President’s Remarks at the Chancellor’s PRODiG (Promoting Recruitment, Opportunity, Diversity, Inclusion and Growth) Announcement at New Paltz) (March 23, 2021)
SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras visited SUNY New Paltz on March 23, 2021 to announce the selection of 72 SUNY faculty, 8 at New Paltz, to participate in round two of the PRODiG – Promoting Recruitment, Opportunity, Diversity, Inclusion and Growth - initiative that aims to hire 1,000 BIPOC and women in STEM faculty by 2030. President Christian introduced the event and welcomed the Chancellor with the following remarks:
Welcome to SUNY New Paltz! I thank Chancellor Jim Malatras for visiting us today and for choosing our campus to make this important announcement. It’s good to have you on campus again, Chancellor.
One of the longest standing and most unfulfilled challenges facing higher education is to diversify the workforce of the academy and to create learning and working environments that are equitable and inclusive so that every student – indeed every member of our community - can achieve their full promise. The students we serve now and in the future deserve more opportunity than those who came before them to learn from and be supported by professors who look like them and have similar life experiences. The faculty and professionals we seek will bring new perspectives and values to our educational enterprise, helping us better reflect, support, and advance our students and the whole of American society -- not just segments of it.
Such efforts require concerted attention and work at all levels of the institution, including both bold actions and incremental steps. One example of a bold administrative action is the PRODiG initiative that SUNY launched two years ago and that Chancellor Malatras has embraced and will speak more about shortly. SUNY New Paltz is proud to participate in this program and to have drawn on its assets and support to take important steps in diversifying our teaching faculty.
As President, I am grateful for all the ways that our campus has embraced the imperative to recruit and retain talented BIPOC faculty and to expand inclusion and representation of BIPOC and Women faculty in STEM fields.
The principles of the initiative the Chancellor will present today are upheld by the intentional practices we have employed at New Paltz.
- Faculty and professionals on our campus have worked hard to learn about and apply best practices that lower barriers in employee searches.They have engaged in important conversations and planning to think in new ways about candidates who best serve our students and support our educational mission in the twenty-first century. That work includes training about implicit bias and inclusive recruitment.
- Search committees specifically ask applicants to address diversity and inequity in their application materials, signaling our commitment to continuous work and sustained change.
- Many departments are considering ways that curriculum and pedagogy must evolve to be inclusive and representative of histories and experiences that are too often absent, marginalized, or silenced.
- Departments that have taken such steps have been better prepared to discuss this work and be more open to prospective colleagues who, beyond their impressive academic credentials, share the values and vision of diversity, equity and inclusion and bring new ideas and best practices to their departments.
This intentional, ongoing work was a driver in our successful recruitment last year of eight BIPOC and women in STEM faculty hires.
The SUNY program the Chancellor will speak about has created a framework and offered funding for intentional and sustained change and helped us take bigger and bolder steps in our journey to be a more inclusive campus, as I am sure it is for other SUNY campuses as well.
We know that recruitment must be supported by a commitment to practices and culture needed to retain talented and invested faculty and professionals. This work is not static, and we do not rest on successful moments. Rather, we are inspired by the changes and critical reflection and know that success is not measured by one recruitment season but by how each decision about recruitment and retention shifts culture, makes excellence inclusive and better serves our diverse students and employees.
We know that we have ongoing work to create more welcoming departmental climates and cultures, to support the success of all faculty, and to adjust how we recognize, value, and reward faculty as they advance the work of inclusivity.
Everyone on campus is a diversity officer. Our individual and collective work is essential to achieve our goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion and to fulfill the promises of programs like PRODiG.
Jelani Cobb, an African American writer and professor of journalism at Columbia University, was a visiting professor at New Paltz in 2019. He spoke eloquently in his public address about diversity and inclusion, and reminded us that they are not the same, and don’t always happen together. He said, and I quote, “An inclusive institution cannot be the same as an institution that has simply added some more different people into it. Becoming inclusive means the institution has fundamentally become something else with adaptation of new customs and new ways of listening to each other.” Cobb went on: “diversity creates guests, while inclusion creates stakeholders, and builds participation in a democracy.” The challenge for vital institutions, he concluded, is to choose to do things differently.
PRODiG is the type of bold action embraced by SUNY and its campuses that allows for meaningful change. Chancellor, we are grateful for your championship of PRODiG and other efforts to advance SUNY in its mission to serve all New Yorkers as well as society at-large.
I’ll now turn things over to our Chancellor.