Black Faculty Initiative Reaches Goal Early

January 31, 2003

Provost Peter Lange told the Academic Council in December that the university's Black Faculty Strategic Initiative (BFSI) will meet its goal of doubling the number of black faculty members at Duke a year ahead of schedule. The BFSI was implemented in 1993 with the main goal of doubling the number of black faculty members by 2003. It is the successor to Duke's original black faculty hiring plan, which was passed in 1988.

Lange added, however, that the results are precarious and the continuing concerns of black-faculty retention and of hiring more tenure-track faculty members must be addressed. "Success in increasing our numbers of black faculty does not permit us to flag in our efforts," according to a report he presented to the council. "Such success is never static; indeed it opens us up to increased 'raiding' by other schools. Moreover, climate issues remain to be addressed. Achievements are uneven across departments. And we still show too great an overall discrepancy between the tenured/tenure-track ranks and the other regular ranks."

When the BFSI was started in 1993, Duke had forty-four black faculty members (thirty-six in the tenure track and eight in other ranks). In the current year, Duke has eighty-eight black faculty members (fifty-eight in the tenure track and thirty in other ranks).

Particular progress has come in arts and sciences, medicine, and even in smaller programs such as nursing, engineering, and divinity. Law has two black faculty members, an increase of one from 1993. Fuqua has hired several black faculty members, but several recent departures means it has currently only one black faculty member--the same as in 1993. The Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences has no black faculty members. The report noted there are few blacks earning Ph.D.s in environmental studies.

The BFSI targeted increasing black-student enrollment, particularly in the graduate and professional schools. One consequence of greater minority enrollment is enhancing "the pipeline" of black Ph.D. recipients.

The report noted progress on several fronts, particularly in the Graduate School, where Assistant Dean Jacqueline Looney has established an innovative outreach program that is attracting top minority candidates. The class entering the Graduate School this year included eighty-nine U.S. minority students (14.1 percent), of whom twenty-nine are African American. Over the past two years, Duke has awarded Ph.D.s to twenty-seven African-American students, by far the highest two-year total in Duke history.

Lange said with the coming conclusion of the BFSI, the university will begin to look at ways to build upon the successes of the past decade. The report emphasized that these efforts are not mere statistical exercises, but are essential parts of Duke's effort to remain a leading research institution and to prepare students for a changing world.

" Significant changes have occurred in the racial and ethnic demographics in the United States and in our own region," the report said. "These changes themselves suggest both challenges and opportunities for recruitment, retention, and curricular initiatives so that we are well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities that a broadly diverse community offers."