Trinity Announces New Special Opportunity Hires, Provides Data on Faculty Diversity

Jack P. Carroll ’24

News Editor

Acting Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs Sonia Cardenas announced Trinity’s new special opportunity hires in a document sent to members of the Trinity community on Tuesday, Apr. 6. The College recently hired 10 faculty members as a part of the Special Opportunity Hiring (SOH) initiative that was launched for the 2020-2021 academic year. In an email to the faculty in late June, Cardenas cited the Umoja Coalition’s goal to “diversify Trinity’s faculty” as a motivation for the initiative.

The new hirees include Heather Bennett (Biology), Jordan Camp (American Studies), Elise Castillo (Educational Studies), Chandranil Chakraborttii (Computer Science), Amanda Guzmán (Anthropology), Christina Heatherton (American Studies and Human Rights), Priscilla Meléndez (Language and Culture Studies), Kelly Patton (Physics), Sally Bernardina Seraphin (Neuroscience), and Leniqueca Welcome (International Studies   and Urban Studies).I

In the document released last week, the Office of the Dean of Faculty indicated that eight of the hirees are faculty of color stating that “This progress reflects our commitment as a college to attracting and supporting faculty who represent a broad diversity of backgrounds, including multiple socio-economic and cultural backgrounds and life experiences.”

Additionally, the document reported the following year-to-year increases in tenure-line faculty from fall 2020 to fall 2021: 21% to 24% increase in faculty of color (U.S.), 6% to 8% increase in black faculty, 7% to 8% increase in Asian faculty, 9% to 10% increase in international faculty, 18% to 24% female faculty of color, and a 45% to 47% increase in female faculty. Notably, the percent of Hispanic faculty remained stagnant at 8%.

The document also featured the year-to-year increases in STEM-specific faculty: 27% to 29% increase in STEM faculty of color, 46% to 49% STEM female faculty, 5% to 10% STEM black faculty, and 8% to 10% STEM international faculty.

Regarding its inclusion of STEM data, the document stated that “We highlight STEM faculty to show progress in a division that tends to be lowest nationally in terms of faculty diversity.” Also, it was reported that Trinity “has the highest percentage of faculty of color (29%), compared to the Arts (19%), Humanities (21%), and Social Sciences (23%).

In an emailed response to the Tripod, Cardenas noted that “The criteria for hiring all tenure-line faculty is the same. Special opportunity hires refers to the mechanism for recruitment.” Cardenas added that, “The criteria we use in hiring all faculty into tenure-line positions is whether they will be outstanding teachers in a liberal arts setting, who value inclusiveness and creativity in their teaching; whether they are engaged scholars whose research and output in their fields will earn them tenure at Trinity; and whether they are likely to be engaged members of the community, who contribute broadly to the life of the college.”

In September, the Tripod reported that Trinity had planned to fill 18 special opportunity positions—six each year, appointed over three years—based on a July email from President of the College Joanne Berger-Sweeney. The College had prepared to make these hires while a general freeze remained in place over new faculty positions. In her June email to the faculty, Cardenas noted that the freeze would apply to “visiting faculty and some tenure-positions.” Six special opportunity positions and four tenure-track lines (American Studies, Computer Science, Economics, and Physics) were excluded from the freeze.

The same article reported that the administration declined to outline to the Tripod in August the criteria that would be used in their hiring process.  Professor of Mathematics and Chair of the EPC Paula Russo told the Tripod last year that the hiring criteria is an administrative decision and that others “determine whether the candidate meets the goals of the College.” Russo also explained that the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion “makes a recommendation as to how well the proposed candidate meets the College’s goals for diversity.” Last year, the EPC proposed and the faculty passed, with some disagreement, a change to the Stewart Amendment, which had previously set forth rules for increasing the size of the faculty.

Note: the document in this article was updated on Apr. 15 to reflect the most recent version available to the Trinity community that contains slight biographical changes to the new hires.

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