Cornell’s Diversity Work

In the last decade Cornell University began a project to recruit and retain more minority faculty.

It’s one of the least diverse universities among the Ivies, at least in terms of students, and the administration believed that efforts to recruit more faculty from among historically disadvantaged minorities might help address that problem.

It’s not really clear how successful this project has been. According to an article by Maria Eugenia Miranda in Diverse Issues in Higher Educaiton:

During the past 10 years, Cornell University has made significant strides in recruiting underrepresented minorities and women in its faculty ranks, but a new internal study at the university is revealing that its success is a mixed bag.

The number of minority faculty has grown about 52 percent, and the number of female faculty members has increased more than 38 percent in the last decade, according to a 2008 report by Dr. Robert Harris Jr., the former vice provost for diversity and faculty development. “Things have not changed dramatically,” he says.

However, overall, women perceive the environment at Cornell to be more favorable to them than do underrepresented minorities, says Warhaft, and that could be because they went from being 22 percent of the faculty in 2005 to 27 percent of the faculty in 2010. An initiative funded by the National Science Foundation to recruit more female STEM faculty members, the CU-ADVANCE Center, also seems to have struck a chord with female faculty on campus, he says.

Some 16 percent of Cornell faculty are ethnic minorities. Part of the problem might be structural. While no doubt the university’s recent decision to swallow up the Africana Studies and Research Center into another institution at the college didn’t help, it’s unclear if the school can ever be all that “favorable to underrepresented minorities.”

Cornell is, after all, located in Ithaca, New York. Aside from the university itself, it’s one of the whitest places in America. Addressing that quandary is perhaps greater than Cornell has the power to address.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer