Open Letter to from Central-line Faculty and Students on Diversity


This collaboratively written letter is a response by the Graduate Center central-line faculty and students to President Robinson and Provost Lennihan after their recent announcement of the Graduate Center’s diversity initiative. It raises serious questions about the lack of diversity at the Graduate Center, backed by data reported in the CUNY Workforce Demographics. The letter was delivered to President Robinson and Provost Lennihan on 3 December, 2015.

December 1, 2015

Dear President Robinson and Provost Lennihan:

We write as Central Line faculty and doctoral students at the Graduate Center in response to your diversity memo,and who are frankly alarmed about the lack of racial/ethnic diversity among our faculty. Below we outline our multiple concerns, and suggest a path forward.


  1. Under-representation of faculty of color, particularly women. Compared to the rest of CUNY, the Graduate Center faculty is disproportionately White and male [see charts below].
  2. Diversity Task Force recommendations: Last year the Graduate Center Diversity Task Force, chaired by Robert Reid-Pharr, submitted a final report to the President’s Office in January. To date, the full GC community has yet to receive and review that report.
  3. Recent hires: gender/race imbalance. Last year there were six new hires: five men and one woman. None was Black or Latino.
    Three women of color have been recommended to the President for offers. In Earth and Environmental Sciences and Urban Education, three internationally recognized scholars have been recommended to the President by their respective faculties and search committees. In the Urban Education case, the search committee has been told that the searches were closed due to austerity. In the EES case, we were pleased to learn that you are now in the process of making an offer to Professor Katherine McKittrick, which if successful will be an important and thrilling addition to our faculty.
  4. Selective searches continue “despite” the soft freeze. In the current soft freeze environment, a number of searches have been canceled or suspended. Nevertheless, three searches are underway in Theoretical Biology/Physics and two in Philosophy.

At present, to our best estimates, the central line Graduate Center faculty includes only two African American women, one Latina and one Asian American. With the tragic loss of Jerry Watts, and the impending departure of Rod Watts, we have a shrinking set of African American men and Latinos on the Central Line faculty.

We are dismayed that the Graduate Center has historically been, and is becoming more, disproportionately White and male within the Central Line GC faculty. We are further dismayed that faculty of color, and women in particular, are not being hired and that those faculty of color, and White women, employed primarily at the campuses have less opportunity to teach and mentor graduate students than in the past due to reductions in the course cap. Given the extraordinary efforts made by GC faculty to identify and recruit outstanding doctoral candidates of color, it is unacceptable that these students are unable to gain the quality training required of twenty-first century scholarship afforded by a diverse faculty.


  1. Hire the outstanding, interdisciplinary candidates: We ask that the candidates who have been recommended by their faculties and their search committees in Urban Education be offered positions with resources from the GC or, if necessary, that a request be made of CUNY central.
  2. Public forum before break: We ask that the President hold a community wide meeting about Diversity in Hiring, Student Support, and Consortial faculty before the end of the semester.
  3. Release the Diversity Report: We ask that the President release to the full community the report of the 2014 Diversity Task Force.
  4. Provost Search: We expect that the Provost search will explicitly recruit and interview a diverse sample of candidates for the purpose of desegregating senior administration.

We are a premier institution of doctoral education, well known for critical public scholarship on questions of race, gender, class, disability, sexuality and immigration. The current imbalance in the faculty is intolerable, and frankly an embarrassment. The lack of dedicated resources for students of color is shameful compared to NYU and Columbia. We deserve a faculty that reflects the full diversity of our student body, and the city; our students deserve full support.

We thank you for the invitation to respond to your diversity initiative.

This letter was signed by more than 350 people


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