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Jenkins calls for increased faculty diversity

Kaitlynn Riely | Wednesday, September 17, 2008

University President Fr. John Jenkins emphasized Notre Dame’s commitment to diversity, specifically to recruiting ethnic minorities and women as faculty members, in his annual address to the faculty Tuesday.

“Like many other colleges and universities in the country, we recognize that an academic community that is more diverse ethnically, socio-economically and by gender is a richer community for learning, discussion and inquiry, and one whose graduates are better prepared to live and work in a world that is ever more global and diverse,” he said. Jenkins flipped through PowerPoint slides comparing the percentages of female and ethnic minority faculty members employed at Notre Dame with those employed at private schools in the Association of American Universities (AAU), an organization of 62 leading research universities in the United States and Canada.

According to data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and Notre Dame’s Office of Institutional Research, 28 percent of full-time instructional faculty in 2006 at AAU private schools were female, compared with 23 percent at Notre Dame. When the professor numbers are compared by rank, Notre Dame exceeds the average percentage of female assistant professors for AAU private schools, but falls below the average for female associate professors and full professors.

The Office of Institutional Research shows the number of racially and ethnically diverse faculty, as a percentage of the whole teaching and research faculty, has increased from 11 percent to 13 percent between 1997 and 2006.

Comparing all faculty, 17 percent of Notre Dame’s faculty are minorities, compared to 28 percent at Yale, 25 percent at the University of Chicago, 14 percent at Duke and 11 percent at Brown, in comparison.

Notre Dame’s research statistics show that in the fall of 2007, 87 percent of its full teaching and research professors were white, compared with 83 percent of associate professors and 66 percent of assistant professors and instructors.

Notre Dame should strive to increase female and minority faculty at all ranks, Jenkins said, but especially to recruit and train them in senior ranks.

Jenkins said he did not think there would be a “quick fix” to increasing the diversity of Notre Dame’s faculty. But he recounted the work of his most recent predecessors, University Presidents Emeriti Fr. Theodore Hesburgh and Fr. Edward “Monk” Malloy, in increasing the presence of both women and ethnic minorities at the University.

“Whatever our current challenges, Notre Dame is today a more diverse and rich institution because of these leaders and the many people who worked with them,” Jenkins said. “Our task is to build on the progress that they made.”

Jenkins said he is considering proposals made by the University Committee on Diversity and the University Committee of Women Faculty and Students about their recommendations to enhance support for women faculty and students and ethnic minorities. He said he is working on his response to the recommendations.

In his faculty address two years ago, Jenkins emphasized increased recruiting of Catholic faculty. He said the University will employ “useful strategies” they have discussed to recruit Catholic faculty. University Provost Tom Burish established the Office of Recruitment Support, Jenkins said, which will be headed by Fr. Bob Sullivan, whose title is now Associate Vice President for Academic Mission Support.

Jenkins stressed to the faculty gathered in the Leighton Concert Hall of the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center that although the University is “proactively” seeking to hire minorities, women and Catholics, these characteristics will not factor in decisions about reappointment, tenure or promotion.

Research at the University

Jenkins’ address to the faculty last year encouraged a University-wide commitment to becoming a premier research institution, including undergraduate research. On Tuesday, Jenkins praised the accomplishments of the faculty thus far in the field of research and encouraged more progress.

Last year, Jenkins listed membership in the AAU as a goal of the University. The University is continuing to strive toward membership in that organization, Jenkins said, but not just so it can be “part of a prestigious club.”

“Our goal, rather, is to become a better research university, and thus to make ourselves a compelling candidate for membership in the AAU so that we can reap the benefits of association, access to information and reputation that such membership can bring,” he said.

During the 2007-2008 academic year, Jenkins said, research funding at Notre Dame increased by 4 percent, a substantial figure considering that National Science Foundation (NSF) funding decreased in real dollars and National Institute of Health (NIH) funding was flat.

The Innovation Park planned as part of Eddy Street Commons will “help move discoveries of our faculty to market,” Jenkins said.

He commended Cecilia Lucero, the assistant director for Undergraduate Research at the University, for organizing Notre Dame’s first campus-wide undergraduate research conference.

‘A truly great and truly Catholic University’

The faculty has continued to enhance the quality of teaching and learning at Notre Dame, Jenkins said. This fall, Associate Provost Dennis Jacobs will lead the launch of a new Course Instructor Feedback system so students can provide their impressions of the quality of teaching to their instructors.

Duncan Hall, the recently completed men’s dorm, and Ryan Hall, the women’s dorm still under construction, are the first residence halls at Notre Dame that have classrooms, Jenkins said, a feature that will “help deepen this integration of academic and residential life.”

To mark the five-year anniversary of Notre Dame implementing its university-wide strategic plan, Notre Dame 2010: Fulfilling the Promise, Jenkins said he will begin working with academic deans and other University leaders to update the strategic plan. Jenkins introduced Erin Hoffman Harding as the new Associate Vice President for Strategic Planning.

Jenkins encouraged the faculty to attend the upcoming Notre Dame Forum on issues involving energy and the environment.

“We must strive, as a community, to make practical steps in response to the energy challenge in our lives and on our campus,” he said.