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Graduate Academic Diversity Update

Representatives from the Graduate School and the Office of the Provost recently met with leaders of the Graduate Student Council, Nabrit Black Graduate Student Association, and academic departments to discuss issues related to race and identity in the Brown community. The meetings highlighted that more work is needed for Brown to become a place where Black students feel a stronger sense of belonging. Brown University is deeply committed to eliminating any unintended barriers to success for Black graduate students, and this commitment also benefits other underrepresented and marginalized student groups.

We stand in unity with the call to end structural and systemic racism and inequities that continue to negatively impact Black graduate students and other marginalized groups in the United States. We acknowledge the challenges that Black graduate students and students from underrepresented and otherwise marginalized backgrounds face and are committed to validating their place at Brown and in the academy and aspiring to better support their experiences as graduate students.

The Graduate School, in collaboration with the Office of the Provost and the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, will begin work this academic year to introduce enhancements in programming, staffing, and practices that respond to concerns highlighted by the conversations with students and other campus leaders. These responses will include the following steps:

Strengthening Graduate School Diversity Staffing
Since 2016, Brown’s graduate student population has experienced significant growth in size and diversity. This change has been accompanied by increased student academic and non-academic support needs for Black and other underrepresented students. These needs will be addressed by: 

  • Establishing the position of Diversity Initiatives Program Assistant. This position has been piloted for the past three years and will now become a regularly budgeted University funded position in the Graduate School.  
  • Hiring an Assistant Director for Graduate Academic Diversity and Inclusion who will help to expand academic and co-curricular support for diverse students.  
  • Increasing graduate student non-academic health and well-being support by assigning a graduate student-dedicated Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) clinician. 

Expanding Resources and Programs to Strengthen Climate & Community
Brown’s annual support of graduate programming and resources has been very effective for student recruitment, performance and knowledge gains. Much of this work, however, has required ad hoc funding that is supplemental to the regular budget. To ensure that programming and resources continue uninterrupted, we will take the following steps:

  • Move dedicated and permanent funding to the Graduate School’s budget in support of graduate diversity & inclusion events, including Student of Color Orientation and Navigating the Academy, both of which are programs open to all graduate students.  
  • Move dedicated and permanent funding to the Graduate School’s budget in support of recruitment events including Graduate School Preview Day and Super Monday.  
  • In collaboration with the Graduate Student Council and student affinity groups, the Graduate School will establish a seed fund to create opportunities in support of anti-blackness awareness workshops and activities for graduate student participation.  
  • Launch a diversity, equity and inclusion module in spring 2021 for graduate students to learn about inclusion, unconscious bias, discrimination, equal opportunity, white privilege, and the ways that systemic racism can manifest in their research, in the academy, and in society.  
  • Offer diversity, equity and inclusion workshops for Directors of Graduate Studies in the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters.  
  • Create a yearlong training for STEM faculty on culturally significant mentoring in collaboration with the Division of Biology and Medicine and the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity.  
  • Pilot division-level directors of graduate diversity and inclusion. 

Enhancing Graduate Diversity through Collaborative Work
The graduate education experience involves students and faculty, among others, and therefore improvements require working with multiple constituencies. To address the issue of diversity in the graduate ranks, the Office of the Provost, Graduate School and Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity will work collaboratively to address the following:

  • Faculty Hiring
    The University is committed to promoting recruitment with the goal of increasing the number of faculty from historically underrepresented groups (HUGs), including Black faculty, as part of the University’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP). It’s important to note that faculty positions reside within departments, and hiring is done through the oversight of respective divisional deans (i.e., the Dean of the Faculty, dean of the Schools of Engineering, etc.).

    To ensure University-wide progress, the provost convenes a working group focused on achieving progress toward the goals stated in the DIAP. The group includes the Dean of the Faculty, Vice President of Institutional Equity and Diversity, and deans for diversity initiatives. This group reviews departmental requests and ensures the careful, thoughtful and intentional efforts to recruit faculty of color.

    The University has made noteworthy strides toward the goal of doubling the percentage of faculty from historically underrepresented groups to Brown. In 2014-15, Brown had 53 faculty from historically underrepresented groups -- or 8.8% of the faculty. In 2020-21, the number is 90, or 13.6%. To strengthen efforts in the STEM fields, the provost recently appointed an associate provost for STEM initiatives -- a half-time position devoted to working with departments to advance progress for this goal. 

  • Climate
    In addition to compositional diversity, ensuring an inclusive environment in which students, faculty and staff are and feel valued and respected is essential. This year, in addition to hiring efforts, the provost’s office sponsored a professional development series for department chairs and center and institute directors, which included retreats focusing on diversity and inclusion, and effective leadership. These opportunities will be offered in the year ahead in collaboration with OIED, with a focus on anti-Black racism.  

Building Accountability
Accountability is essential to progress. The following are steps we are taking to promote transparency and accountability: 

  • Each year, graduate programs are expected to submit to the Graduate School annual reports, which include written summaries that both qualitatively and quantitatively document progress in meeting articulated diversity and inclusion goals. Beginning with the 2020-21 annual reports, the Graduate School will require that each summary expand on the progress made toward the goals of HUG recruitment and support, building a diverse faculty, and supporting an inclusive curriculum. For areas where no progress is made, programs will outline steps to address deficits and provide a timeline to completion.  
  • The Graduate School will hold annual student town halls where it will share the outcomes of diversity efforts across the University and in individual programs. 

The actions above will be implemented in the 2020-21 academic year under either the leadership or stewardship of the Graduate School, as appropriate.

The Graduate School’s strategic goal of outreach and recruitment of a more diverse graduate student community aligns with Brown’s values for diversity, equity and inclusion and the University’s commitment to educational equity and access. Over the past four years, Brown’s graduate community has become more diverse, and this has been accompanied by increasing excellence as measured by the quality of applicants and admitted students. Furthermore, this diversity provides educational benefits to all students.

The programs, initiatives and accountability measures outlined in this letter are initial steps. Our community’s work to address systemic racism in the United States must be an ongoing effort that will continue to evolve. Brown’s vision is to put in place the structures, programs and support needed to establish long-term sustainable models that ensure that our Black and other underrepresented students have the rich experience they deserve in their graduate studies. Our offices look forward to advancing this work collaboratively with colleagues, faculty, and the student community, and to making meaningful progress for current and future members of the Brown University community.

Sincerely,

Andrew G. Campbell, Dean of the Graduate School

Shontay Delalue, Vice President for Institutional Equity and Diversity

Marlina Duncan, Graduate School Associate Dean of Diversity Initiatives

Richard M. Locke, Provost