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Diversity goal takes new turn

As the Black Faculty Strategic Initiative comes to a close, administrators are reorienting their conception of diversity to be more inclusive, more contextualized and less numbers-driven.

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences William Chafe said searches will now aim to increase hires of minority scholars whose ethnic groups are underrepresented in specific departments, rather than the across-the-board hiring of black faculty members that took place under the BFSI.

Expectations for the next phase in the diversification of the University's faculty are more modest than they were for the BFSI.

"You will find some [continued] emphasis on diversity, but I don't think you're going to find the kind of quantum leap that we saw with African-American faculty," Chafe said. "It'll be a slower, more incremental growth."

The new diversity comes on the heels of the highly successful BFSI, which increased the number of black faculty in Arts and Sciences from 16 to 39 since 1995. While administrators said a more nuanced approach is appropriate now, they said the BFSI was necessary at the time it was initiated, given Duke's past reputation on race issues.

"As a Southern institution with the history we had, it was important to address the African-American issue head-on," Chafe said.

The new conception of faculty diversity at the University will, depending on the makeup of a given department, encourage the hiring of African Americans, Asian Americans, Latino Americans, American Indians and other ethnic groups. The University will also step up recruitment for women where they are underrepresented, such as in the sciences and engineering.

Not considered in the new view of diversity will be candidates' sexual orientation, disability status or religious affiliation.

"We decided to focus so we could get the job done," said Vice Provost for Academic and Administrative Services Judith Ruderman. "That's not to say we don't care, because we do... [but] to us, [the latter characteristics weren't] the same thing as ethnic and racial diversity."

Chafe and Provost Peter Lange also said diversity would not play a role in the Appointments, Promotion and Tenure process, after the question was raised in the Academic Council's May meeting.

"The academic quality of the candidate is measured by three criteria: service, teaching and scholarship. That's it," Lange said, though he noted that diversity can be informally acknowledged in the process because of its status as an institutional priority.

"If it's an institutional priority, I can bring it to bear, but I don't want it to be inserted into the APT process," he said.

A diversity task force chaired by Rex Adams, former dean of the Fuqua School of Business, suggested to the Academic Council that diversity play a greater role in the APT process. Many professors reacted with vehement opposition, saying the process should remain individualized and not contingent on the candidate's ethnic background or incorporation of minority issues into his or her scholarship.

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