The University released its first ever Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Annual Report, accompanied by a video, describing how the University has strived toward anti-racism and systemic change in the last year.
The report comes largely in response to a July 2020 open letter from hundreds of faculty to President Christopher Eisgruber ’83. The letter called for the University to, among 48 total demands, reform hiring practices, rename multiple campus buildings and monuments, implement widespread antiracism training, and acknowledge that the University exists on land of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation.
Following the consideration of the letter, Eisgruber tasked his cabinet with addressing systemic racism on campus.
Their goals were shaped by “input of hundreds of students, faculty, postdocs, staff and alumni who weighed in with written comments, petitions and conversation,” according to the report.
The report shows that the University has responded to some of those demands. For example, in the last year, the University acknowledged that its campus is on Lenape land. The report also describes new initiatives in the transfer program and the hiring of a chaired professor in Indigenous Studies, both stemming from demands in the open letter.
The report details “the literally hundreds of projects, initiatives, and events that took place in academic departments and administrative units, with the leadership and participation of students, faculty, and staff on all levels.” It describes the University’s projects in equity based around three themes: “climate, inclusion, and equity; access and outreach; and the academic experience.”
However, the changes noted in the report have left some faculty and students dissatisfied.
Co-chair of the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) Disability Task Force Naomi Hess ’22 expressed disappointment that the report includes no information on disability or attempts made to make campus more accessible.
Hess is an Associate News Editor for The Daily Princetonian.
“I hope that in the future versions of the report, it will be incorporated more as a priority for the University,” she said. “In the University context and in the world overall, I think disability often isn’t the first thing that people think of when they think about diversity. But it should be.”
Many of the demands from last year’s faculty letter were not met or acknowledged, including a demand to create a center on racism and anti-racism.
“There are many important institutional priorities, including those involving disabilities, socioeconomic background and LGBTQ identity,” Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity Michele Minter wrote in an email to the ‘Prince.’ “The annual report could cover only a small part of the activities on campus. We have tried to stress that there are many worthy initiatives that could not be included. We made a decision to focus on racial equity this year but hope to be able to feature other aspects of DEI in future years.”
During a discussion of the report at last week’s Council of the Princeton University Community (CPUC) meeting last week, Minter emphasized that the report is just a first step.
“We still have a great deal of work to do, and we will be doing it forever,” Minter said.
Though Minter emphasized accountability as a significant theme of the report at the USG meeting, specific measures to hold individuals or departments accountable were not discussed in the report.
The report is the first to bring together all the information on DEI progress and covers activity since the start of Eisgruber’s tenure as president.
One overarching goal of the report was transparency.
“Some of the data is data that we’ve never really published before, but we thought it was important to be able to see that,” she said at this week’s USG meeting.
“Systemic change requires systemic commitment,” Minter said in the report’s accompanying video.
At both the CPUC and USG meetings, students, faculty, and alumni asked Minter questions about the report, ranging from transfer students to affinity groups.
U-Councilor Isabella Shutt ’24, who was active at both meetings, wrote to the ‘Prince’ that she hopes students and faculty get the credit they deserve in these accomplishments and that the community continues to pressure the administration to fulfill the report’s goals.
“This report is essentially a list of accomplishments and promises,” she wrote. “When it comes to accomplishments, I hope the student and faculty groups that were influential in increasing equity on campus receive the credit they deserve in future reports. When it comes to promises, it is our responsibility as students to continue applying pressure so that the plans claimed by administrators come to fruition quickly and future promises fulfill our most bold dreams for the future.”
Shutt is a former news contributor for the ‘Prince.’
At the CPUC meeting, Minter did acknowledge the work of students in accomplishing the University’s goals.
“[The racial justice work] has also hugely benefited from the work of students, both graduate students, undergraduate students over the past,” she said.
Climate, Inclusion, Equity
The first section of the report described the University’s actions to improve campus culture around issues of race. This included the establishment of Juneteenth as an official University holiday, the creation of the Asian Staff at Princeton Employee Resource Group, as well as two working groups to study Black and LGBTQ+ experiences and one task force called the Future of Alumni Affinity Programming, the LGBT Center’s pride month celebrations, and the June 2020 removal of Woodrow Wilson’s name from the University’s School of Public and International Affairs and a residential college.
The report also noted how the trustee Ad Hoc Committee on Principles to Govern Renaming and Changes to Campus Iconography gave recommendations for how to handle similar situations in the future.
Wilson’s name was removed and replaced in 2020, five years after the Black Justice League (BJL) campaigned to remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from the University’s public policy school and residential college in 2015.
Controversy over the BJL protests arose last year, when Classics professor Joshua Katz published a letter in Quillette, writing that the BJL was a “terrorist organization.” He also criticized calls to remove campus iconography, compensate faculty of color for invisible work, and incentivize student activism.
Katz’ remarks received swift criticism from students and his colleagues.
“While free speech permits students and faculty to make arguments that are bold, provocative, or even offensive, we all have an obligation to exercise that right responsibly,” said Eisgruber in a statement to the ‘Prince’ at the time.
The controversy was a topic of discussion in this year’s inaugural orientation program for first-year students, To Be Known and Heard, which explored the University’s history of racism and student activism.
This orientation module also met criticism from Princeton professors John Londregan GS ’88 and Sergiu Klainerman in the New York Post, who claimed that the Class of 2025 received a “mandatory injection of … indoctrination.”
The University has been criticized for maintaining campus iconography of men who actively upheld racism and slavery, like the statue of John Witherspoon and Double Sights, a marker focused on Woodrow Wilson’s legacy.
Furthermore, The Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity released its first annual Bias Report on the 2019–2020 academic year which says that there were 24 formal disciplinary investigations of alleged harassment/discrimination, mostly based on disability, followed by race, ethnicity, and gender, and resulted in three policy violations. Ninety-three additional reports of bias — mostly based on race or ethnicity — were not considered policy violations.
The Academic Experience
The second section of the report emphasized diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at the level of academic departments, recognizing the difficulties of building a strong pipeline from diverse undergraduates to diverse graduate students and faculty.
The University announced last year that it plans to “increase the number of underrepresented tenured and tenure-track faculty members by 50 percent within five years,” according to the report.
It is attempting to do so by strengthening search practices and diversifying through the Target of Opportunity program.
The centralized Target of the Opportunity Committee “provides incentives to departments to identify potential faculty who will diversify the campus in intellectual or demographic terms,” according to a 2013 report from the trustee Ad Hoc Committee on Diversity.
“Although the committee is generously funded, it is an underutilized resource that would benefit from additional outreach and visibility,” the Ad Hoc Committee report noted.
The diversity report encourages departments to do cluster hires, which are more effective in building diversity and institutional expertise in specific research areas.
With respect to the 50 percent increase goal, faculty letter co-author and English professor Andrew Cole does not think the report goes far enough.
“This would be a feat, if it happens. But 50 percent is too small a number if we’re talking at the level of individual departments, because some departments are currently at 0 percent,” Cole said.
As last year’s faculty letter states, “As of the fall of the 2019–20 academic year, faculty of color make up only 7 percent of the laddered faculty.”
In the same year, there were 30 Black, 31 Latinx, and no Indigenous people in a faculty of 814, according to the same faculty letter.
In response, Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss wrote in an email to the ‘Prince’ that the 50 percent increase is an “overall institutional goal.”
“The Dean of the Faculty’s office is working to strengthen the efforts of each department to recruit and retain a diverse faculty in light of its unique academic challenges and opportunities,” he wrote.
The University also plans to improve hiring practices both among postdocs and the professoriate.
One specific search is underway for a new professor of Indigenous studies, funded by a gift from Eric Schmidt ’76 and his wife Wendy Schmidt in partnership with the Schwab Charitable Fund.
Additionally, several departments have created new programs on DEI and have issued statements affirming their commitment to DEI.
“Sixteen academic departments and programs established new diversity, equity, and inclusion committees, to bring the total to more than 30,” the report wrote.
Additionally, the Presidential Postdoctoral Research Fellows Program named 12 scholars in 2020 “with the aim of enhancing diversity in the professoriate” and the Princeton Graduate Scholars Program held events for historically underrepresented groups.
Furthermore, the University established a culture and difference distribution requirement, offering “perspectives of groups who have historically been excluded from dominant cultural narratives or structures of social power,” according to the report.
Access and Outreach
The third section of the report detailed the University’s actions in the community, such as extending educational outreach. They noted that the Emma Bloomberg Center for Access and Opportunity, which aids “college access and success for talented first-generation and lower-income students who attend Princeton or other colleges and universities,” was established in April 2021.
The center includes the Freshman Scholars Institute and the University’s transfer program.
Deputy Dean of the College Elizabeth Colagiuri GS ’99 stated at last week’s CPUC meeting that the University does plan to double the number of transfer students in the coming years.
The Graduate School’s Prospective Ph.D. Preview hosted over 100 students with the goal of increasing graduate diversity. The Pre-Doctoral Fellowship Initiative supports scholars from historically underrepresented backgrounds who benefit from one year of mentoring before entering a Ph.D. program.
The section also detailed the University’s attempts for inclusion in its investments. The University will invest “50% of the university’s approximately $430 million bond proceeds with a diverse asset management firm.”
The Office of Finance and Treasury also created a plan to supply more from businesses run by underrepresented groups.
“Every unit at the University is now working on trying to make sure that we are using our money and also our investments to support minority-owned businesses of all types,” Minter said at the USG meeting.
Cole wrote that he found the investments lacking.
“With the announcement that the endowment grew at a 46.9 percent clip this past fiscal year, now is as good a time as any for Princeton to do more than post explainers about the endowment on its webpage,” Cole wrote. “The University can and should formulate in public view a more aggressive plan for divestment and a bolder and more fine-grained vision for the redistribution of wealth to communities in Mercer County and beyond.”
Demographic and Climate Data
The fourth section of the report shows that the proportions of the student body of Black, Asian, Hispanic, and white students have changed between academic years 2009–10 and 2019–20.
Between the 2009–20 academic years, there was a decrease in the number of white undergraduates (49 percent to 44 percent), masters’ students (50 percent to 44 percent), and doctoral students (52 percent to 45 percent).
For undergraduates, most of the difference was made up in an increase in the percentage of Asian students (16 percent to 25 percent). The Black undergraduate population grew from 8 percent to 9 percent. For postdocs, the Black population rose from 1 percent to 5 percent.
In 2009, 84 percent of tenured or tenure-track professors were white. In 2020, that number was 76 percent, with 11 percent Asian and 4 percent each for Black and Hispanic professors.
Among the senior staff, 78 percent were white in 2020, with 11 percent Asian, 6 percent Black, and 3 percent Hispanic.
Gender ratios also differ between students and faculty.
Undergraduate students have consistently been split evenly between males and females.
Among tenured or tenure-track faculty, 68 percent were male in 2020, a decrease from 75 percent in 2009.
Cole felt that not enough effort has been put into reforming the hiring process.
“Look at it this way,” Cole wrote. “We’re already one year into the hiring process with four years to go, presumably, so it seems to me the efforts need to be redoubled, retripled, to reach this goal. If you consider alone all that’s involved in a single senior hire at any given time, these recruitments can take up to two years to complete. Reaching this goal requires a moon-shot effort.”
The University has collected its own gender data and approximates that 2 percent of students identify as transgender or nonbinary. However, the charts in the report use statistics from the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education, which only provide male and female gender categories.
At Sunday’s USG meeting, Shutt pushed back against the University excluding data on genderqueer people in their report.
“Why are we using federal guidelines?” she asked. “We know that the federal government doesn’t do a great job of identifying how people identify individually.”
In response, Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Shawn Maxam said that they have “federal reporting obligations,” but that they are “undergoing a process of self reflection to see how we can reflect that we do have individuals who don’t identify in the ways that we are asking them to identify themselves.”
Additionally, Pell-eligible undergraduates rose from 9 percent in 2009 to 22 percent in 2020.
The University also collects annual climate surveys from undergraduates, and every few years from graduate students, faculty, and staff. Anticipating that COVID-19 disrupted many results, it is likely that more surveys will be conducted in spring 2022, according to the report.
Data on faculty, staff, and student diversity is updated each year. Additionally, academic department-level dashboards on diversity metrics have been made available to department chairs.
The last page of the report describes the University’s goals for the academic year 2021–22. It will put on new programming and initiatives related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, expect accountability from administration, “make additional investments in infrastructure to support systemic change,” and provide regular updates on its website.
An external evaluator will assess progress on the University’s DEI goals once every four years.
“Bringing in external expertise periodically to carry out that kind of assessment will be one of the ways that we hold ourselves accountable,” said Maxam at the CPUC meeting.
The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion report will be published annually in recognition that greater equity “requires sustained, multigenerational commitment.”
Gabriel Robare is a news contributor, as well as the Co-Head Puzzles Editor, for the ‘Prince.’ He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on social @gabrielrobare.
Marissa Michaels is an associate news editor at the ‘Prince’ who often covers town affairs and campus events. She can be reached at email@example.com or @mmichaels22.