The ASCCC Equity and Diversity Action Committee hopes that “closing the gap” does not become cliché, yet the phrase is seen and heard much more often in recent years. While many people have been pointing at equity gaps for some time, common language did not always exist around what it meant to close equity gaps. In a short two years, local community colleges’ guided pathways initiatives and implementation plans to bring their redesigns to scale, will be integrated into the Student Equity and Achievement (SEA) Program. A central part of implementing guided pathways over the past three years has been to ensure that pathways are student-centered and faculty-led because instruction and student success are at the center of all four of the guided pathways pillars. Many of the 114 California community colleges have their SEA Programs housed under the purview of Student Services, which may be because of the plethora of services this area typically provides for students throughout their academic journey. In addition, most of the disproportionately impacted students identified by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office are eligible for and supported by various categorical programs under Student Services, including financial aid or other support services. When equity funds were first allocated and many professional development trainings and support activities were planned for students throughout the state, student services and student affairs professionals, who tend to have extensive equity training in their backgrounds, were the logical choice to facilitate much of this work.
When “Integration 1.0” requirements came from the Chancellor›s Office in 2016, requiring Basic Skills, Student Success and Support Program (SSSP), and Equity plans and funds to be combined, a very different scenario was created. Certainly, counseling faculty had always been closely tied to categorical programs, SSSP, and other matriculation and retention services, but basic skills faculty in math, English, and ESL approached their support of students from a very different point of reference in instruction. Combined fund allocations did not necessarily combine the work that each group was doing, and soon thereafter the Chancellor’s Office introduced the Student Equity and Achievement Program. This program has sometimes been referred to as “Integration 2.0,” which also includes the implementation of AB 705 and considerations related to the new Student-Centered Funding Formula, all which claim to focus on closing equity gaps. This iteration included the guided pathways framework, eliminated basic skills as a separate funding stream, and localized expenditure decisions, all of which made sense in light of the cascade of new legislation and changes confronting community colleges all at once. The year 2022 promises to be dynamic and innovative as the third iteration of the SEA Program is ushered in and integrates guided pathways with Equity, SSSP, and Basic Skills.
Research exists that can assist with including faculty involvement in SEA Program development. For example, according to a recent Community College Equity Assessment Lab study, examples of practices that involve faculty that specifically support men of color, could include:
Promising practices for men of color include: (a) implementing early alert systems, (b) providing high-impact professional development for faculty and staff, (c) ensuring a higher representation of full-time faculty in developmental education, (d) increasing support for part-time faculty, (e) integrating equity goals and efforts into institutional strategic plans, (f) hiring educators with a proven commitment to underserved students, and (g) engaging college educators in collective sense- making around student equity issues and concerns. (Harris et. al., 2017)
Several other studies support these findings but do not specifically address faculty’s role in SEA Program decision making.
Faculty’s role in equity efforts has been a frequent topic at meetings of the ASCCC Equity and Diversity Action Committee, but the issue is complex, dense, and diverse from campus to campus. Informally, the committee had conversations with faculty at the ASCCC’s Curriculum Institute, Accreditation Institute, Fall Plenary, Guided Pathways Regional Workshops, Guided Pathways Task Force Meetings, and the Guided Pathways webinar chatroom. These conversations focused on faculty involvement from the perspectives of academic senates, committees, counseling, professional development, and campus involvement. Few discussions about instruction specifically addressed equity or closing equity gaps. Very interesting patterns began to develop in these conversations, so the committee decided to poll various groups—such as the Research and Planning Group Leading from the Middle Listserv, A2MEND participants, and ASCCC committee and task force members—to confirm the preliminary patterns. This process would help to set the stage for designing a formal ASCCC study on the intersection of faculty and equity.
Four specific categories began to develop through these conversations. The committee labeled the first pattern “inconsistent” faculty involvement. This designation came from conversations that expressed that few instructional faculty are formally involved or show interest in equity. Student services managers and staff, including counseling faculty, are primarily involved in the SEA Program. In this scenario, the same few faculty always show up to equity discussions and meetings and volunteer to participate in professional development. The second pattern was called “collaborative” faculty involvement. These discussions spoke of balance and shared decision-making and leadership and often included of a team of faculty, administrators, institutional researchers, and program staff working together collaboratively. The third pattern that developed was called “tug of war” faculty involvement. This pattern is the most tenuous, as it refers to reports that Student Services has purview over the SEA Program and develops the Student Equity Plan with unofficial support from some faculty, but faculty have voiced that they would like more institutionalized involvement and purview. The final pattern that developed was called the “senate purview.” This pattern was the easiest to see because an academic senate president was often the person who reported that senate had purview over the SEA Program. In the senate purview pattern, instructional faculty were most formally involved in equity decision-making.
Instead of settling the matter of faculty involvement in the SEA Program, these preliminary findings only raised more important questions. Now that California community colleges are being funded more intentionally with the goal of closing equity gaps and the community college system has designed metrics that the colleges must use to demonstrate compliance, greater continuity has been created regarding the aims of the system. However, many questions remain, including the following:
- What official role are faculty playing in equity and the SEA Programs on their campuses?
- Do counseling faculty and instructional faculty have different roles when it comes to equity?
- Since Basic Skills, SSSP, and Equity funds have been combined, have faculty become involved merely to continue working on the same programs while using the same resources but from a new funding stream?
- Have instructional faculty joined SSSP onboarding teams and student services committees to create a new structure of involvement?
- Was equity always under faculty purview so the change made little difference other than combining three faculty-coordinated programs?
The answers to these questions will reveal the localized differences regarding how colleges are approaching the closure of equity gaps and to what extent is an equity lens being used to examine the more radical changes such as the new Student-Centered Funding Formula and AB705. What is obvious is that a formal study of the role of faculty in the Student Equity and Achievement Program is critical to understanding how colleges will continue moving forward focused on student success.
California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office (2020). Guided Pathways and Student Equity and Achievement Program. Retrieved from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’ Office website: https://www.cccco.edu/
Ching, C. (2019). Supporting Latinx Students in Hispanic-Serving Institutions: An Exploration of Faculty Perceptions and Actions, Journal of Latinos and Education.
Felix, E., & Castro, M. (2018). Planning as strategy for improving Black and Latinx student equity: Lessons from nine California community colleges. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 26.
Harris III, F., Felix, E. R., Bensimon, E. M., Wood, J. L., Mercado, A., Monge, O. & Falcon, V. (2017). Supporting men of color in community colleges: An examination of promising practices and California student equity plans. San Francisco, CA: College Futures Foundation.