How can Berkeley advance faculty diversity?

Last December, in a message to the campus , I outlined the overarching values and objectives that form the foundation of our plans to expand the diversity of our university community in the broadest sense and in every form. While I stressed the importance of diversity and equity of experience for all populations on campus, the focus of that communication was on Berkeley’s undergraduate student body and our new Undergraduate Student Diversity Project. Today, I am writing to share information about our present efforts and future plans to increase the diversity of our faculty and to improve the experience we provide for them. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will provide a similar update regarding our staff and our graduate student populations, as well as a message focusing on plans and initiatives designed to improve the service and support we provide to members of our community with disabilities.

Although we have seen an increase in the diversity of the faculty over the last 10 years, we have not done enough to accelerate the pace of change to meet our goals for a faculty whose diversity enhances our academic mission, while also reflecting the demography of the state we serve. Excellence requires having a faculty with a broad set of backgrounds, perspectives and lived experiences. As a result of what are usually long-term commitments to the campus, faculty can have a profound, lasting impact on our culture. Our faculty play a significant role in the lives of our undergraduate and graduate students; exposure to a diverse faculty, in every aspect of the word, will best prepare them to contribute to, and thrive in, a multicultural world. Diversity of perspective, of origin and of identity is important for research outcomes, as has been demonstrated in multiple studies. And larger proportions of diverse faculty increase the sense of belonging for all campus groups, including students.

Faculty Hiring Initiatives

When it comes to recruiting new faculty, we must, of course, operate within the confines of the law that requires that our hiring practices be blind to demographic characteristics. In addition, the number of faculty hired each year is small, compared to the turnover in our student populations, and this dynamic can impact the pace of change. But that need not hinder our ability to more rapidly increase the number of excellent underrepresented faculty we recruit and retain. Nor should it interfere with efforts to ensure that all new faculty, irrespective of their identities , will actively share and support our vision and values through their research, teaching and/or service. In fact, as many of you know, we intend to grow our faculty by 100 positions. This expansion will provide us with a valuable opportunity to make significant progress toward our goals.

We are changing our faculty hiring practices and our expectations of faculty. While Berkeley’s faculty applicant pools are typically quite large, they are not always diverse. This information is leading our search committees to expend greater efforts to identify, attract and engage with a diverse pool of highly qualified applicants. For committees that do, the result has been more competitive pools, larger numbers of highly qualified candidates, and more diverse hiring outcomes.

While the campus remains committed to hiring faculty who will enhance the campus’s research and teaching excellence, search committees are now expected, as a matter of practice, to utilize an expanded set of hiring criteria that includes the candidates’ accomplishments in and commitments to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion This ensures that all new faculty hired at Berkeley are excited about and prepared to make a positive contribution to our campus climate and objectives.

Four of our colleges-Engineering, L&S Biological Sciences, Natural Resources and Chemistry-are engaged in exciting initiatives that are reforming faculty hiring practices along these lines and resulting in the recruitment of a diverse group of individuals with extremely strong credentials. We are closely tracking these efforts as models that can be emulated and expanded across the campus.

Moving forward, we plan to launch new areas of academic inquiry across multiple fields and departments-an effort that will require us to create and fill clusters of new faculty positions with the potential to attract highly diverse applicant pools. The first cluster will be for scholars working on social, historical and other topics related to Native American/indigenous peoples of the United States. More will follow as we expand our study of populations that have been historically underrepresented in scholarship at U.S. universities and as we advance our new signature initiatives , particularly those focusing on the environment and justice, democracy, and health and well-being.

Another important avenue we will use to meet our goals in both faculty diversity and campus climate is to hire significantly more individuals who are or have been recipients of UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellowships. These highly competitive UC systemwide fellowships are obtained by individuals who share a commitment to our Berkeley values and who, in addition to being exceptional scholars in their academic fields, already have an outstanding track record in advancing equity and inclusion. Compared to our UC peers, Berkeley has hired far fewer fellows in recent years. This is a rich source of proven talent that we will now proactively pursue through a competitive campus FTE allocation process.

Faculty Experience

As is the case with all of our population groups at Berkeley, there is a symbiotic relationship between diversity, equity and inclusion. An inclusive campus climate is necessary for faculty to achieve their professional goals and to support their students’ academic needs and interests. A sense of true belonging fosters commitment. Working in a department where few, if any, colleagues share your identity can be a lonely and isolating experience. Any success we have in increasing the diversity of our faculty will be for naught if our culture and climate do not reflect our values.

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Alivisatos and I intend to co-create a plan with underrepresented faculty to identify and address the challenges that interfere with their success and belonging. Potential areas of discussion will likely include campus climate-related issues, as well as potential solutions to structural challenges that often impact underrepresented groups disproportionately.

We also hope to learn from units on campus that are using innovative methods to identify and address local campus climate issues. For example, our School of Public Health is engaged in a significant, comprehensive project to improve the climate for and retention of faculty from underrepresented ethnic and racial minority groups, as well as for other underrepresented populations there.

I am also deeply appreciative of the programmatic and intellectual support provided by the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society. The Haas Institute helps to attract and support a highly diverse group of scholars at the center of an expanding network of faculty who are advancing our understanding of equity, belonging and diversity-related issues exploring solutions to related challenges on campus and far beyond.

There are also efforts underway to improve the pipeline for our academic and administrative leadership. Too often, promotions and advancement within an organization can be the result of "taps on the shoulder" --the reaching out that people in a given social and/or professional network do to those they already know, colleagues often similar in background or identity. To create a more diverse cohort of faculty well-prepared to be future leaders, we recently launched the inaugural UC Berkeley Faculty Leadership Academy with 19 talented faculty from across the campus. We look forward to tracking their successes in the years to come.

Through these initiatives, the campus is reforming the ways in which we hire new faculty and support their experiences at Berkeley. The results are exciting, and we look forward to and encourage increased adoption of new methods across the campus.

Conclusion

While the programs and initiatives described here offer a good sense of the faculty diversity efforts and planning underway, the list is not comprehensive. It is impossible to capture everything that is happening in this realm on our large, decentralized campus, but I want to acknowledge the numerous and innovative steps being taken to advance diversity and experience in academic units, large and small, across the university. We are committed to supporting that important work and to applying lessons learned to campuswide efforts.

I also want to encourage everyone to participate in the upcoming and enormously important campuswide climate survey, the first of its kind since 2013. The "My Experience" survey will be released soon and seeks to measure and assess the conditions and experiences of students, staff and faculty. The results will be used to support a new round of recommendations that will help us advance goals and aspirations for our culture, our community and the conditions we provide in the workplace and the classroom.

I am inspired every day by the creativity of our community and the dedication of its members to transforming our shared values into a better, more diverse, more equitable and more inclusive university for one and all.

Sincerely,

Carol Christ
Chancellor


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