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Associate Provost Position Created for Diversity Issues

By Angeline Wang

MIT administrators announced the creation of the position of Associate Provost for Faculty Equity, a new leadership position within the Office of the Provost, on Sept. 1. According to a joint letter sent to the faculty from President Susan Hockfield and Provost L. Rafael Reif, “this new office will provide a focus for faculty diversity and equity issues across the Institute.”

Some issues the new associate provost will be in charge of, as listed in the letter to the faculty, include faculty recruitment and retention, promotion and career development, and work-family issues.

This new position is an expansion of the responsilibites of the co-chair of the Council on Faculty Diversity, Reif said in an e-mail. The Associate Provost for Faculty Equity will coordinate the activities of the faculty diversity council which will have two co-chairs, “one dedicated to gender equity issues, and one dedicated to under-represented minority issues.” The associate provost will be a member of the Academic Council and its academic sub-groups, as the faculty co-chair of the Council on Faculty Diversity has done in the past.

“Furthermore, the Associate Provost for Faculty Equity will represent all faculty diversity issues beyond those of gender and under-represented minorities,” Reif said.

The position is expected to be filled “within a few months,” Reif said in the e-mail. According to the joint letter, Reif will be “consulting broadly with members of MIT faculty” to fill the position.

Until the position is filled, the current structure will be maintained with the provost and a faculty member co-chairing the diversity council. Barbara H. Liskov of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science will act as interim co-chair until an Associate Provost for Faculty Equity is chosen. According to Liskov, she was nominated by the committee of gender equity chairs and appointed by the provost.

According to Nancy H. Hopkins, the co-chair of the Council on Faculty Diversity from its inception through June 2006, the idea to create this associate provost position came about during the process of finding her replacement.

“It was really the realization — by the women faculty — that all the other schools that had copied MIT in having a job like this called the person an associate provost,” Hopkins said in an e-mail.

“The job that Nancy Hopkins was doing really is an associate provost job,” said Lotte Bailyn, who chaired the Sloan School Gender Committee that contributed to the 2002 Institute-wide report on the status of women faculty. “We wanted to be realistic given that the work of the title was already being done without the title.”

Work in diversity began in 1994

The Committee on Women Faculty was created in 1995 by then Dean of the School of Science Robert J. Birgeneau, now President of the University of Toronto, in response to a letter submitted in 1994 by Hopkins and 15 or the 16 other tenured female faculty in the School of Science, requesting that a committee be formed to study the inequities between male and female faculty in the school be studied.

In 1999, the committee released a report stating that the women felt that “gender had probably caused their professional lives to differ significantly from those of their male colleagues.”

The 1999 report led then President Charles M. Vest to form Gender Equity Committees in the other four schools, which was modeled after the original committee, Hopkins said. These committees released reports in 2002. The Council on Faculty Diversity was also formed in response to the MIT report, with a faculty co-chair sitting on the Academic Council.

“At the time Vest and [then Provost Robert [A.] Brown appointed me to this position, it was a very novel thing to do, to have diversity represented at this high level of the institution,” Hopkins said. “The breakthrough was to have this issue represented by a faculty member at that high level on those committees of the Academic Council.”

According to Hopkins, major accomplishments of the Council on Faculty Diversity include the creation three new family leave policies to “help both female and male faculty to more easily manage work and family responsibilities,” new policies for hiring that would ensure that more women and under-represented minorities were successfully recruited to the faculty, and new committees to address the “very serious under-representation of minority faculty.”

The MIT report in 1999, Hopkins said, also led Vest to invite the presidents from eight other universities to form a consortium to study the issues of women in science at their schools. The group voted to rename itself “The MIT9” this year.

In the joint letter to the faculty, Hockfield and Reif highlighted successes in diversity over the past year. According to the letter, 52 new faculty appointments were made since October 2005, 19 of whom (36.5 percent) are women and six of whom (11.5 percent) are from under-represented minority groups.