Columbia Earmarks $30 Million to Increase the Diversity of Its Faculty

For the past five years, Columbia University in New York City has had the highest percentage of Black freshman students among the 30 highest-ranking universities in the nation. There are 174 Black freshmen at Columbia this year. They make up 12.5 percent of the first-year class.

In the 2010-11 academic year, there were 202 Black first-year students at Columbia. They made up 14.5 percent of the first-year students. This was the highest percentage of Black students in the entering class at a leading research university in the history of the JBHE annual survey of incoming Black students at the nation’s highest-ranked universities. Only six years earlier in 2004, Blacks made up only 6.8 percent of the entering students.

Columbia has made significant strides in increasing the racial diversity of its undergraduate student body. Now Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger and Provost John H. Coatsworth have announced a plan to increase the diversity of Columbia’s faculty.

In a letter to the university community, the two leaders stated, “A diverse university community is essential to achieving academic excellence. Indeed, fostering the uninhibited exploration of competing ideas and beliefs — expressed by people of different backgrounds and perspectives — makes possible the distinct brand of scholarship, learning, research, and public service that are Columbia’s reason for being.”

Columbia is devoting $30 million in an effort to increase the number of woman and underrepresented minorities on its faculty. Half of the amount will come from the university’s central budget while $15 million is being contributed by individual schools that make up the university community.

In addition to providing funds for the recruitment of new faculty, the provost’s Office of Academic Planning will work with schools to design and implement mentoring and professional development programs for junior faculty; create training materials for search committees; and exchange information on best practices.

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  1. I commend Columbia University for its great efforts in attracting some of the best and brightest Black minds in the country for its freshmen classes for the last five years. Although this is an outstanding achievement that shouldn’t go unnoticed, Columbia still has the lowest Black graduation rate among the Ivy League Schools. That rate is 85% compared to Harvard’s 96%.

    I would like to see a further ethnic breakdown among Blacks of the 174 students who constitute the 12.5 percent of the total freshmen admitted for the academic year 2011-2012.
    What percentage of these students who comprise the 12.5 percent of Black students are from the continent
    of Africa?
    What percentage of these students who comprise the 12.5 percent of Black students are Afro-Canadians?
    What percentage of these students who comprise the 12.5 percent are from the West Indies or Afro- Caribbeans or who had family or ancestors from the Caribbean?

    The pool of applicants for highly talented BLACK faculty members is not great but there is fierce competition among the elite schools to attract and lure Black faculty members.
    The vast majority of predominately White institutions of higher learning still have numerous structural systemic barriers in place that have made it difficult to reach out to people of color.
    There are thousands of highly talented Black faculty members teaching at all of the HBCUs who may be desirous of working at Columbia or any of the other Ivy League schools. Furthermore, many of these highly talented Black faculty members at the HBCUs would never leave the halls of their HBCUs for the rat race/cut throat type of environment which is reflective in many of the elite White institutions. In other words, many of these faculty members at the HBCUs are dedicated to the students under their charge and most would not leave for the alleged greener pastures at other institutions.
    The commitment for an effective diversity program on any college campus begins with the president of the university in concert with its board of trustees.
    The president of the university is like the top CEO of a major corporation. He/she sets the tone for the entire level of commitment for any type of bona-fide Affirmative Action/Diversity Plan.
    I do not give grades out for the elaborate style or format of one’s diversity plan but the proof is in one’s efforts to accomplish said time tables and goals.

    • I believe Ronald Sanders is spot on with his questions related to the disaggregation of admissions data. In order for the interested public to better comprehend impact the inforrmation is essential. Similar scrutiny and analysis must also be devoted to retention and graduation rates. Black students may have left for various reasons.

      Black faculty whether employed at HBCUs or at more mainstream colleges and university have many more options now than twenty to twenty – five years ago. It is the individual faculty member’s choice as to how he/ she choses to move forward. From my perspective whether one opts to teach at Columbia University or any mainstream institution in America including HBCUs one must be academically, psychologically and spiritually equipped for the challenges that await: both types of institutions can potentially be fraught with overwhelming problems as well as enormous opportunities.

  2. I am proud that Columbia University is making such great strides in the area of diversity. While they are putting so much money towards bringing in Faculty of Color they do not need to disregard that the environment these faculty will be entering needs to be changed as well. Universities use the model of diversity in the wrong way by bringing in Faculty of Color and placing requirements on them to be diversity representatives and scholarly while white faculty are able to only focus on their scholarly work. While they are providing the new faculty workshops on best practices, the administration needs to work with those that are presently there to get them to shift in their practices and make the environment not just welcoming for the new faculty, but also conducive for them to be successful.

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