Compositional Diversity workstream recommends initiatives to diversify Tufts

Ballou Hall is pictured on April 11, 2017. Seohyun Shim / The Tufts Daily Archives

The Compositional Diversity workstream, established alongside four other workstreams by the “Tufts as an Anti-Racist Institution” initiative announced by University President Anthony Monaco in July 2020, released its final report to the Tufts community on Feb. 17. Now submitted to the university’s senior leadership team for evaluation, the Compositional Diversity workstream incorporates data on Tufts’ compositional diversity and makes recommendations for improvement.

Provost and Senior Vice President Nadine Aubry, Vice Provost Kevin Dunn and Dean of Undergraduate Education for the School of Engineering Christopher Swan detailed the purpose of the workstream, including how it differs from the Equity and Inclusion workstream, in an email to the Daily.

“The Equity and Inclusion workstream focused on possible ways to make our institution more equitable and inclusive at all levels, including through our educational system for the Tufts community (faculty, staff, students) through trainings, curriculum and classroom pedagogy,” Aubry, Dunn and Swan wrote. “Compositional Diversity gathered data on who our students, staff and faculty actually are. From that data, we made proposals for ways to diversify all elements of our community.”

The members of the workstream were divided into four subgroups. Each group was tasked with assessing the compositional diversity of faculty, staff, students or administrative and academic leadership, and developing proposals accordingly.

The faculty subgroup, chaired by Dunn, acknowledged that the compositional diversity of Tufts’ faculty falls below its aspiration, and shared recommendations. The group advises creating positions that will attract more diverse candidates; naming a diverse committee to serve on annual reviews and promotions; increasing Tufts’ Walnut Hill stock and making these rentals available to faculty, “prioritizing those with the most economic need”; and increasing the university’s salary transparency, among others.

Aubry, Dunn and Swan elaborated on their recommendations for faculty hiring practices and how departments can recruit more diverse candidates.

“Sometimes, when a faculty member leaves the university or retires, departments will look to replace them with a replica; that is, try to find someone whose area of teaching and research is exactly the same,” Aubry, Dunn and Swan said. “We would like to encourage departments and schools to always be refreshing their sense of what fields are essential, and, in the process, open up areas of study that might attract more BIPOC faculty. This, we hope, will enable us to continually reimagine who we are and what education itself looks like.”

They also discussed the proposal for salary transparency, including a call for the university to oversee periodic reports on faculty data that also shows intersectional information.

“This data could be given by department, by race, gender, rank, field etc. It shouldn’t be difficult to then create intersectional data,” Aubry, Dunn and Swan said. “Such a report would ideally be available to all faculty.”

The student subgroup, chaired by Dean of Admissions JT Duck, examined barriers to recruitment and retention of students of color at Tufts.

In terms of admissions, the report proposes continuous assessments of the role of standardized test scores and financial aid and scholarship, as well as the “bias or structural limitations of admission committees” at each of Tufts’ schools, among others. It also proposes diversifying faculty and staff to attract more diverse applicants.

The “Native and Indigenous Students” section of the student subgroup part of the report recommends that the university “commit to listening” to Native American and Indigenous students and to consider establishing a formal land acknowledgment, among other initiatives.

“We anticipate that students, faculty and staff, particularly student-facing departments and services, will be intimately involved in discussions of how the university can adopt meaningful changes in this space to ensure we bring this recommendation to life,” Aubry, Dunn and Swan said.

The student subgroup section also includes a subsection called “The Underrepresentation of Black Students.

“[Tufts should] regularly assess initiatives related to the recruitment, enrollment, and support of Black students to determine their effectiveness, and to keep relevant offices, staff, and faculty accountable for making progress,” one of the proposals in the report said.

Aubry, Dunn and Swan elaborated on what keeping these members accountable entails.

“A key to our anti-racist efforts will be that all members of the community, all departments and offices be accountable for efforts at diversification and for making our campuses welcoming and safe spaces for all members of our community,” Aubry, Dunn and Swan said.

The staff subgroup, chaired by Director of Human Resources Strategies Maureen Sonnie, investigated hiring and retention practices “that could be improved to support our diversification efforts,” the report said.

It recommends being more “deliberate” in seeking diverse candidates; increasing electronic sourcing of applicant pools; and undertaking a “race/ethnicity equity study in relation to pay for staff and faculty,” among other proposals.

Led by Dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Daniel Jay, the senior leadership subgroup studied the compositional diversity of Tufts’ administrative and academic leadership. The group observed some progress, but said underrepresentation remains a problem.

“The review revealed some gains in diverse hiring into leadership positions, including among individuals of Asian heritage and women (across all races); however, underrepresentation of certain groups persists,” the report said.

Its proposals include an “institution-wide systematic plan for [the] development of senior leaders that is focused on diversity and inclusion”; considering faculty members mentoring women and students of color for more senior positions; and developing “mandatory, comprehensive education for committee members on hiring bias,” among others.

The group added that they did not address retention because they found that when diverse leaders left Tufts, it was often to move to a higher position, but noted that opportunities for promotion within Tufts’ leadership should be expanded.

“It would be imperative to have resources to find ways for our own leaders to move up at Tufts,” the report said.