Columbia University is taking steps to make sure its faculty and student body look more like the world around it, and this is helping the New York City school remain a diversity leader among institutions of higher education, especially Ivy League schools.
University president Lee C. Bollinger announced in October that the school would dedicate $100 million over the next five fiscal years to continue its support of faculty recruitment, career development and creating a pipeline for potential professors, as well as doctoral and post-doctoral students from underrepresented groups. This is alongside $85 million that the school has dedicated to similar efforts since 2005.
“It is a fundamental premise of modern U.S. higher education, and it is most certainly true of Columbia University, that scholarship and teaching are strengthened immeasurably by having a diverse faculty and student body,” Bollinger wrote in an Oct. 5 letter to the Columbia community.
Diversity “… is also an imperative of any reasonable conception of justice, given our history and its continuing consequences,” Bollinger continued.
Dr. Dennis Mitchell, vice provost for faculty diversity and inclusion and senior associate dean for student development at Columbia’s dental school, is implementing the initiative.
“I’m incredibly proud of the university for really … doubling down on its commitment to faculty diversity and inclusion, and making sure we’re very clear about our core values,” Mitchell said in an interview with Diverse,
The announcement comes at a time when campus diversity is under attack. President Trump’s Justice Department plans to challenge affirmative action in college admissions and recently threatened to sue Harvard University for its student and applicant records, according to published reports.
The Columbia announcement also comes at a time when the country is paying more attention to race. The string of cases involving African-American men dying or suffering injuries during altercations with police, set off not only widespread protests across America but also demonstrations on college campuses.
Former University of Missouri System president Tim Wolfe resigned in November 2015 after students demonstrated against alleged systemic racism and the school’s lack of response to the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teen fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014.
Mitchell said he is proud that Columbia has been proactive on the issue as opposed to other campuses that have implemented plans as a reaction to the racial climate.
Columbia’s effort dates back to 2004, when Bollinger created the office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Diversity and Inclusion. The vice provost office announced varied initiatives in three-year increments until October’s announcement for the unprecedented five-year plan, Mitchell said.