Black faculty rising at Duke

Apr. 01, 2013 @ 05:32 PM

Although the gains have slowed, Duke University has made significant strides in diversifying its faculty ranks.

According to a report from Duke Provost Peter Lange, over a 20-year period, from 1993 to 2012, the number of regular rank black faculty at the university rose to 138 from 44. There was a similar rise in the number of tenured or tenure-track black faculty during the same period, from 36 to 79.

Overall, as of the fall of 2012, blacks made up about 4.25 percent of Duke’s more than 3,200 faculty.

The total number, however, is slightly below the high-water mark, which was 143 black faculty members at the school in 2010.

While the total has dropped by five since 2010, Lange said in the report that the current number of black faculty is up by nine since 2009.

He attributed the recent decline to “the economic downturn and challenges posed the past 4-5 years … with fewer overall hires, especially in Arts and Sciences.”

The university, Lange said, needs to continue “our commitment to expand the presence of black faculty at Duke [and] to enhance recruitment and retention of faculty of color ….”

Increasing the number of black faculty has been a priority at Duke since the late 1980s. A five-year plan called the Black Faculty Initiative fell short of its goals, and was replaced by the Black Faculty Strategic Initiative in 1993.

The goal of that initiative was to double the total number of regular rank black faculty members over the next 10 years, and Duke hit that mark a year early. While that effort has officially ended, Lange said its goal remain a priority.  

The provost was scheduled to deliver the report late last month to the Academic Council, the faculty’s highest representative body. But a tight agenda pushed back the discussion of the report until the council’s meeting in April, although the data were circulated to faculty members. .

The report also referenced Duke’s efforts to increase the number of women on the faculty, particularly in areas where they have been under-represented.

“We have … made some progress during the last 10- and five-year periods in the hiring of women, notably in law, Nicholas, Sanford and Medicine,” Lange noted. But “in the natural sciences and engineering, we still have work to do [although] the trend is encouraging in the natural sciences.”

Over the past 10 years, the percentage of women among regular rank faculty has risen from 28 percent, or 670, to 1,153, which is 36 percent of the total number.