Faculty of Color Reception
Pyle Center, Alumni Lounge
Mon Oct 4, 2021
Good evening. Thank you, Eric, for that kind introduction and for co-hosting this event. And a special thanks to LaVar Charleston for his outstanding leadership of DDEEA and his dedication to helping build a campus-wide commitment to diversity and inclusion. As I have said many times, this is not work that can be done exclusively from Bascom Hall.
To begin, I’d like to ask you to join me in extending a warm welcome to the 31 new faculty of color who have joined UW over the last year.
Welcome and congratulations
Our new faculty have come to us from around the nation. They are among 243 new faculty of color we’ve welcomed in the last 5 years.
We’re also celebrating 23 recently promoted faculty of color:
- 10 from assistant to associate professor, and
- 13 from associate to full professor
It is an enormous challenge in the best of circumstances to begin a new faculty job at a major research institution like UW. It is even more difficult as a person of color on a majority white campus … and when you add in the pandemic, which has made everything harder, it can be overwhelming.
I want to thank our established faculty for helping to welcome and support your new colleagues.
We’re here to celebrate our faculty of color, but let me begin by briefly addressing a couple of issues that are on many of our minds.
First – on COVID-19 – we are monitoring numbers from the campus and community very closely, and we’re seeing what we expected to see and what we planned for.
- Our campus testing program is identifying cases and our contact tracers are making sure that any close contacts are notified so they can quarantine.
- Our 7-day positivity rate is very low – right around 1%.
- We are moving any student living in the residence halls who tests positive into spaces we’ve set aside for isolation (and some choose to go home to isolate).
- And all students AND employees who have not shared proof of vaccination with UHS are required to test weekly. We’ve been clear that there are serious consequences for failing to follow these rules.
The good news is, in addition to our very low positivity rate, we have a very high vaccination rate:
- 93% of students, 94% of all employees and more than 99% of faculty are fully vaccinated, and the numbers are continuing to grow – especially among students.
Based on what we know now, we believe that our high vaccination rate and public health measures like mandatory masking indoors will keep infections on campus low – but we will continue to see COVID cases, and we’ll continue to adjust as needed. Our guidance comes from the same team of public health experts who worked with us last year throughout the pandemic.
I want to thank you for all that you are doing, both in and out of the classroom. As you know, being together, in person, is what we do best. It leads to the best educational outcomes…and I don’t have to tell you our students are thrilled to be back in the classroom and not on Zoom sessions. I know many of you share that feeling.
Diversity and Inclusion
I also want to bring you up-to-date on some of the things we’re working on to make this campus a more diverse and inclusive place where all people feel like they belong:
- When we last met, I told you we were launching a fundraising campaign for scholarships and programs that help improve diversity and inclusion on this campus. It’s called the Raimey-Noland campaign, named for the first two black students to graduate from this university — Mabel Watson Raimey and William Smith Noland.
- Our goal was to raise $10m but before it went public last winter, we’d already raised $20m. As of two weeks ago, it was at $40m.
- I am happy to tell you that we had a substantial increase in applications from underrepresented students of color this year, and we’ve just learned that that’s translated into a substantial increase in enrollment.
- In 2017, we had about 700 students from historically underrepresented groups. This year we have more than 1,200.
- The share of students of color in our freshman class is just over 25%, an all-time high, and the share of students of color from historically underrepresented groups in our freshman class is also at an all-time high of 14.8%. Both of these are up substantially from just a few years ago.
I also want to tell you about a couple of initiatives for faculty support that we’ve started over the last year:
First is the Understanding and Reducing Inequalities Initiative, which is a $1m fund the VCRGE created last spring, supported by WARF, to fund faculty research that develops better ways to address racial inequities in the U.S.
The goal of this fund is to move beyond scholarship that describes causes and consequences of inequality, to a place where we’re developing evidence-based practices that can be put into action.
We received 73 proposals and funded 15 really exciting projects across a wide range of disciplines. For example:
- One project focuses on improving doctor-patient communication and promoting shared decision-making in cases involving high-risk patients who are people of color. (PI Marcus Brauer, Psychology)
- Another focuses on better understanding racial differences in how Americans handle civil legal problems. (PI Tonya Brito, Law School)
- And another is looking at ways to reduce inequality in the STEM fields through culturally aware mentoring. (PI Angela Byars-Winston, SMPH)
And second, also this past academic year, the Provost’s office created the Exceptional Service Support Program to acknowledge the extra work by faculty members – often from groups that are underrepresented on this campus – who spend time mentoring students beyond what is usually expected.
In the first round, we provided a course release to six outstanding faculty members. We can fund as many as 10 … but we need help getting the word out. If you think that you (or a deserving colleague) might be a good candidate, I encourage you to apply by March 5. Watch your inbox for an announcement this week.
We are also continuing to invest in our very successful targets-of-opportunity program, better known as TOP, which began in 2018 to provide funds from the central campus to make it possible for departments to go after the people they’d like to recruit from groups that are not well-represented within their discipline.
We started TOP at a time when we’d seen essentially no growth in our Black and Native American faculty in 10 years, and moderate growth in our Latinx faculty.
I am delighted to tell you that is changing.
In the past three years, we’ve hired 39 new faculty though TOP in 11 of our schools and colleges (missing Nelson, Pharmacy, Extension.
They’re not all people of color; the program’s goal is diversity in all forms – for example, we have hired women into departments that are heavily male.
But about ¾ of these new faculty are people of color from underrepresented groups.
There are many people on this campus – including many of you – who have worked tirelessly to help us live up to our mission as a public university to provide real access to education.
And there are fruits to these labors. We’re attracting and retaining more students from underrepresented groups … better supporting their success … and making sure they reach graduation.
- The four-year graduation rate for underrepresented students of color has improved by 23 points in the last decade.
- The graduation gap for undergraduates between white students and historically underrepresented students has been cut nearly in half in that time (now a 7-point difference).
Progress is never quick enough, but there is progress – even in this extraordinarily difficult year.
I am grateful for your resilience and flexibility, and your commitment to our students. I’m looking forward to a somewhat better year in ’21-’22, as we interact in person in classes and seminars and events like this.
Thank you for all you do.