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Faculty Group Offers Roadmap to Diversity

Recommendations include greater participation, improved family leave, and clear guidelines for leadership posts


Provost David Campbell

After more than two years of study, Boston University’s Council on Faculty Diversity and Inclusion (CFDI) has issued a report recommending changes in the University’s maternity leave policy, closer scrutiny of salaries to ensure that they are not based on gender or race, and the hiring of an associate provost for faculty development to institute professional development programs. The council, created by President Robert A. Brown in fall 2006 to help the University attract and support a diverse faculty, also recommends regular and careful tracking of faculty satisfaction, dissemination of best practices concerning faculty recruitment, and a greater effort to foster a culture of participation, where leadership is based on merit alone.

University Provost David Campbell, who cochaired the council with Roscoe Giles, a professor of electrical and computer engineering in the College of Engineering and deputy director of the Center for Computational Science, and Gloria Waters, dean of Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences, describes the report as “an important and lasting contribution to Boston University.”

“I know from personal involvement the tremendous effort that this report reflects,” Campbell says. “For more than two years, the members of the committee worked to identify the key issues around diversity and inclusion on our campus, assembling and understanding both anecdotal and statistical data, undertaking comparative studies with peers, and formulating recommendations. The CFDI has laid the foundation for our continuing efforts in diversity and inclusion among our faculty.”

The 29-page report, titled “Excellence Through Diversity,” contains the findings from examinations of four areas believed to have the greatest impact on creating an environment to attract and support a diverse faculty. Those areas are hiring and retention, compensation, University leadership and governance, and family policy. The council’s research included analyses of data on faculty demographics, hiring and retention, compensation, and leadership demographics. The council also reviewed University policies concerning governance and family leave, studied best practices in use at other universities, and questioned the faculty about job satisfaction.

Those examinations revealed, among other things, that the percentage of female faculty at each rank at Boston University is similar to the overall national trend. While the council found that the percentage of women at the rank of professor at Boston University is lower than seven out of nine of BU’s national peer institutions, the report notes that in the last three years there has been a substantial increase in the percentage of new faculty who were female. From 1997 to 2005, an average of 31 percent of tenure-track faculty hired on the Charles River Campus was female. In 2006, that number rose to 41 percent, and in 2008 it was 50 percent.

The council found the representation of minority faculty at Boston University to be far below some of its national peers, but similar to that at many local institutions. On the Charles River Campus, 11 percent of tenure-track faculty and 9 percent of non–tenure track faculty are non-Caucasian, and the vast majority of non-Caucasian faculty is Asian. The council reports that the percentage of black, Hispanic, and American Indian faculty on the Charles River Campus has remained at around 3 percent from 1997 to 2008. On the Medical Campus, 13 percent of faculty are Asian and 6.7 percent are either black, Hispanic, or American Indian.

The council also found that the overall female representation among faculty who held the positions of dean and department chair on the Charles River Campus was greater than the percentage of female tenured faculty at the associate and full professor levels.

The report notes that there has been a considerable increase in female representation at the college and University level since 2005: six of the nine deans hired since 2005 are female, making the percentage of female deans 41 percent now. In addition, women currently comprise 23 percent of the University’s trustees and 28 percent of the its overseers.

Overall, the council found that female associate and full professors were underrepresented in the top salary quartile. The report emphasizes that the council’s analysis was based on 2007-2008 salary data, which does not reflect the latest round of salary adjustments that have been a priority for the administration in the past two budget cycles.

When the council queried faculty about job satisfaction, it found that Boston University junior faculty are less satisfied than junior faculty in peer institutions such as Brown, Duke, Northeastern, Syracuse, and Tufts. Faculty indicated that the best aspects of working at Boston University are the geographic location, the quality and support of colleagues, and their sense of “fit.” The worst aspects of working at Boston University were reported to be the cost of living, the compensation, and the lack of support for research and creative work.

In consideration of those and other findings, the council recommended that the University:

Hire an associate provost for faculty development and diversity, who would develop programs and policies to “enhance the professional development of all faculty and increase diversity in the service of excellence”;

Establish an ombuds office to provide confidential support to faculty, staff, and students and help individuals understand their options in difficult circumstances;

Institute a practice of ongoing assessment of faculty satisfaction, using the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education survey for junior faculty and a climate survey for all faculty;

Educate all deans, department chairs, and search committees in the best practices of faculty recruitment;

Put in place programs that will aid the retention of the best faculty;

Undertake a series of salary reviews to ensure that salaries are merit-based and market-driven and determined without regard to gender or race;

Offer additional compensation for administrative duties as a temporary stipend rather than a salary increase, consistent with the principle of salary being awarded on the basis of merit;

Create University-wide standards for the conduct of merit and salary reviews and evaluate productivity in publishing on a rolling three-year basis, rather than considering only the previous 12 months;

Monitor nonsalary staff compensation, such as stipends for administrative duties and research and travel allowances;

Ensure faculty inclusion in processes of governance and foster a culture in which participation in leadership positions is determined by administrative and academic merits alone;

Ensure accountability, transparency, and visibility in decision-making to the greatest degree possible;

Adopt a paid childcare leave policy that provides relief for a faculty member (male or female) from some or all University duties while undertaking a transition to new responsibilities as the primary caregiver of a child, by birth, adoption, foster care, or custody;

Better inform faculty of existing services and look into ways of improving resources for faculty who have caretaker responsibilities or manage the care of others, such as aging parents, spouses, or other family members;

Modify the current Faculty-in-Residence Program to accommodate more faculty, encourage more turnover, and provide an attractive housing option for junior faculty and for new faculty;

Encourage all units to recognize nontraditional family roles, be sensitive to personal responsibilities of faculty when scheduling, and employ gender-neutral language for policies relating to families and life outside the University.

Campbell says he and Brown are currently considering all of the council’s recommendations and that several recommendations are already being implemented: the position of associate provost for faculty development will be posted soon, and improvements in faculty recruitment practices and detailed analyses of faculty salaries are in process. The University has also set up a Web-based exit survey to give departing faculty an opportunity to comment on all aspects of their employment, Campbell says, and is currently analyzing the costs of the recommended changes to the family leave policy.

Council co-chair Waters says the council has laid the groundwork for identifying factors that contribute to faculty satisfaction.

“The council’s recommendations concerning the importance of faculty development will increase faculty satisfaction,” Waters says. “They will play an important role in retaining top faculty and attracting excellent faculty for years to come.”

Art Jahnke can be reached at jahnke@bu.edu.


4 Comments on Faculty Group Offers Roadmap to Diversity

  • Anonymous on 03.03.2009 at 6:37 pm


  • Anonymous on 03.03.2009 at 6:38 pm

    Where can we get a copy?

  • Anonymous on 03.04.2009 at 10:40 am


    This is great news- now let’s see if the University can turn its attention toward the satisfaction and retention of staff.

  • Anonymous on 03.05.2009 at 7:47 am

    direct link to report


    The full public report is available to read on-line, or may be downloaded.

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