Slow diversity uptick falling short of Univ. aspirations
While the percentage of underrepresented minority applicants has increased by over three percent in the last five years, the University still falls short from the ideal, Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel announced in a presentation at the faculty meeting on Friday. A PowerPoint Interim University President Lisa Lynch showed at the same meeting revealed that while on the uptick, the University’s percentage of historically underrepresented groups in its undergraduate population is lower than peer schools like Brown University.
Interim University President Lisa Lynch opened the faculty meeting by touching briefly on the “Louis D. Brandeis 100: Then and Now” event that took place last Thursday, discussing how amazed she was by the student turnout to the event. She added that, in a reception for the event’s panelists after the event, Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told her that Thursday’s event was the “best organized, most interesting and most fun” speech she’s delivered at a university.
In her president’s report, Lynch updated the faculty on the Task Force on Sexual Assault and the University’s green initiatives. She said that bystander information training has been ongoing for club leaders and student athletes, also touching briefly on her recent meeting with trustees of Trinity College, who discussed Trinity’s efforts to form a consortium of schools in order to remove the adjudication process — the legal process for resolving a campus dispute, especially a sexual assault one — from Trinity itself.
Lynch noted that this effort was worth keeping in mind as the University considers its own adjudication process and ongoing Title IX training for administrators.
Lynch went on to discuss the University’s campus sustainability initiatives, noting that the University’s utility and plant fuel consumption is slightly down for the year to date, though she stated she wanted to see those numbers drop even more in the coming months.
She added that her Task Force on Sustainability was finishing up a policy for short, medium and long-term goals to lower consumption and expand solar energy use on campus.
There will be several new solar panels installed this summer on top of buildings and in the parking lot by the Foster Mods, which will cover just one percent of annual electricity use, but “what’s important is that it gives us coverage on those peak low days,” she said. Lynch also touched briefly on the University’s plan to install compost bins to lower food waste in dining halls.
Before yielding the podium, Lynch concluded by explaining that the University is considering bids from various search firms to select the new Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion. Lynch stated that the search will begin soon with input from students and a search committee, much like the recent search for the next University President.
Dean of Arts and Sciences Susan Birren then addressed the faculty, discussing her initiatives to increase diversity and retain minority students and staff in the School of Arts and Sciences.
According to Birren, the first step is appointing and meeting with diversity representatives from the community, though she noted the process brought up questions like: “How do we define diversity? ... What is the role of the diversity rep? Is it simply to increase the pool?”
Interim Provost Irving Epstein then spoke, saying that the search for diversity representatives is still ongoing, though he noted, “We are looking for people who would rise to the top of a national search if we were to do a national search.” This search, he added, “will coincide with other needs we are trying to fill.”
Lynch then briefly mentioned that the University had found someone to fill the vacant Vice President of Human Resources position, though she added that that person backed out at the last moment.
Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel then gave a presentation on applications and underrepresented minorities in the applicant pool. According to Flagel, applications are up 7.9 percent overall, with over 11,000 applications total. He added that there have been increases in African-American and Latino applications, with approximately a three percent increase — from 10 percent to 13 percent — in underrepresented minority applications overall since Flagel joined the University in 2011. While Flagel noted that these figures aren’t ideal, he said the increases are a step in the right direction.
After Flagel’s presentation, Lynch returned to the front of the room to discuss other updates in the University’s attempt to fulfill the agreement signed after Ford Hall 2015.
She noted that the Psychological Counseling Center is searching for more counselors of color and that, as with the Vice President of Human Resources, the University had thought they found someone for the job, but that person dropped out.
In the Hiatt Career Center, she continued, staff members completed training at the end of December to better accommodate minorities’ needs for employment and recruiting help.
She then discussed the percentage of historically underrepresented groups — HUG — and the percentage of international students and women in STEM fields within the University. According to Lynch, the University has 11.9 percent HUG in its undergraduate population and 7.7 percent in its graduate student population — both lower figures than reported at Brown University. “We’ve made steady progress on the undergraduate level … but in the comparison with Brown, you see where — relative to Brown — we’re below,” Lynch said, though she noted that the University reports more women in STEM fields and more international undergraduate students than Brown.
In his provost’s report, Epstein discussed how he had received a request for a “rather large volume of information” from the faculty bargaining unit — including data from employment files and record — which was formed after adjunct and non-tenure track faculty voted in December to unionize and be represented by the Service Employees International Union Local 509. “Presumably, once they receive the information, the bargaining will begin in earnest,” Epstein added.
Epstein then discussed his ongoing budget proposals meetings, the last of which will take place today. Once these meetings are over, he said, he will be putting together a budget to be up for discussion and approval in March, though he noted “things still look pretty tight for next year,” much as they were this year.
He then turned the microphone back over to Lynch, who launched a series of introductions of new faculty members, including Prof. Hannah Weiss Muller (HIST), Prof. W. Benjamin Rogers (PHYS), Prof. Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld (Heller) and Prof. Trevor Luke (CLAS).
Prof. Wendy Cadge (SOC) then gave a brief overview of the most recent Board of Trustees meeting, in which the trustees voted on the future of Usen Castle, deciding to tear down Towers C, D and E and Schwartz Hall in favor of a new housing complex. Renovations on Towers A and B, she said, will be made using borrowed tax exempt credits.
Lynch added that the Board also voted to add names to the list of potential honorary degree recipients for commencement and stated that current Board of Trustees Chair Perry Traquina ’78 will be stepping down as chair in June, once his term ends, though he will remain on the Board.
Traquina was first elected to the Board of Trustees in 2002.
Prof. John Wardle (PHYS), a member of the Faculty Senate Council, then introduced two proposed amendments to the faculty handbook.
The first amendment proposed to strike the clause mandating that faculty meetings take place on Thursday afternoons, as this would allow greater flexibility for scheduling purposes.
The second amendment proposed to strike the “full time” clause in the section on which faculty members could run for and hold Faculty Senate seats.
The amendment suggested “within the tenure structure or on a multi-year contract” as alternative wording for the clause.
The faculty voted almost unanimously in favor of a first round of voting with one abstention. In a discussion on the amendment, one faculty member asked if faculty on single year contracts who have been on campus for many years could be considered for inclusion in the new wording.
In response, another faculty member argued that that decision was not one about Faculty Senate elections but rather contract negotiations.
The motion passed the first round of voting, with a second round to be held in the next faculty meeting.