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- Notes from LSA Leadership
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In many ways, the challenge of diversity in higher education is the defining challenge facing this generation of faculty. How we answer this call will have huge implications for the future of our society for many years to come. In May 2015, Dean Andrew Martin charged a task force comprised of three faculty members from each division and chaired by LSA Associate Dean Elizabeth Cole to examine challenges to the goal of recruiting and retaining a diverse faculty, and to generate effective and innovative policies aimed at advancing this goal. The members of the task force are distinguished academic leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to diversifying our institution.
Dean Martin’s charge noted LSA and U-M’s longstanding commitments to faculty diversity, citing U-M’s responsibility as a public institution to serve all of humanity, and the centrality of diversity to excellence and the pursuit of knowledge. Yet despite these commitments, we seem to be losing ground in this area and are seemingly at a crossroads. Dean Martin acknowledged the difficulty of this challenge, the significant national trends that pose headwinds to our success, and the fact that many faculty members have already invested years of thoughtful effort to this work, even as it seems that over time we are falling behind. But he noted as well his confidence in our ability to meet the demands of the current moment, invoking President Schlissel’s comments at the Diversity Leaders’ Breakfast in February 2015: “The Michigan community will take on the biggest problems facing our society and bring to bear the best minds, the most-talented faculty, staff, and students, and produce the path-breaking innovations that create lasting change.” Dean Martin expressed his commitment to take decisive and timely action to reverse these trends and his willingness to invest significant resources to advance LSA’s progress on the roadmap the task force would design.
The task force met twice each month throughout the fall 2016 term, including presentations from Associate General Counsel Maya Kobersy concerning Proposal 2 and Professor Abigail Stewart, the director of ADVANCE, who provided data on the composition of the faculty over time to reveal where the College may be falling short (e.g., not hiring enough faculty, not supporting or promoting our existing faculty, and not retaining faculty). Professor James Penner-Hahn, LSA’s associate dean for budget and planning, consulted on extant practices across the College and budgetary implications.
Members of the task force conducted several outreach activities to engage the faculty in these questions. They met with department chairs and program directors in October 2015 to discuss their experiences with recruitment and retention of faculty whose scholarship and teaching advances diversity. In January 2016, task force members conducted two full days of open meetings with faculty interested in LSA’s approach to fostering and maintaining faculty diversity. The purpose of these meetings was to invite their ideas about practices to improve recruitment, climate and retention, and career advising for faculty representing diverse backgrounds. These meetings were organized to focus on issues concerning different constituencies (e.g., issues relating to Latino/Latina faculty, or issues relating to Muslim American faculty, etc.), but all LSA faculty members were welcome to attend any of the meetings. The task force also distributed a survey to all LSA faculty, which included the same questions that were posed at the meetings. The purpose of the survey was to solicit ideas from faculty who were either unable to attend the open meetings, or who had ideas they had not shared in the meetings.
Several key insights emerged during these meetings and engagement sessions. The first pertains to general patterns of faculty diversity. Task force members examined faculty composition by race/ethnicity and gender between AY1979 and AY2014. These data suggested a moderate increase in gender diversity among LSA faculty over the 36-year period, but at a fairly slow rate. Moreover, these improvements in equity appear to have leveled off. The improvement could be due to increasing diversity in the pipelines to these disciplines. We noted inflection points in the trend toward increasing gender diversity in both the early 1990s and early 2000s (particularly in the natural sciences). In contrast, the proportion of faculty of color in LSA (of either gender) was low and relatively stable over this same period. ADVANCE also provided the task force with information about how the faculty composition at LSA compares to other R1 institutions. The proportion of faculty representing women and URM groups at LSA is comparable to peer institutions in the humanities and natural sciences, although LSA social sciences are slightly more diverse, on average, than peers. Given U-M’s longstanding commitments to the issue of diversity in higher education, many task force members were surprised to learn that we do not have a better record in this area.
The second key insight from the data concerned climate and job satisfaction. We learned that female faculty reported more experiences with bias and exclusion in their departments compared to their male colleagues. The same was true of URM faculty compared to those from majority racial and ethnic groups. In contrast, male faculty reported feeling they had more influence and voice than their female peers, and this pattern was repeated for majority racial and ethnic group members compared to URM faculty. This is critically important to retention, because these variables are associated with intention to leave the University. Discussion of these data, considered together with the conversations we had with chairs and directors, led the task force to believe that any effort to increase faculty diversity must include concerted, strategic efforts to improve climate in the departments. This impression was underscored by the conversations in the open faculty meetings. We noted as well that unlike some barriers to increasing the proportion of faculty who contribute to the mission of diversity in teaching and scholarship (such as lack of diversity in the pipeline to the professoriate), climate is largely under local control.
Finally, our conversations with community members during the engagement section of our process indicated that a third obstacle to achieving diversity on our faculty is the availability of skilled, sustained, and appropriate mentoring/career advising of junior faculty to tenure (and, perhaps less obviously, associate professors to full). We noted that making high-quality career advising available to all LSA faculty fulfills several goals: 1) it creates an equitable system where everyone has the best chance of success; 2) it may have the most benefit to faculty from groups that have been historically under-represented; and 3) it supports excellence among our faculty.
The task force identified three pillars of faculty diversity that support LSA’s efforts to increase the proportion of our faculty who contribute to diversity teaching and scholarship: Climate and Retention; Mentoring/Career Advising; and Recruitment. In February 2016, the task force held three intensive planning sessions dedicated to these three pillars. Specific recommendations related to each pillar appear below, followed by a timeline for action. These recommendations will be submitted to the LSA Executive Committee for review; the EC will share feedback and vote on recommendations pertaining to position allocations.
Climate and Retention
Revise criteria for faculty evaluation to recognize significant contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the areas of research, teaching, and service.
In the open faculty meetings, we heard that faculty feel their work in support of DEI is unrecognized, uncompensated, and sometimes misunderstood. In the area of research, they described disciplinary hierarchies that valued certain kinds of research (e.g., theoretical, universal) over others (e.g., applied, particular, or region- or culture-specific). Often these hierarchies replicated histories of privilege and inequality. In their teaching, they discussed perceptions by students that instructors teaching DEI-related material had less credibility or expertise about their subject matter. In the area of service, they described a thick extra layer of informal and often invisible work, including responding to urgent concerns of individual students and student organizations, taking on advising roles for struggling graduate students, or playing the role of advocate on graduate admissions committees. Many said that the failure by their departments and the College to recognize and value this work was a barrier to their professional advancement and personal well-being.
The task force acknowledges that U-M and LSA have long benefitted from labor in support of DEI. Moreover, the success of the current Diversity Strategic Planning effort depends on continuing and expanding the scope of this work. If we don’t change our processes, there can be no hope of changing our results. Our goals are simply not attainable under the current practices.
To implement this change, it will be necessary to develop criteria for excellence in DEI in the areas of research, teaching, and service. We call for recognition of a new kind of merit in order to track it and reward it. This will necessitate changes in other aspects of review during every stage of the faculty life cycle, including searches, annual reports, career advising, and decisions about responding to outside offers.
To signal our commitment to DEI, criteria for the highest awards made by the College (e.g., collegiate chairs) should include an expectation of significant contribution in this area. Further, we propose that the College establish a new category of named chair (akin to the Thurnau) for outstanding contributions in DEI—not only service, but also teaching and research.
Encourage departments to create committees and service assignments for DEI work.
Faculty in the open meetings reported that much of the work they do related to DEI is done on an ad hoc, volunteer basis, and is therefore unrecognized, uncompensated labor. At a minimum, departments should delegate this work through committees or other forms of service assignment (e.g., the Rackham Diversity Allies), both so that the work can be accounted in merit reviews, and so it can be considered when chairs assign the balance of other service roles in their departments. Additionally, the College should mandate that service related to DEI be considered for eligibility for raises from the C-Fund.
Provide information for faculty on how to select items and understand responses on student teaching evaluations. Educate students about how teaching evaluations are used.
Faculty from underrepresented and otherwise stigmatized groups report negative experiences with student teaching evaluations, including hostile responses to open-ended questions. These responses can render the evaluations primarily a source of stress and pain rather than an opportunity to gain useful information to improve their teaching. We recommend that faculty be provided with research-based information about how to select items for the evaluations, and how student evaluations can be affected by course content and the social identities of the instructor. We also note that in the absence of any orientation to the significance of teaching evaluations, students use norms for communicating feedback that are typical in consumer reviews and social media. We recommend that student training in this area could raise the level of civility in the open responses.
Track and evaluate the process through which retention offers are made.
The task force noted that chairs and directors play a crucial role in negotiating retention offers when faculty members receive outside offers. Greater transparency, standardization, and record keeping of these negotiations would help the College ensure that these offers are made equitably and in a timely manner. We suggest implementing a Retention Summary checklist for chairs, analogous to the Third Year Review checklist. Like the Third Year Review, this tool would provide accountability and standardization of the process. It would also clearly convey to departmental chairs the specific steps they are expected to take to retain their faculty. Members of the task force noted that the academic job market is marked by bias and inequity, and to the extent LSA salaries are significantly market-driven, our salary structures are likely to replicate those patterns. If retention offers are not made equitably, this bias can be amplified. Therefore we recommend that data from the Retention Summaries be systematically reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that counter-offers are being made consistently and equitably.
Require training on DEI for all members of the College community.
Develop and mandate standard training modules on race, gender, sexuality, etc., and climate for all faculty, staff, and students. (One example is the recent disability-related training many faculty were required to take). More effective and extensive DEI training for department chairs is expressly requested by many faculty. Develop a forum for leaders in the College (including not only chairs and directors, but other faculty departmental officers as well) to share best practices in promoting DEI at the unit level.
We call on public schools, police departments, and hospitals in the Ann Arbor area to improve their capacity to deliver responsive, respectful, and appropriate services to members of URM groups.
This problem must be approached through partnerships between the University’s administration and the community. As the largest school in the University, LSA can be a key collaborator in these efforts. It is important for faculty to know that when they encounter disrespect, disregard, or violence in the community outside the University, they are supported by the administration and to know how to access help when they are in difficulty. We ask the University to provide visible, clear, and detailed explanations of what resources exist.
Support faculty in building community networks.
Many faculty expressed appreciation for the opportunity provided by the open faculty meetings to collectively discuss challenges facing their groups, and some expressed desire for more of these opportunities. We suggest the College should provide logistical and financial support for self-organizing groups on campus (e.g., Asian and Asian American Professors, LGBTQ faculty, etc.). In order to qualify for support, groups would need to be open to all interested faculty (including group members and their allies), and to demonstrate that their objectives are aligned with DEI priorities. By supporting varied DEI groups, the College will help to alleviate the impression held by some U-M faculty that “diversity” only refers to certain groups and that other communities are invisible in the debate. There should be open lines of communication between these groups and the Dean’s Office to address issues of specific concerns to those communities (e.g. access for faculty with disabilities, the “hidden curriculum” for first-generation academics, etc.). These community groups may also be enlisted to meet with candidates for faculty positions to share information about the community. For example, leaders in the Women of Color in the Academy Project (WOCAP) recently reached out to the Dean’s Office, as well as some individual departments, to offer this service. We can also imagine newer groups, such as Indigo, playing a similar role.
Faculty Mentoring and Career Advising
Conduct a review of mentoring plans in every LSA department and assess how the plans are implemented.
The task force notes a lack of consistency and accountability about career advising. If certain groups of faculty systematically receive less effective or attentive career advising, it poses a hidden source of inequality. Each LSA department is required to have a mentoring plan; however, these plans have not been recently reviewed, nor has their implementation ever been assessed. This review should evaluate plans against a set of predefined guidelines or best practices, with particular attention to the unambiguous separation of the functions of mentoring and evaluation. This is necessary to ensure that mentoring is experienced as helpful and supportive rather than a form of surveillance. There must also be attention to career advising post-tenure. As part of this effort, we suggest a review of the associate professor support fund to ensure that it is reaching the faculty it was intended to reach.
Offer the LAUNCH Program to all new LSA faculty.
LAUNCH committees provide support and guidance to new junior faculty as they begin their careers at Michigan. Committees meet with the new faculty member from the time of hire until the end of the first year. They have been very well received in the natural science division of LSA, and next year we will pilot them in selected departments in the social sciences and humanities. In addition to the benefit to new assistant professors, the structure of the LAUNCH program also serves to train mentors in the range of specific topics that career advising ought to include, thereby growing capacity for effective mentoring. Although the LAUNCH program is not specifically a DEI initiative, the task force believes that increasing the quality of mentoring for junior faculty across the board will present the most benefit to groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education. Providing a high level of career advising to all our faculty is an important issue of equity. Implementation of the LAUNCH Program ought to include some consideration of how the strengths of the program can be extended beyond the first year. It may be particularly important to create opportunities for faculty from underrepresented groups to have ongoing access to a mentor or coach from outside their department.
Provide training and support for faculty who mentor.
In order to raise the quality of mentoring for LSA faculty and ensure that all junior faculty have access to high quality, standardized career advising, it will be necessary to train faculty as mentors. Mentoring entails a set of skills that is not taught as part of doctoral training. The College should provide basic and refresher trainings on how to mentor faculty. Some existing resources for training are the Career Advising booklet developed by ADVANCE, ADVANCE’s LIFT workshop for newly tenured faculty, and a sketch offered by the CRLT Players. Relatedly, faculty in Rackham’s MORE Program have generated a body of relevant peer-reviewed research on mentoring doctoral students, which may be useful in developing this training. Resources from these programs may be adapted and more broadly deployed. Finally, we remind department chairs that mentoring is a formal service assignment and should be distributed equitably among senior faculty with attention to the overall service load for each individual.
Emphasize and support the role of chairs and directors in mentoring and career advising.
The task force recognizes that chairs and directors are at the front line of oversight for mentoring. It is not possible for chairs to also serve as mentors, as these roles have some inherent conflicts. For example, at times mentors must communicate and advocate for the needs of junior faculty with the chair. However, chairs carry out the mentoring plans and can set the tone for the expectation of high-quality mentoring in the units. The College must convey the importance of this role in chair and director training, in the interactions of chairs with associate deans, and in the guidelines for the annual review process.
Establish departmental diversity recruitment plans.
Within a reasonable timeframe, all departments should conduct a self study and develop a diversity recruitment plan that addresses conditions and goals specific to each unit. Departments should develop these plans through a process of participatory discussion. Plans should include a review of historical data about pool composition and how it compares to candidates who were interviewed, invited for campus visits, and made offers. Where these trends suggest the department may be falling short, there should be thoughtful reflection about the reasons why. Plans should discuss practices and strategies that will be implemented to cultivate diversity in the applicant pool and to ensure the search process is as free as possible of explicit and implicit bias. They should also seek to identify areas of scholarship and research that promote intellectual diversity and contribute to the production of innovative and even transformative knowledge. These plans would be submitted to the College for review and approval (including legal review) and reviewed for progress at regular intervals (perhaps as part of the strategic budget meetings). Although the goals and action items may be different for each unit, all units are expected to make progress over time. Any request for authorization of faculty searches would be required to refer to this diversity recruitment plan. Each search should become an occasion for the entire hiring unit to engage in a discussion of diversity needs and objectives. As part of this process, the College would provide some guidance, including legal resources, template questions to guide the structure of the plans, and suggestions for best practices. It is important that all the plans are in compliance with state and federal law.
Given the mandate for DEI from President Schlissel, the commitment of the College to these goals, and the evidence that we have not maintained our historical strength in this area, the task force recommends that three-quarters of the College’s faculty lines should be allocated to departments who can make a strong case for how the position will advance their DEI goals.
Create new fellowship opportunities to bring junior scholars committed to diversity to campus.
The task force discussed several extant models for postdoctoral fellowship programs on campus, including the President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship, the Michigan Society of Fellows, and the Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Psychology. Although each of these models has strengths, these programs are small, some are defined narrowly, and there is unevenness in the extent to which they have been successful in increasing the number of faculty on campus who have demonstrated a commitment to DEI goals in teaching, scholarship, and service to U-M.
The task force recommended initiating an LSA version of the President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship designed to recruit outstanding candidates whose, “research, teaching, and service will contribute to diversity and equal opportunity in higher education. The program is particularly aimed at scholars with the potential to bring to their research and undergraduate teaching the critical perspective that comes from their non-traditional educational background or understanding of the experiences of groups historically underrepresented in higher education.” This program would provide up to two years of postdoctoral training with the expectation that most fellows will eventually be offered a tenure-track position.
LSA officially announced our new Postdoctoral Fellowship Program in October 2016 and began to review applications in November. The purpose of the LSA Collegiate Postdoctoral Fellowship Program is to support promising scholars who are committed to diversity in the academy and to prepare those scholars for possible tenure-track appointments in LSA. U-M will appoint recent recipients of the Ph.D. as postdoctoral fellows for a two-year term beginning July 1, 2017. We aim to hire 50 of these fellows in the next five years. The Postdoctoral fellows will receive salary, benefits, and conference travel and research expenses. During the two-year term of appointment, the fellow will teach one course a year in the host department. Each fellow will receive career advising from a mentor during their fellowship. We seek extraordinarily promising scholars whose research, teaching, and service will contribute to diversity and equal opportunity in higher education.
Engage community members in faculty recruitment visits.
This effort would assist all candidates for faculty positions in identifying and connecting with a broader community of faculty with shared interests and/or identities, and strongly promote LSA’s acknowledgement of the value of faculty representation from these communities.
Establish a new position of associate dean for diversity and professional development.
The recommendations pertaining to faculty in the LSA plan entail generating new practices and many new responsibilities for training and oversight. Chairs will require advice, support, and leadership training to carry out these mandates successfully. Although task force members did not unanimously support this suggestion, there was strong interest in establishing a new position of associate dean for diversity and professional development to provide leadership and accountability for these efforts.
Creating the position of AD for diversity and professional development will send a clear message on LSA’s commitment to DEI and excellence in mentoring. Faculty at our open meetings made a strong case that leaving DEI training and initiatives to department chairs has not been working well. Creating an appointment with a “bird’s eye view” of DEI initiatives within LSA will ensure that programs are developed in a timely manner, administered conscientiously, and evaluated regularly for their effectiveness. Many of the tasks in this section that are attributed to the LSA Dean’s Office will be part of the portfolio for the new AD. A call for nominations for an Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Professional Development was released in February 2017, with a goal of appointing the position by July 2017.
Enhance the visibility of DEI-related material on the LSA website.
Task force members noted that many resources related to DEI are not easily located on the LSA website, and they noted this problem is a missed opportunity in representing our campus, climate, and community during faculty recruitment. We suggest raising the visibility of our DEI-related programs on the College website. This could include a centralized and more user-friendly website for job candidates that illustrates the commitment of the College and University to diversity. The College has begun to implement this recommendation and has already dramatically improved the visibility of our DEI work and commitments. This effort is ongoing.
Create opportunities to foster recognition and understanding of the history and future of diversity at U-M and beyond.
Memories of past movements and the initiatives they inspired inform the LSA Plan. To recognize and represent these memories, we suggest two broad initiatives rooted in our identity as a liberal arts college. First, we suggest making funding available for student/faculty projects that draw on different modalities (e.g., art, literature, performance, etc.) to document and memorialize the history of diversity on the U-M Ann Arbor campus. Second, we encourage the College to develop new opportunities for members of the LSA community to deepen their academic engagement with the concept of diversity. These may include various formats such as speaker series or book groups. Activities may be organized to reflect different themes each year.