PHOTO CREDIT: STONYBROOK.EDU

SBU Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Stella Tsirka, pictured above, said the university’s first priority is to create support groups for underrepresented faculty and students, with the second step being to recruit more minority professors. PHOTO CREDIT: STONYBROOK.EDU

The SUNY Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion recently announced a Faculty Diversity Program to provide partial salary support to SUNY campuses for academics who belong to the groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education.

The Faculty Diversity Program is structured in a way to provide state-operated campuses with a percentage of the faculty member’s salary for three years. It is highly competitive, providing up to $145,000 total for each appointed faculty member.

“People need mentors and role models, and I think we need to do a better job of recruiting people of color and underrepresented minorities into faculty and staff positions,” Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said at a Feb. 18 roundtable with campus media.

SBU is determined to increase the number of faculty from underrepresented minorities. However, the pool of potential applicants is limited.

Of the 752,000 U.S. doctorate degrees in science, engineering and health fields earned in 2008, under 3 percent went to African Americans and less than 3 percent went to Hispanics, according to National Science Foundation data. Such small numbers force universities to fiercely compete for the handful of minority candidates.

“We want to increase the diversity of our faculty, but we don’t want to compromise the scholars,” SBU Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Stella Tsirka said. “We can accomplish both with increasing the targeting of our ads as opposed to lowering our expectations.”

Stony Brook University has recently introduced a new Talent Management System that uses sophisticated software to automate recruitment, onboarding and management. The TMS could potentially help in increasing diversity and in allowing officials to monitor searches that are going on for faculty.

“I think those things will help us because it will make it easier for me to hold people accountable for how they’re doing their hiring,” Stanley said.

“My first sense is that our immediate focus will be on creating communities and creating support system for faculty that is already here,” Tsirka said. “And second would be to continue with recruitment. I don’t know how much hiring will we do here to target potential diversity faculty, but first we have to make sure we take care of the faculty that are here.”

“We do feel that professors with different points of view and background add a lot to the college experience and we are working to expand this,” Elizabeth G. Carrature, associate for research and development at the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, said.

The chief academic officers at a college nominate a candidate. This year’s submissions were due in mid-February.

“All the applications are reviewed before awards are made to a few select candidates,” Carrature said. “We have to be conscious in our selection and choose candidates among colleges that have not yet received any rewards.”

At Stony Brook University, there is still a lot more diversity in the student population than in the faculty. Specific programs like Africana Studies have more than 90 percent African-American faculty, but a lot of other programs have very few or even none, Tsirka said.

Tsirka said that diversity is extremely important because it “brings different experiences to the campus and different kind of culture.” It also makes campus much more “encompassing, much more open and accepting of other people,” she said.