The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges has a well-documented history of embracing, supporting, and promoting student and institutional equity and achievement. The organization has taken a leadership role in pursuing adoption of equity regulations and urging their implementation. Long before the creation of the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office Vision for Success in 2018, faculty throughout the state demonstrated commitment to achieving student and institutional equity and achievement by engaging their local academic senates in college-wide collaboration for student success.
This commitment at the system level has come through a directive issued by the California Legislature in 1991, which charged all levels of public education, including the California Community Colleges, to provide educational equity “not only through a diverse and representative student body and faculty but also through educational environments in which each person… has a reasonable chance to fully develop his or her potential” (Education Code §66010.2[c]). This directive is reinforced in Education Code §66030:
66030. (a) It is the intent of the Legislature that public higher education in California strive to provide educationally equitable environments that give each Californian, regardless of age, economic circumstance, or the characteristics listed in §66270 a reasonable opportunity to develop fully his or her potential.
(b) It is the responsibility of the governing boards of institutions of higher education to ensure and maintain multicultural learning environments free from all forms of discrimination and harassment, in accordance with state and federal law.
Since the implementation of this Student Equity Policy in 1992, many revisions have occurred. In 2002, the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office Task Force on Equity and Diversity was created to consider two important issues: student equity and diversity in faculty hiring. The Student Success Act of 2012 (SB 1456, Lowenthal) reaffirmed the state’s commitment to student equity with goals to restructure student support services, reiterated the need to provide a common assessment test, and required colleges to use that assessment in order to continue receiving their Student Success and Support Program funding, improve services to historically underrepresented groups, and improve transparency and accuracy of success data throughout the system.
A successful Student Equity and Achievement Program (SEA) Plan is an institutional document, which means that the institution as a whole must understand the imperative of identifying and closing equity and achievement gaps to promote the success of students and the communities in which they live. Identifying barriers of racial inequity in education is not a new initiative. In fact, the ASCCC has been exploring and examining ways to close achievement gaps for historically marginalized students in California since the 1990s. Over the last thirty years, pointing to historically marginalized student populations and the gaps that exist and persist in measurable areas of student success has been relatively easy. Finding scalable solutions has been more difficult, especially those that can be integrated into the overall institution. Many cohort-based programs have been very successful in providing resources, support, and opportunities for growth for historically racialized and marginalized students throughout the state, such as EOPS, Puente, and Umoja affiliated programs that focus on African American students. However, the impact of these and other types of student success programs throughout the state has been limited in scale by funding and resources that are outside of institutional budgets.
Four specific areas can be counterproductive to beginning and sustaining student equity and achievement work:
- difficulty or discomfort in discussing issues of racial inequity and racist practices that are built into institutional traditions;
- balancing the passion of faculty who have been doing work in social and racial justice based on their lived experiences and the desire to be part of the larger solution by faculty from outside of these communities or from different lived experiences;
- gaining and sustaining support from administrators in impacting the campus culture; and
- making sense of data to avoid overload paralysis.
To be involved in the SEA Plan, faculty must first understand the intent of the policy and law (AB 1809, 2017-18 Higher Education Trailer Bill) and its relationship to guided pathways frameworks, AB 705 (Irwin, 2017), the Student-Centered Funding Formula, and academic affairs. Faculty who are appointed or elected by the local academic senate to SEAP committees must be committed to regularly, consistently, and clearly communicating the progress, planning, and implementation of activities and priorities outlined in college SEAP Plan. If opportunities for engagement with the SEAP committee and implementation are not provided, faculty should inquire into how to be included and involved.
Conversations about race, racial inequity, and racism are difficult discussions to have, but they are essential to this work. The era of supposed colorblindness is over, and colleges need to resolve those factors that have historically marginalized students of color. The ASCCC has embraced the term “courageous conversations” in its equity and diversity work aimed at helping to define spaces and common language to facilitate these conversations. A practice foundational to the work of local academic senate leaders is engagement in anti-bias training, anti-racism education, and professional development activities focused on culturally responsive teaching.
Local academic senate leaders can email info [at] asccc.org to request support and technical assistance for building anti-racism policies and culturally responsive teaching practices.
California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office (2017). Principles of Guided Pathways. Retrieved from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office website: http://cccgp.cccco.edu/Portals/0/PrinciplesofGuidedPathways-090817.pdf.
California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. (n.d.) Student Equity. Retrieved from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office website: https://www.cccco.edu/About-Us/Chancellors-Office/Divisions/Educational….
California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office (2018). Vision for Success: Strengthening California Community Colleges to Meet California’s Needs. Executive Summary. Retrieved from the California Community Colleges Foundation website: https://foundationccc.org/Portals/0/Documents/Vision/VisionForSuccess_E…