UI Faculty Council discusses need to recruit and retain underrepresented faculty and staff

Faculty Council discussed recruitment and retention of faculty and staff of underrepresented communities during a virtual meeting Tuesday.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Interim Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Elizabeth Tovar (above) talks about ways faculty can address racial discrimination within the campus Community. The faculty council also talked about COVID-19 spreading around the Iowa City Area.

Alexandra Skores, Managing Editor

The University of Iowa Faculty Council discussed concerns for recruiting and retaining diverse faculty members. The conversation comes after the departure of many Hawkeye leaders over the last year who had led the UI’s diversity efforts.

Interim Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Liz Tovar said one area she has set her focuses on is the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty and staff at the UI.

Tovar assumed her position just this month, after the UI had begun a search following the vacancy of the role from TeJuan Wilson, who resigned from the UI in August 2019. The search for a permanent individual to fill the role will conclude in spring 2021.

“There is no individual who will look at the [Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] position, as an appealing position for them if we don’t have some type of stability or model that they can really work with,” Tovar said.

Tovar noted the “continuous flux” of leadership within the division for the last five to six years. She said that there is an overall concern from the campus community about maintaining both faculty and staff of diverse populations.

At the UI’s annual diversity update in January, former UI Provost Montserrat Fuentes voiced concerns over a five-year decrease in tenure and tenure-track faculty. Fuentes signed a settlement agreement in July to serve as the special assistant to the president.

As previously reported by The Daily Iowan, regents’ documents showed that in fall 2018, 33.1 percent of the UI’s full-time tenured and tenure-track employees were female and 20.93 percent were minorities, falling below the peer-group average of 35.48 percent female and 24.3 percent minority.

In order to address these concerns, the Provost’s Office developed the Path to Distinction, a program that aims to integrate research-informed practices concerning diversity and equity into recruitment processes in different academic departments. Additionally, the Distinction Through Diversity Fund was created to recruit and retain undergraduate students and tenure-track faculty of color.

Alongside Wilson, former UI Vice President for Student Melissa Shivers departed from the UI in December 2019 for Ohio State University.

“Within higher education, people are able to successfully navigate places, and they also are recruited away to other places — it’s very common place,” Shivers told the DI in December. “It’s not as if it is new or different.”

Faculty Senate President Joseph Yockey said a priority within the faculty council is the Faculty Advancement Commission, a task force focused on boosting morale and improving faculty recruitment and retention, with respect to faculty who identify as members of minority groups.

Brandi Janssen, clinical associate professor in the college of public health, said the college is currently undergoing an internal search for an associate dean of academic affairs, which would house DEI efforts. Janssen asked Tovar what resources the diversity, equity, and inclusion office could provide for colleges.

“It’s a very big challenge,” Tovar said. “It’s fine to have someone dedicated to DEI work, but one of the issues is that we really put all of the onus on that one person and then take a step back and say, ‘Not my role, not my responsibility.’”