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Dean’s Panel on Attrition and Retention of Faculty of Color

This event was a panel comprising deans and administration representatives who clarified procedures about tenure and promotion. Importantly, several concrete recommendations were made by faculty to promote the retention of faculty of color. While recruitment is good, retention is key to increasing the number of women of color on the faculty.

Recommendations included the following:

•   Appoint a dean of diversity to liaison between faculty and administrators.

•   Create some kind of structure to make departments accountable for the lack of diversity among their faculty.

•   Establish a mentoring program for both junior and senior faculty of color

•   Support diversity cluster hiring. Continue diversity cluster hires to create a critical mass.

•   Understand that the hiring of faculty of color in joint appointments (as often happens) renders these individuals especially vulnerable to competing academic pressures.

•   Create a policy of matching diversity lines.

•   Review alternative routes to tenure and promotion based on service and make them available to faculty who would want to consider that route.

Evaluation and assessment. Over the past year, Ms. Bedley (under the guidance of WoCSI co-founder Dr. Robyn Rodriguez) has been interviewing WoCSI participants to explore the extent to which a sense of belonging can serve to mitigate barriers to retention and promotion. The findings from these interviews are preliminary, but suggest that while faculty overall have positive experiences at the University, they still encounter forms of antagonism and alienation. The majority of interviewees who had participated in the WoCSI reported that the Initiative had a positive impact on their careers by reducing feelings of isolation. Junior women of color faculty members also expressed a need for more and better mentorship from senior colleagues who are attuned to the unique challenges faced by women of color faculty in academia, which include professional isolation and experiences of “micro-aggressions” from others ranging from students to higher level administrators. For women of color, it is important to have a “safe space” where individuals feel that they don’t have to “perform all the time.”

Summary. The current goals of the Rutgers WoCS Initiative are as follows:

1.  Highlight the contributions that women of color and scholars of underrepresented backgrounds make to the university communities, their scholarly disciplines, and society;

2.  Build a campus-wide network that supports the scholarship of women of color and promotes their research, career development, and satisfaction;

3.  Advocate on behalf of women of color faculty by working collectively and resourcefully for progressive institutional change towards equitable, inclusive environments that thrive through diversity; and

4.  Foster institutional conditions in which women of color faculty may thrive as scholars and as individuals, and thus contribute to their success, promotion, and retention at Rutgers.

We hope that this description of Rutgers University’s Women of Color Scholars Initiative may provide a useful model. Programs with similar goals and programs could be developed to fit the culture and circumstances of other large research universities.


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