Diversity Status Report Letter to Faculty

June 09, 2011

Dear Faculty Colleagues:

Close to a year and a half ago, I wrote to you to share the Report of the Initiative on Faculty Race and Diversity. Since receiving the report, I have asked the Associate Provosts, the Deans and Department Heads to use the findings and recommendations of the report as a framework for directed efforts to enhance the commitment to increase the diversity of the faculty and strengthen the climate of inclusion at the Institute that is needed to retain underrepresented minority (URM) faculty. I now write to provide a brief update on the work being done, specifically with the direction and support of the Associate Provosts and School Deans.

I was delighted to read last month the supplemental report on the status of women faculty in the Schools of Science and Engineering at MIT. This sequel report to the 1999 and 2002 reports on women faculty at MIT provides evidence that the efforts taken since the initial report have produced encouraging results on the hiring and retention of women faculty at MIT. The supplemental report also emphasizes the reality that there are no quick fixes in increasing diversity and supporting a climate of inclusion. The Report of the Initiative on Faculty Race and Diversity provides practical suggestions to develop outreach, recruitment, hiring and retention programs to increase the hiring and retention of underrepresented minority faculty at the Institute. These suggestions are continuously being reviewed at various levels of the Institute. While we cannot be patient in the commitment to increasing diversity and making a culture of inclusion part of the MIT fabric, we need to be patient on progress; the most important progress will come from sustained efforts.

The focus this past year has been to make the discussion on diversity hiring and supporting a culture of inclusion an intentional part of regular, strategic agendas at every level of the Institute. Specifically, best practices, particularly those identified in the Report, have been discussed in detail among the Deans, Department Heads and several committees, so that initiatives and programs can be developed broadly and applied to the various unique challenges each department and school faces. This facilitated dialogue will continue on an informal and a formal basis as part of overall strategies of particular departments and schools. In addition, there is continued focus on the mechanics of searches as recommended in the Report, including: the makeup of the search committee, broadening the candidate pool, educating committee members on diversity issues, and creating financial and other support on these issues. Moreover, each school is establishing plans for formal mentoring programs for all junior faculty members, using the helpful recommendations contained in the report.

The Deans have made these issues a priority, and I highlight below a few of the initiatives of the schools. While there are new initiatives and efforts being made, many were begun before the Report was finalized. Since issuance of the Report, those initiatives have been reviewed and supplemented if needed. MIT must do better, but as I reported in the winter edition of the Faculty Newsletter, the recent data indicates that efforts that were started years ago are already yielding promising results. See, http://web.mit.edu/fnl/volume/233/reif_diversity.html.


  • Continuing with major three year plan that was started in 2007 regarding diversity in all of the School’s departments, developing specific and reachable goals with processes to implement those diversity goals
  • Associate Dean meets with Department Heads annually to discuss diversity goals for the upcoming year and to develop strategies for coordinating efforts throughout the School
  • Each department has a diversity committee that reports to Department Head annually and departments’ diversity committees and Department Heads collaborate throughout the year
  • Annual meeting of School Council on Diversity, assessing and critiquing initiatives
  • Systematic development of diverse applicant pool including building relationships with mentoring programs that support and produce underrepresented minority doctoral scholars


  • Focus on careful selection and training of Search Committee Chairs and members
  • Dean approval of all searches with focus on qualified underrepresented minority candidates
  • Faculty Search Chair Committee established to share best practices and information about candidates for open slots; and to educate search committee members on diversity issues, including hidden biases
  • Emphasis on search committees being pro-active in identifying potential qualified underrepresented applicants
  • Created a “watch” list of candidates to target for future searches
  • Established online hiring system for faculty searches that allows easier sharing of information
  • Continuation of outreach activities and planning of a Fall 2011 School of Engineering diversity workshop to network with and educate underrepresented minority graduate students about academic careers
  • Established fund to help support underrepresented minority visiting scholars, lectureships and post doctoral visitors
  • Enhancing area network to support job opportunities for family members of prospective faculty
  • Continuation of the School of Engineering mentoring policy providing each faculty member with a mentoring committee to provide advice and serve as informed advocates
  • Engineering Council review of best practices on recruitment, retention and climate issues at MIT and at other universities
  • Written reporting on efforts to increase diversity is included in the annual salary review for all Department Heads.


  • Focus on significant pipeline challenges to increase the qualified applicant pool, by increasing the numbers of minority graduate students and postdoctoral researchers at MIT
  • Departments with records of success in recruiting minority graduate students are sharing best practices with other departments
  • The School and departments, along with the Dean for Graduate Education, are devoting large and growing resources to the recruitment of minority graduate students and postdoctoral associates
  • The Racial Diversity Council has been established and charged with overseeing the initiatives of the departments and the School
  • Regular Science Council meetings are devoted to findings and recommendations of the Report and how they can best be applied to science disciplines
  • Established a Post Baccalaureate Scholars Program to expand and strengthen the pool of potential underrepresented graduate students
  • Attending conferences and meetings of underrepresented minority students in science and engineering
  • A Faculty Search Oversight Committee helps search committees identify bias in faculty candidate letters, in order to more fairly assess candidates; training on hidden bias has been provided in a variety of venues
  • Junior faculty mentoring plans are in place in each department; mentoring programs for postdoctoral researchers are also being developed


  • Focusing on expanding qualified applicant pool for any given search
  • Identifying senior underrepresented minority faculty in SHASS fields, establishing relationships with them and exploring their potential as SHASS faculty
  • Identifying junior underrepresented minority scholars who will soon be on the job market
  • Bringing underrepresented minority scholars to MIT for short term collaborations, presentations, visits
  • Working through the Faculty Diversity Committee, chaired by the Dean, and talking with search committees about strategies for recruiting underrepresented faculty
  • Designating a faculty member with responsibility for diversity recruitment in each unit
  • Meeting annually with School Council to explore strategies and report on results, as well as to make recommendations regarding hiring
  • Assigning and training faculty mentors for all new faculty, and creating a reporting structure for mentors/mentees


  • Cultivating underrepresented minority candidate identification lists from peer institutions even if there is no active search
  • Mandatory diversity awareness training for all faculty search committee members
  • Deputy Dean leads interviews of all URM candidates
  • Resources committed to ensure URM candidates receive competitive offers
  • Dean directly involved in recruiting underrepresented minority candidates who are offered positions
  • Encouraging disciplined-based seminar participation by underrepresented minority faculty and researchers
  • Deputy Dean leads senior faculty in discussions of diversity issues in the context of internal tenure and promotion reviews
  • The School will sustain a formal mentoring program with at least one faculty mentor assigned for each junior faculty person
  • The School has created a new financial aid program for doctoral candidates who contribute to diversity
  • Establishing open and regular discourse on underrepresented minority related issues to support culture of inclusion

The Report on the Initiative on Faculty Race and Diversity has provided needed impetus to strengthen existing programs, create new programs and, most importantly, provide a forum for these critical issues to be at the center of discussions across disciplines as part of core strategies for the future of the Institute. I am available for further discussion with any of you.


L. Rafael Reif