Convergence of Diversity and Equity: Guiding Framework for the Hiring Processes

October
2019
Luke Lara, ASCCC Faculty Leadership Development Committee Member, MiraCosta College

Faculty diversification efforts in the California Community Colleges and funding to address those efforts have been prioritized by multiple stakeholders, including the legislature, the Board of Governors, the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, and the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC). This issue is not new for the community colleges, but, with a recent additional allocation of funding, it is becoming a more realistic goal. In fact, in 2016 the legislature enacted Senate Bill 826, known as the Budget Act of 2016, which stated,

The Office of the Chancellor of the California Community Colleges shall report by December 1, 2016, and annually thereafter for five years, on the racial/ethnic and gender composition of faculty, and efforts to assist campuses in providing equal employment opportunity in faculty recruitment and hiring practices as well as system-wide training, monitoring, and compliance activities.

The Budget Act of 2016 provided nearly $3 million to distribute among Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) programs across the system. Currently, the Chancellor’s Office EEO and Diversity Advisory Committee is revising the EEO Plan templates and preparing enhanced guidance for clarity and increased accountability at all levels.

The academic year 2019-20 is the second in a row in which the ASCCC has made faculty diversification a major goal, with the understanding that it will remain a top goal for several years. In its commitment to removing bias and barriers in the hiring process, the ASCCC adopted the paper A Re-examination of Faculty Hiring Processes and Procedures in spring 2018. This paper reiterated the critical role of academic senates and faculty in the faculty hiring process and also provided effective practices for increasing diversity in faculty hiring outcomes.

The ASCCC has been clear that diversity is all encompassing and that the first two years of this effort have been specifically focused on increasing the racial and ethnic diversity of faculty. While the messaging has emphasized increasing the diversity of faculty, colleges need to be cognizant of current EEO laws that prohibit the usage of a candidate’s protected class, such as race, ethnicity, gender, disability, or veteran status, as a means to privilege candidates in the hiring process. This situation poses a dilemma, forcing institutions to ask how they can be accountable to the hiring outcome if the process cannot consider the candidate’s background and what principles should be used in the hiring process to help them achieve a more diverse professoriate.

Two concepts are at play that need to be better understood: diversity and equity. Despite the increasingly diverse student population in the CCCs over the last three decades, the system has seen very little change in the demographic profile of the faculty body, which is predominantly racially white (Lara, 2019).

Published research supports the notion that improved student outcomes, especially for students of color, can be attributed to a more diverse faculty body (Lara, 2019). The majority of faculty at California community colleges are white, which is not reflective of the current student racial and ethnic demographic. This fact does not mean that institutions should not hire more white people, but rather it means that the institutions should be gathering and evaluating data and being responsive to the rich diversity of their communities and ensuring an equal employment opportunity to anyone regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or other factors.

Equity work is about removing barriers, possessing equity-minded competencies such as being culturally competent, implementing race conscious principles, analyzing disaggregated data, approaching equity systemically, and taking responsibility as an institutional agent to remove barriers (Center for Urban Education). In this respect, equity-mindedness is a characteristic that can be learned and a skill that can be assessed. Equity work leads to results that transform students, institutional agents, and institutional structures. If colleges are looking to change inequities, they need to apply an equity framework to address historic and contemporary issues for their diverse student populations. This work is both individual, involving practices, and institutional, involving policies and procedures. It can be practiced by anyone, regardless of racial or ethnic background. However, such practice does not mean that institutions do not need to worry about diversity, and although the concepts of diversity and equity are seemingly different and contradictory, they in fact interact. For example, while the race of an applicant should not be the determining factor of whether he or she should be hired, a search committee that seeks equity-mindedness will more likely hire a candidate that is not in the dominant majority—i.e., white—based on equity-minded competencies.

Colleges need to acknowledge that in order to achieve the outcome of increased faculty diversity, they must approach the task with equity-mindedness. That principle is first and foremost. An equity-mindedness framework requires colleges to engage in the following competencies (Center for Urban Education):

  1. Evidence Based: Institutions need to collect and regularly review disaggregated data to uncover potential patterns of inequities in hiring practices and determine where biased practices may be occurring. Demographic data on applicant pools at each of the hiring stages needs to be reviewed in accordance with applicable EEO laws.
  2. Race-Conscious Practices (Lara, 2019): While race cannot be considered a factor, discussions about race and racism and how racial bias impacts hiring practices—e.g., color-evasive ideology—are important. For instance, terms such as merit and fit are often used as coded language for race. These terms can be redefined through an equity framework to be more inclusive of diverse experiences and strictly focused on the knowledge, skills, and abilities related to the job description. Committee members should have a common understanding of what merit and fit mean in the context of the particular job search. This conversation needs to happen before candidate applications are reviewed and before evaluation criteria is developed. Conversations about race and racism and trainings on implicit bias need to happen throughout the year, outside of the hiring process, and in various settings such as department meetings, divisional meetings, and onboarding processes. In addition, job announcements should be posted to relevant outlets that cater to diverse populations in order to expand the diversity of recruitment pools.
  3. Institutionally Focused: The lack of diversity in faculty is a problem for practitioners, not an issue with the potential candidates. Colleges need to focus on understanding the problem while focusing on the individual and collective practices that contribute to the lack of diversity in faculty hiring outcomes. They need to question assumptions, recognize stereotypes that harm candidates, and continually reexamine practices.
  4. Systemically Aware: The hiring process is guided by various institutional structures, including culture, policies, and practices. These structures can create dysfunction and perpetuate inequities. Within the 10+1 academic and professional matters of academic senate purview under Title 5, faculty have influence and agency over all of these institutional structures.
  5. Equity Advancing: Most importantly, change will require equity-minded practitioners who are willing to assess and acknowledge that their practices may not be working. Only equity-minded practitioners will be compelled to apply this framework to become accountable for the success of faculty candidates and see racial gaps as their personal and institutional responsibility.

The guiding principle of equity-mindedness, enacted through the above five competencies, should increase the diversity of faculty in hiring outcomes and ultimately benefit all students in the California Community College System.

REFERENCES

Center for Urban Education. (n.d.). What Is Equity-Mindedness? University of Southern California Rossier School of Education. Retrieved from https://cue.usc.edu/about/equity/equity-mindedness/.

Lara, L. J. (2019). Faculty of Color Unmask Color-blind Ideology in the Community College Faculty Search Process. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 43 (10-11), pp. 702-717. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/10668926.2019.1600608.

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