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The Dartmouth
March 4, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Ruiz: Promote Equity and Diversity by Addressing Tenure Decisions at Dartmouth

Dartmouth must catch up to their peers in their tenure-related DEI efforts.

The Dartmouth Association of Latino Alumni is committed to fostering a culture of inclusivity and equity within Dartmouth College. We recognize the need for faculty that reflects the richness and diversity of Dartmouth’s student body. Recent concerns regarding tenure decisions, including the denial of tenure to beloved Professor Patricia (tish) Lopez, underscore the existence of a significant inclusivity gap that must be addressed. Professor Lopez is widely  respected as a teacher and talented academic, whose departure we see as an extremely regrettable loss for Dartmouth — especially for the Latino community. 

As alumni, we recognize the importance of an academic environment that encompasses a wide  variety of perspectives and experiences. It is crucial for Dartmouth to prioritize initiatives aimed  at increasing the number of tenure positions held by women and faculty of color. This can be  achieved through an equitable and transparent tenure evaluation process that ensures fair  consideration and opportunities for advancement. 

We can look at the tenure reform efforts undertaken by other Ivy League universities as examples. Harvard University, for instance, announced a set of reforms in 2018 that focused on increasing faculty diversity and addressing issues in the tenure process. Their initiatives included the establishment of a faculty development and diversity fund and a more flexible approach to evaluating non-traditional scholarship and interdisciplinary work. 

Similarly, Princeton University launched the FOCUS on Diversity and Inclusion initiative in 2019, which aimed to increase faculty diversity and foster an inclusive academic community. As part of the effort, Princeton developed new guidelines for evaluating faculty scholarship that emphasized the importance of care work and student interaction, as well as diverse perspectives and experiences. 

Yale University has also made significant strides in promoting diversity in faculty tenure  decisions. Through their Diversity, Equity and Faculty Development Initiative, Yale provides  dedicated funding resources and support for the recruitment, retention and professional  development of diverse faculty members. The university has expanded the tenure clock to  accommodate caregiving responsibilities and personal circumstances, demonstrating a  commitment to inclusivity for both women and men who are parenting or caring for a family  member. 

Columbia University has implemented reforms to promote equity in the tenure process. The  university established the Office of Faculty Diversity and Inclusion, which supports the  recruitment and retention of underrepresented faculty members. Columbia also provides  unconscious bias training for tenure committees and revised tenure guidelines to ensure that  non-traditional forms of scholarship and interdisciplinary work receive fair consideration.

We should emphasize that we highly value the concept of tenure, which provides job security  and academic freedom, but tenure may also perpetuate disparities in faculty diversity due to  historical gaps and restrictions on budgeting, funding, support and evaluation metrics. We also value the “Teacher-Scholar model,” which places significant emphasis on both education and research as key criteria for tenure decisions. And we do realize that Dartmouth has made strides in diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, including the development of a strategic plan with accountability milestones and the creation of additional faculty track lines. Even so, we still have a ways to go before the strategic objectives outlined are achieved — for example, in the three-year diversity and inclusion plan Toward Equity, which was launched by the Office of Institutional Diversity &  Equity in 2022. .  

We believe that Dartmouth should examine the best practices of other institutions and make a  firm commitment to recruit and retain a diverse cohort of tenured faculty. This can be achieved by prioritizing budgets toward this area of spending. Opening more faculty track lines would achieve this objective by potentially increasing the total number of tenure faculty to 900. We consider this to be essential if Dartmouth wishes to continue being both the small, intimate college we all love and the leading research university we wish it to be. For instance, if $100 million per year of the $3.6 billion Call to Lead Campaign was dedicated to this important investment, we believe this objective would be met. Retaining world class experienced faculty from the diverse tapestry of communities represented at Dartmouth would be a win-win scenario. 

Additionally, the College should allocate adequate funding and support to bridge continuing gaps in resources for students, to reduce stressors such as staff shortages, work-study, insufficient student financial aid and to provide for dedicated resources in counseling, well being and mental health.  

Dartmouth should ensure that the burden of care work, mentoring and counseling does not fall  disproportionately on younger faculty of color. Mentoring, counseling and support should be  rated highly in evaluation metrics and advancement decision criteria, as part of a merit-based  system that includes fair distribution of resources across departments. By investing in these  areas, Dartmouth can empower all faculty to fully engage in their academic and research pursuits while offering comprehensive support to students. This holistic approach will contribute to an enriching educational environment that benefits all members of the Dartmouth community. With the right strategic intent and the right level of resources, Dartmouth can outcompete any other elite institution in the recruitment and retention of talented faculty. 

We approach these concerns with a conciliatory spirit, emphasizing the shared goal of  strengthening Dartmouth’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion. By recognizing the  need for a diverse faculty and taking proactive measures to bridge the existing gaps, Dartmouth can create an environment that is truly reflective of its student body. It is through collaboration and open dialogue that we can collectively work towards positive change. 

Kially Ruiz ’98 is the President of the Dartmouth Association of Latino Alumni. Opinion articles represent the views of their author(s), which are not necessarily those of The Dartmouth.

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