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 April 24, 2000

Diversity Report Shows Gains in Recruitment

The University is working hard both to recruit and to retain minorities and women and remains committed to having a diverse workforce, Irene Quong Conlon, director of diversity and equity, told the Board of Trustees earlier this month.

Quong Conlon, who delivered her annual report on diversity and affirmative action to the board, said that while many gains have been made, UConn "must continue to be vigilant, persistent, and creative in pursuing our diversity and affirmative action goals as we move into the new millennium."

President Philip E. Austin said in his inaugural speech that he is committed to diversity, and he noted this week that he has not wavered from that commitment. "I believe in inclusion. As long as I am here, this University will be committed to inclusion, to fairness, to leveling the playing field and to reaching out to the underrepresented."

Quong Conlon said strong gains have been made in full-time faculty hiring for Storrs-based programs but noted that retention remains a challenge. "After recruitment, we need to support and nurture faculty," she said. "Hiring is the first challenge; retention is the next.

"Diversity and excellence go hand in hand," she said, and competition for top faculty is so stiff that our new hires are often recruited by other colleges.

Quong Conlon strongly recommends that departments set up a mentoring program for female and minority faculty - matching them up with faculty who have been here for some time. This may help them feel settled here, she said, by helping them find everything from child care to a doctor to figuring out how some of UConn's systems work. This has worked well in the educational psychology department, for example, where Scott Brown, department chair, has established such a program for new faculty.

Twenty percent of the faculty hires in each of the last five years have been minorities, Quong Conlon said. As a percentage of total full-time faculty, the number of minorities has risen steadily:

  • 5.1 percent in fall 1975

  • 7.0 percent in fall 1985

  • 12.7 percent in fall 1995

  • 15.9 percent in fall 1999.

While the percentage of minority faculty has risen dramatically, however, the percentage of minority employees overall, including full- and part-time employees and both Storrs-based and Health Center programs, has risen only slightly: from 12.4 percent in 1991 to 13.8 percent in 1999.

The percentage of minorities among professional support staff in Storrs-based programs has increased from 8.7 percent in 1975 to 15.4 percent in 1999, while among classified staff it has increased from 3.3 percent in 1975 to 13.3 percent in 1999.

"We must continue our efforts to hire minorities so that we will have breadth and depth in our managerial, professional, classified and faculty ranks," Quong Conlon said.

"We have to think of every opportunity to hire as an opportunity to make our workforce diverse," she said. Since turnover for some positions may not be frequent, hiring is doubly important. Within the rank of dean, for example, there may be few opportunities to increase diversity. "When we hire deans, their initial appointment is for five years, and often they stay for 10 years. We have to be careful not to waste a single opportunity," she said. "Most of the time, we need to start planning before we even start searching. It doesn't take a lot of money, but it does take a lot of work."

Kevin Fahey, president of the University of Connecticut Professional Employees Association, said in a written statement read to the trustees by Peggy Beckett-Rinker, UCPEA's executive director, that he believes too many searches are waived, that the University should begin diversity training and that stronger efforts are needed both to recruit and retain minorities.

Karen A. Grava