To Diversify Faculty, Interrupt the Usual and Seize Opportunities

Gil Puga, Rio Hondo College, Equity and Diversity Action Committee
Stephanie Dumont, Golden West College, Equity and Diversity Action Committee

As educators, we understand that implicit in the principles of academic freedom is the value of diverse voices and opinions, which benefit our students, our institutions, and the communities beyond our institutions. But somehow we have not applied that same value of diversity to our own hiring practices.

Recent studies of faculty in California higher education institutions point to the continued lack of diversity.

In short, efforts to diversify faculty ranks in California higher education have been unsuccessful. At the Fall 2006 Academic Senate for California Community Colleges Plenary Session, Dr. Jose Moreno addressed in his talk Faculty Diversity in California: Seizing Opportunities the lack of underrepresented minorities hired as faculty. Moreno provided data to debunk several myths that have arisen as to why diversity hiring has not occurred and concluded that in some ways the solution is both simple and radical: Just do what you say you're going to do. He also offered practical solutions to bolster efforts for diversity hiring.

Moreno, a Chicano/Latino Studies professor at California State University, Long Beach, asserted that making faculty diversity an institutional imperative would provide credibility, add capacity for decision-making, improve institutional culture, climate, and attractiveness, address societal needs, improve education and research, provide role models and mentors, and support retention of all at an institution. He then shared faculty data disaggregated by race/ethnicity that showed an almost nonexistent increase in underrepresented minority faculty hires in the California community college tenured and tenure track ranks between 2000 and 2005. The same is true for the part-time faculty, which served to debunk another myth-that our part-time ranks are a diverse pool from which we can draw from when hiring tenure track faculty. On many campuses, across the varied sectors of higher education in California, the tenure track faculty are more diverse than the part-time ranks.

Moreno provided graphs showing that in both the California State University and the University of California systems, minority hiring has remained flat from the mid-1980s (before Proposition 209) to the present. In the case of the individual UC campuses, the trend remains the same. He cited recent research findings that a large proportion of incoming minority hires simply replace minority hires, thus having little to no impact on the net gain on diversification.

He pointed out several myths that are used to explain away the lack of minority hiring.

Perhaps the biggest myth is that so few faculty of color are in the pipeline that they are being against one another in the hiring process.

However, Moreno showed that during the past decade the number of PhDs received by minorities has grown and pointed out that community college minimum qualifications are MAs, which means we have an even greater pool of candidates to draw on. (For a more detailed discussion of the issues raised by Dr. Moreno, see Daryl G. Smith and Jose F. Moreno, "Hiring the Next Generation of Professors: Will Myths Remain Excuses?" The Chronicle of Higher Education, Section B Diversity in Academic Careers, September 29, 2006, pp. B22-B24.)

Moreno's speech highlighted the importance of follow-through with our institutional goals. If a college's mission statement includes diversity, actual hiring practices should be consistent with that goal. Citing research findings by Smith, Turner & Osei-Kofi (2004) he observed that for institutions with predominantly white faculty, diversity hiring can occur if at least one of the three following conditions are met: (a) job descriptions that are written to enhance the applicant pool; (b) an institutional intervention strategy to ensure diversity; or (c) a diverse search committee. The community colleges have their upcoming Model Equal Employment Opportunity Plans, which must address ways in which they will address underrepresentation and significant underrepresentation in staff ranks. So, community colleges will have the opportunity to look at the data and challenge myths, and as Moreno states, "Interrupt the usual." Community colleges have tremendous potential to meet diversity goals.

Moreno's reminder that "The Academic Senate needs to be willing to hold departments accountable" is clear. Yet to achieve a community of inclusion, we even need to go beyond that.

So, although the data show that our recent efforts to diversify have been unsuccessful, there is still great potential.

We need to embrace our higher education missions and values of diversity not only in rhetoric but with action.

Though this goal often provokes contention, we, the faculty, our educational institutions, and the Academic Senate need to be vigilant and thoughtful in assuring that the diversity we claim to value is reflected in the faculty we hire.

Citations: Smith, Daryl G., Turner, Caroline S., Osei-Kofi, Nana, & Richards, Sandra Interrupting the Usual: Successful Strategies for Hiring Diverse Faculty. Journal of Higher Education v75 n2 p133 Mar-Apr 2004

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