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Minority graduate recruitment falls short of goals

STANFORD -- Stanford's graduate programs have fallen far short of a 1989 goal of doubling the enrollment of new minority graduate students in five years.

"The notion that we could double minority enrollment was naive," Judith Goldstein, professor of political science and chair of the Academic Council's Committee on Graduate Studies, told the Faculty Senate on Thursday, Nov. 11.

"The data that I present to you is nowhere near as promising as the data we have on the undergraduate side."

Several years of improvement helped raise the total enrollment of minority students in doctoral and master's programs from 8.5 percent in fall 1989 to 9.5 percent this year.

However, the number of targeted minority graduate students newly entering this fall actually was lower than in fall 1989 - 8.2 percent as compared to 9 percent. In doctoral programs alone, the percentage of new minorities was down from 9.8 percent to 8.7 percent.

Targeted minorities are persons of African American, Native American, Mexican American and Puerto Rican descent.

The Committee on Graduate Studies adopted the doubling goal in 1989, following recommendations by the University Committee on Minority Issues to increase minority recruitment.

Among the possible factors in the dropoff of progress cited at the senate discussion were increased competition from other universities, a preference for professional schools among minority graduate students and abolition of the graduate studies office in 1991.

"With the loss of the office, the impetus for centralized, universitywide efforts to increase the number of minority graduate students largely dissipated," Goldstein's committee wrote in its annual report to the senate.

Statistics from the report show that minority students among new doctoral enrollees dropped from 11.4 percent in fall 1991 to 7.7 percent in fall 1992, the first year after elimination of the central graduate studies office. Many other figures related to minority graduate students showed a similar drop between 1991 and 1992.

The committee recommended that the university reaffirm its commitment to "achieving a diverse graduate student body, including the use of special measures to recruit and retain African Americans, Mexican Americans, Native Americans, Puerto Ricans and others who are severely underrepresented at Stanford" and elsewhere.

The committee also suggested centralizing "at a very high level" responsibility for evaluating the success or failure of the graduate student affirmative action program.

In the area of time-to-degree for doctoral students, Goldstein told the senate that figures for last year were slightly longer than the year before, but down from numbers of preceding years. She said that the figures vary widely among schools, but that good progress is being made.

Goldstein's report sparked numerous questions and a wide-ranging discussion about minority recruitment.

English Professor George Dekker, who also is associate dean of graduate policy, said he was establishing a committee of students, faculty and recruiting officers to study the issue. A report is expected this spring, he said.

Dekker suggested that one reason enrollment had not doubled was that "our competition has become a lot more active in recruiting." The pool of potential students has increased a little, but "we have more people actively fishing in that pool."

Economics Professor Don Brown asked what had become of the active minority recruitment program that existed before the graduate studies office was disbanded. He also wondered about the disposition of special minority recruitment funds. When linguistics Professor Elizabeth Traugott was dean of graduate studies, the university had several professional staff assigned full time to identify and recruit potential graduate students who were targeted minorities.

Dekker responded that the functions were turned over to the schools, some of which have done "extremely well" in recruiting. He said his committee will be looking at what kind of resources schools have for recruiting.

Provost Condoleezza Rice said that the School of Humanities and Sciences has had supplemental monies to use for recruitment, but was still unsuccessful. She noted that she had chaired the graduate admissions in political science, and seen the difficulties of recruitment.

"Stanford has to have a very strong commitment to getting excellent minority students into graduate programs here as part of a national effort to improve the pools down the road for hiring minority faculty," Rice said. Other institutions are not doing much better, she said, based on discussions she had at a recent meeting of provosts. However, some other institutions have more resources to direct to the problem.

Rice suggested increased efforts at mentoring, more summer stipends and promises of fifth-year support.

Traugott said summer funds are helpful, as are funds to underwrite campus visits by admitted minority students. Linguistics has a faculty member who has been very active bringing students to campus, and the payoff this year is that three incoming doctoral students are minorities, she said.

Ed Harris, medicine, said that many minorities prefer graduate programs that are more likely to guarantee future jobs. In the Medical School, 9.6 percent of enrolled students are minorities working toward the M.D. degree, while no minority students are enrolled in Ph.D. programs, he said.

Fewer research opportunities exist these days for graduates earning Ph.D.s, he said. The problem is beyond the control of graduate schools.

"It's the future that doesn't really seem too bright for many," he said.

"Harris has put his finger on the problem," said Bob Simoni, biological sciences. He said it is difficult to convince minority students to choose doctoral programs over professional school degrees.

Simoni said he is seeing some "small successes" lately with students doing joint M.D./Ph.D. programs. In the sciences, aid has not been as much of an issue, he said, because granting agencies provide funding incentives for minority students and postdoctoral fellows.

Statistics bear out observations about minority interest in professional schools. In fall 1991, 30.8 percent of new Law School students were targeted minorities. Medicine reached 14.7 percent in fall 1992, and 10.3 percent of Business School students in both 1990 and 1991 were members of targeted minority groups.

Excluding the professional schools, 8.3 percent of new graduate students were minorities in 1990, 7.6 percent in 1991, 5.4 percent in 1992 and 6.0 percent this year.

Curtis Eaves, operations research, warned that "some sensitivity should be directed" to the stigma of being a targeted minority student. He encouraged efforts to find out why minority students drop out of programs.

Traugott wondered if, at the graduate level, Stanford was not viewed as "a very inviting place."

Stephen Krasner, political science, said that statistics on election to Phi Beta Kappa by ethnic group might provide some explanation of why there are not more minority doctoral students.

He also said he would like to see statistics on minority attrition rates, and data that would show if there is a correlation between minority student performance and the number of minority faculty on campus.

The committee is working to compile attrition information, Goldstein told him.

Scientific computing and computational mathematics

In other action, the senate unanimously approved Goldstein's request, on behalf of the graduate studies committee, to renew for five years the interdisciplinary program in scientific computing and computational mathematics.

Goldstein said her committee did a thorough review of the five-year-old program, and suggested that it appoint an assistant director and an advisory group to provide oversight. Program organizers accepted these recommendations.

Responding to a question from John Brauman, chemistry, Goldstein said that a number of "administrative snafus" had pointed up the need for more administrative support. The problems "didn't relate to academic quality," she said. Interdisciplinary programs are required to have advisory groups providing direction, she said.

The program has produced one doctoral graduate and currently enrolls 31 students who are advised by faculty in seven or eight departments.

Responding to a question from Brown of economics about employment opportunities, John Bravman, associate dean of engineering, said, "I have not heard that discussed before as a means of determining the worthiness of one of our programs."

Computer science Professor Gene Golub, who directs the program, said that he did not anticipate a shortage of possible positions, except in academe. He also said "students vote with their feet" about a program's desirability and its job prospects.

Asked by Simoni why the program was not a track of computer science, Golub said it was more broad, combining applied mathematics with scientific computing. Computer science shifted in the early 1980s to a more orthogonal approach, he said.

As for why the program did not have a larger group of core faculty, Golub pointed out that faculty appointments are made to departments, not interdisciplinary programs.

Jim Gibbons, dean of engineering, said that the affiliated and associated faculty have contributed to the program's quality, despite the fact that it has not met its original core faculty goal.

Traugott, of linguistics, said the strength of the program's faculty was "striking." She wondered how a committee reviewing interdisciplinary programs could escape the appearance of conflict of interest. This is a problem with broad-based programs, she said, explaining that she simply wanted to flag the problem.

Senate Chair Pat Jones, biological sciences, said that several senate bodies were looking into the problem.



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