UW launches Faculty Diversity Initiative

February 22, 2021

building

Denny Hall on UW’s Seattle campusMark Stone/University of Washington

The University of Washington today announced an initiative to further the UW’s goals for diversity, equity and inclusion, including $5 million in funding for faculty hiring in the next two years. The initiative builds upon and supports efforts University wide and aims to accelerate and benchmark progress on an annual basis.

Efforts to recruit, welcome and retain a diverse faculty are central to the UW’s public mission to build a more equitable and just society for everyone, administrators said.

Students benefit from a university with faculty members whose knowledge and understanding represent the diversity of Washington state, as do the people and communities that benefit from the UW’s research and scholarship. Additionally, this signals to historically-marginalized students, especially underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities, that teaching and research careers are accessible, achievable and encouraged.

“We know that the UW must better reflect the communities we serve, which requires short- and long-term changes to make our University a place where faculty from diverse backgrounds feel they belong,” said UW Provost Mark Richards. “The University’s academic leadership, including the Board of Deans and Chancellors, are determined to change this status quo for this generation of students, and for those to come.”

Since 2015, the UW’s Race and Equity Initiative has focused on transforming institutional policies and practices, and accelerating systemic change. A significant focus of this work — and one of the goals of the Diversity Blueprint developed in 2010 — has been recruiting faculty who will advance diversity, equity and inclusion through their teaching, research and service.

“Many academic units have made some progress, but we have a long way to go, including ensuring that the structural conditions that contribute to racial inequities are addressed at the unit and university-wide level so that BIPOC faculty can thrive and be successful,” Richards said.

Based on an examination of best practices across the nation, in consultation with the members of the Race & Equity Steering Committee and Faculty Senate leadership, as well as deans and administrators, and consistent with Regent Policy 33, the UW will over the next two years:

  • Designate $3 million in bridge funding in this fiscal year 2021, and another $2 million in fiscal year 2022, to support recruitment of faculty to the Seattle campus whose research, teaching, mentoring, service and outreach will enhance the UW’s diversity mission and goals for equity and inclusion.
  • Redirect existing central funds for the recruitment and retention of faculty to focus specifically upon faculty who will advance the campus’ goals for diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Require that all faculty searches include statements from candidates describing their past and planned contributions to diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Request that deans of all schools and colleges examine whether hiring, reappointment and promotion criteria for faculty can be enhanced to support diversity, equity and inclusion within their units.
  • Host a new national program, with funding from the National Science Foundation and the Washington Research Foundation, to identify outstanding Ph.D. students and post-doctoral fellows from underrepresented groups, and support them as they develop their ambitions and qualifications to become STEM faculty at research universities, including the UW.
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“Research is at its most creative and robust when researchers with diverse backgrounds and perspectives interact,” said Mary Lidstrom, vice provost for research. “This initiative will continue efforts to support diversity, equity and inclusion in research, enhancing the research enterprise for all.”

Similar initiatives are in progress at UW Bothell and UW Tacoma. UW Tacoma will focus on hiring and supporting clusters of faculty who have expertise and focus on diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice issues. UW Bothell leadership has designated bridge funding for the next two years to help departments recruit faculty who advance diversity.

“Faculty Senate leadership prioritizes issues of racial justice and understands the importance of making a concerted effort to recruit and support faculty who advance diversity,” said Robin Angotti, chair of the Faculty Senate and a professor of mathematics at UW Bothell. “We look forward to working closely with administration to make measurable advances in these areas.”

Additionally, the provost has tasked Ed Taylor, vice provost of Undergraduate Academic Affairs, to convene a sub-group of the Race & Equity Steering Committee, to take this work to the next level over the coming year. This group’s work will include, but will not be limited to, addressing several long-term goals:

  • Improve the on-boarding process for new faculty, including welcoming, orientation, community building and mentoring that meets the needs of faculty from under-represented backgrounds.
  • Enhance the depth and availability of and familiarity with data regarding faculty demographics.
  • Develop a systematic faculty exit interview process to identify and address climate issues that have prompted some faculty to leave the UW.
  • Increase fundraising efforts that support the University, schools and colleges as they create endowments to recruit and retain faculty who contribute to the UW’s diversity, equity and inclusion goals; recruit early career scholars who may be developed and retained to tenure-track faculty positions; and fund research and scholarship in support of campus diversity, equity and inclusion goals, among other efforts.
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The UW’s Race & Equity Steering Committee will update President Ana Mari Cauce and Provost Richards in November on the collective successes and failures of these initial efforts and address the following questions: How significantly have we moved the needle in 2021? How can we do better? And what more needs to be done?

“I have been impressed, during these most difficult pandemic times, with the determination and actions of our faculty and campus leaders to attract faculty who advance our diversity, equity and inclusion goals,” Richards said. “The pandemic itself has made the urgency of this mission all the more clear by exposing the stark inequities that continue to divide our nation and cause so much pain to so many in our communities.”

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