Commission on Academic Excellence and Equity Final Report and Committee Information

May 1, 2012

Dear University Community,

The Commission on Academic Excellence and Equity (CAEE) has completed its research and analysis of data, policies and practices related to faculty success at UB and has submitted its final report entitled, “In Pursuit of Academic Excellence:  Equity Across Diversity.” I commend Professor Mutua and all of the members of the CAEE for their diligent and committed effort, thoughtful and thorough analysis, and important recommendations. I have discussed the report with Commission Chair Athena Mutua, professor of Law, and several Commission members and Professor Mutua has completed her presentations of the report to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, the full Faculty Senate, and deans, vice presidents and vice provosts. I urge all of you to read the report and to work with me to help support and implement its recommendations. To read the full report and the accompanying “Ideas for Implementation,” please visit the accompanying links on the right. 

The CAEE was formed in 2009 by then Provost Satish Tripathi and by the Faculty Senate in response to concerns that had been raised about whether outcomes in the tenure process differed by gender. The Commission was charged with examining data, policies, and practices that bear on faculty recruitment and career paths, so as to identify any barriers that may impede faculty success. The CAEE was further charged with making specific recommendations designed to eliminate these barriers, so that all UB faculty, regardless of gender/race/ethnicity, can excel and flourish.

I am pleased to note that the CAEE report states that UB has a solid foundation of diversity and commendable stated commitments to diversity and equity as key components of excellence. We are at the median of AAU institutions in the diversity of our faculty.  The report also finds that the overwhelming majority of our tenure track faculty are successful in achieving tenure, and that there are no intentional practices or policies or overtly biased decision making that demonstrate discrimination against women or underrepresented minorities in faculty recruitment, retention, promotion or tenure. The report notes, however, that UB’s structure, systems, and practices of accountability and implementation do not always fully support and effectuate the stated commitment to diversity and equity. The report also highlights small variances between the percentage of women faculty members who are successful in being awarded tenure compared to male faculty members, as well as slight variances in retention and in career satisfaction and work/life balance satisfaction for women compared to men in the faculty cohorts studied. While the causes for these disparities could not be pinpointed, the CAEE Report recommends several steps or improved policies and practices that will help UB and all its faculty flourish. These include:

  • Establishing a senior leadership position focused on diversity that can enhance coordination, strategic planning, transparency, and accountability;
  • Improving data collection about faculty demographics – particularly for ladder faculty, career paths, and retention to better support academic planning and analysis;
  • Improving consistency of practices for mentoring, evaluating and making renewal decisions along the path to tenure, and improve data collection and analysis of reasons why faculty depart before or after tenure;
  • Establishing central guidelines for improved faculty work/life balance policies that will be evenly and fairly implemented across all academic units;
  • Improving access to information about faculty demographics, diversity at UB, and work/life balance polices through easily accessible web sites.

I fully share the Commission’s emphasis on the inextricable connection between diversity and excellence, and I am committed to helping to make UB a true leader in its practices and policies for achieving equity across diversity. I have already begun to work on implementing some of the report’s recommendations.  We will soon make available on the University website information about faculty and student demographics and diversity at UB, and I have asked the Office of Institutional Analysis to work with the Office of Faculty Affairs and Human Resources to identify needed improvements in the way we maintain and analyze data about faculty career paths. I will also form an Implementation Team to evaluate the recommendations that involve changes in university practices, policies, and personnel, including the recommendation for a senior leadership position focusing on diversity and to recommend the best avenues to effect these changes.

In conclusion, I thank the members of the CAEE for their thoughtful, careful analysis and for identifying ways in which the UB community can become a leader in ensuring a climate that maximizes the opportunities for success of all faculty. This enlightening report reminds us all that a strong commitment to equity across diversity, coupled with transparency, accountability and constant attention to implementation, are vital to ensuring that UB achieves its mission as a diverse, inclusive scholarly community dedicated to impacting the global community through the benefits of its teaching, research and scholarship.

Bruce D. McCombe

Interim Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

SUNY Distinguished Professor of Physics

University at Buffalo

562 Capen Hall

Buffalo, NY  14260