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Task force plans BFSI successor

As the Black Faculty Strategic Initiative heads toward its final months, a new task force is meeting next week to begin shaping a new University effort to increase faculty diversity over the next decade.

The Provost's Task Force on Faculty Diversity will likely seek to expand the scope of diversity efforts to include other minorities and women for the next stage of the initiative, Provost Peter Lange said. "We reached our goal," he said. "Now we need to think about what our next step will be."

Lange added that the BFSI is on schedule to reach or even surpass its goal of doubling the overall number of black professors by fall 2003. The University initiated the effort in 1993 to focus attention on the "under-representation of black faculty on campus."

The new task force, headed by professor and former dean of the Fuqua School of Business Rex Adams, is charged with three goals: to draw superior faculty members and students; to create an environment that retains minority faculty; and to prepare students for life in a diverse society through education.

"[BFSI] will not actually be finished until fall 2003, but we are thinking ahead and looking at diversity," said Judith Ruderman, vice provost for academics and administration, who is staffing the initiative. "We're starting with what was done with the Black Faculty Strategic Initiative and analyzing whether aspects of that initiative worked well."

The seven faculty members and three administrators on the task force--which first meets Sept. 12--will review the results of BFSI, define the goals of the diversity initiative for the next decade, gather necessary demographic data, consult with sources within and outside of the University and make recommendations to the provost by February. Lange has additionally charged the task force with including an overarching goal, targets, strategies, timetables and resource requirements for the next stage of BFSI.

Adams said his experience with creating a diverse environment attracted Lange to choose him to chair the task force. Adams served as the dean of Fuqua at a time when its diversity--including the second highest percentage of women in any top business school in the nation--boosted it into the top tier, he said. He plans to use this experience to help create plans for the next decade of diversity.

"Because of its limited focus and its emphasis on simply achieving representation, [BFSI needs to be expanded]," Adams said. "The business of diversity is more complex than achieving numbers; it involves embracing a welcoming environment. We can do better than that."

Professor of English Houston Baker, who has been at Duke since 1999 and has also been a faculty member at Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania, said he would like to see the task force visit universities with successful diverse communities as part of its efforts.

"[BFSI] has certainly put Duke in the absolute forefront of universities in the country," Baker said. "Their commitment to the project was unheard of and they went at it with a good deal of energy."

Of all the universities where Baker has taught, he said Duke provided the best experience for senior black faculty. The University's sense of community, administrative understanding and large percentage of black students created a desirable racial climate, he said.

However, Baker said the University would do well to have more black graduate students and hire more senior black faculty, rather than non-tenured professors.

Vice President for Institutional Equity Sally Dickson said she thought the University's environment was supportive, but that she hoped the new initiative would find room for improvement.

"Clearly we have made progress," Dickson said. "Do we have more work to be done? The answer is yes to that also. To recruit and to hire is just one step. We need to ask ourselves if we have a supportive environment for junior faculty to get tenure."

Adams said the task force's timingâ??it coincides with the closing months of The Campaign for Duke--may prove crucial to planning. "I think the task force comes at a critical moment because we have had enormous success in the capital campaign and the University has resources to invest in change," Adams said.

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