‘Never-ending fight’ for diversity, equity and inclusion

Jarvis M. Watson, Ed.D., Interim Chief Diversity Officer of Stony Brook University, speaks to students at the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists on Thursday, July 25, 2019. (Photo by Isabelle Castaño Friedberg)

Stony Brook University is ramping up its efforts to increase the diversity of its faculty, but this time with the financial help of a new state-wide program that SUNY said is intended to increase “the representation of faculty members who understand, and have overcome, race and gender-based barriers and biases.”

“This is pretty important for a faculty member to have, so they can be able to teach, do research, as well as give service back to the community,” said Dr. Jarvis M. Watson, Stony Brook’s Interim Chief Diversity Officer, who is heading this effort on campus.

It is known as PRODiG, for Promoting Recruitment Opportunity Diversity Inclusion and Growth.

According to the PRODiG overview, “While SUNY has significantly increased the diversity of its student population, and campus leadership at the highest level, we have been less successful in increasing the diversity of our faculty.” In the fall of 2018, data showed “a pronounced gap” between the racial and ethnic diversity of SUNY faculty members compared to the diversity of their students.

At Stony Brook, according to the university’s “plan for equity, inclusion and diversity,” in the fall of 2015, 69 percent of tenured and tenure-track faculty were white, 13.7 percent were Asian American, 3.9 percent were Hispanic/Latino and 2.6 percent were black/African American.

On a case-by-case basis, Watson said, the PRODiG system will provide salary assistance for underrepresented minority faculty and women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

“We even have a hiring package,” he said in an interview. “Let’s say you get hired as a faculty member here. The SUNY PRODiG initiative will give up to $90,000 for the first year, $45,000 for the next year, and for the third year you are in a faculty position, to give $27,000. … The hope is that the university will actually pick up the price or the cost in the next two or three years as people are working toward their tenure.”

“We are waiting on feedback to help us understand a little bit more about what type of funding we’ll get to address recruitment — how do we recruit diverse groups so we can have a more diverse applicant pool,” he added. 

Watson, who has been a staff member for 13 years and the interim chief diversity officer for seven months, said it is important to “take the time to engage and see where other people are coming from.”

Although the opening stages of the PRODiG project are geared toward faculty, Watson said it is important to “think about 10 years down the road — what it’s going to look like for students … to be in these positions, to have more opportunity to become faculty members or professors.”

Speaking to student reporters, Watson said that we must use our eyes and ears first because “it is important to engage and hear what other people are coming from, how people are telling their story.”

Younger generations have a chance to advocate for diversity, Watson said.

“The story that is the worst story is the one that’s not told,” he said. “So what’s your story?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *