both had around ten assigned traits. These traits included the candidate’s college education level, teaching quality, race and gender, among other things.
According to Carey, the study found that the most important factor that determined which candidates the students chose was their teaching quality. The second most important characteristic was the candidate’s research and scholarship record. However, the study also found that students were more likely to pick female candidates over male candidates and minority candidates over non-minority candidates.
“It’s always the case, if we think about the diversity-related elements, that if you change a candidate from being a man to a woman, other things equal, the likelihood of selection goes up,” Carey said. “If you change [the candidate] from white to black, or white to Latino, or white to Native American, or white to Asian, the likelihood of selection goes up. There’s a preference for diversity on both the gender and race [and] ethnicity grounds.”
Carey said that in analyzing the results of the experiment, he looked at certain subsets of the student population to see whether they were more likely to choose one faculty candidate member over the other. However, despite comparing multiple varying subsets, such as athletes versus non-athletes, whites versus minorities and men versus women, Carey found a lot more consensus than he was anticipating.
“For example, with respect to ‘how strong is your preference for Hispanic faculty candidates versus white [faculty candidates]?’, you might think that there would be a strong difference between Hispanic students and white students,” Carey said. “Sometimes there’s a mild difference, but it’s usually not even statistically distinguishable.”
Furthermore, Carey noted that despite the demographic differences between the schools that participated in the experiments — for instance, UCSD boasts a large Asian population, while New Mexico boasts a large Latino and Native American population — the results showed no more differences than “you would find by random chance.” Additionally, Carey added that the results of the experiment stayed consistent regardless of the participant’s year.
Carey stressed that in advertising the experiments or in the experiments themselves, the word “diversity” was never stated. He cited a survey that the College conducted a few years ago that asked students whether the College should work to diversify the faculty as an example of a study that he would “approach with a great degree of skepticism,” as the results would most likely be heavily biased.
“If you just do a regular survey asking people, for instance, should Dartmouth make an effort to increase faculty diversity, for one thing, people will generally say yes,” Carey said. “They might say yes because they genuinely really value that. They also might say yes because they think that you want them to say yes … It’s called social desirability bias.”
Over 50 years after Croasdale became the first female faculty member to receive tenure, interim provost David Kotz ’86 said that faculty diversity was still one of the most important issues facing the College today. He named several methods that the College was using to further diversify its faculty, which stemmed from the College’s Inclusive Excellence initiative.
According to Kotz, one of these methods was the creation of the position of assistant provost of faculty recruitment, whose job involves working with the search committees of different academic departments to help them further diversify their pools of candidates. After finalizing the candidates, the provost’s office also assists these search committees with finding ways to attract the candidates to the College, which can include a lab renovation or offering a job to the candidate’s spouse.
Another method that the College has recently employed to attract a higher number of female and minority applicants is the “postdoc to tenure system,” Kotz said. Funded in part by the Mellon Foundation, this grant has most commonly been offered “in fields where there’s a higher statistical likelihood of there being a diverse candidate population” and gives recent Ph.D. recipients the opportunity to work on a two-year postdoc before beginning a six-year tenure-track faculty position, Kotz added.
“There are different ways one would want to characterize diversity, and I would say, intellectually speaking, that we would want a campus faculty who are drawn from a wide range of backgrounds — some of which we track and measure, like race and ethnicity and some of which we do not, like political leanings,” Kotz said. “Having a diverse community helps for better learning and better scholarship.”