Race-conscious inquiry and talking about race is uncomfortable for many because we have been socialized to avoid meaningful discussions about race, but we must persist through the discomfort. Emotions run deep and high when conversations about race emerge, but those conversations are valuable and important. Brave spaces, where the work around institutional change takes place, are needed. The challenge is, however, in answering if we are ready to invest and to investigate the patterns rooted in a dominant culture that preserves the status quo. The death of George Floyd is a glaring example of the ambivalence that ensues when we do not intervene and have necessary dialogue. If we are serious about addressing the equity gap that persists across California community colleges, we must also acknowledge the problematic equity gap that exist in our faculty hiring practices and the suffocating knees on the necks of our Black faculty resulting in the deleterious impact on our student success. Conversely, diverse faculty role models support the success, persistence, and assumption of campus leadership roles by students of color (Avery and Bartee, 2016). As educators, we know that “diversity fosters better engagement and increases perspectives on thinking, leadership, and solutions in a multi-cultural America” (Bollinger, 2007). As we grapple with transitioning from a compliance based model of DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) checklist to actualizing equity-mindedness that intentionally evaluates practices and interrogates policies through a race-conscious lens, perhaps as educators we need to actively reflect on the questions that we might ask when leading conversations in our hiring practices.
Interest in diverse hiring practices are of prime concern for many human resources departments and policy makers across the nation’s colleges and universities (ACE, 2017). Moreover, many civil rights organizations have filed lawsuits prompting higher educational institutions to diversify their faculty and staff, and the second highest reason for complaints submitted to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (US EEOC, 2017) is employment discrimination based on race, as the commission’s statistics show racially motivated discrimination totaled 35,890 cases in 2010. For more than a decade, California community colleges have been discussing the need for a more diverse faculty. This, however, prompted short-sighted solutions such as colleges solving the problem by having consultants conduct racial climate assessments and not implementing any of their recommendations (Harper, 2012).
Often, incentives for diverse hiring practices provide implicit bias training and allocating funds for EEO programs. Unfortunately, these extrinsic incentives fail to stimulate systemic change given that the structural racism has permeated so deeply within each campus, all the way to the departmental level. With department chairs and faculty leading most efforts to steer hiring committees, it is imperative that academic senates and human resources at the campus and district levels develop race-conscious policies and provide race-conscious training to actively counter systemic racism (McNair, Bensimon and Malcolm-Piqueux, 2020). Historically, policies and personnel are the key components that can counter systemically inherent racist systems. The need for a more diverse faculty is eminent; systemic change calls for more than talk, rather more action and accountability.
The counterpoint to discussions of faculty diversification often focus around the fear of lawsuits and reliance on adherence to Proposition 209. Conversely, the discussion on affirmative action versus meritocracy in hiring practices has also been heavily debated in the courts (US EEOC, 2017). Advocates of meritocracy believe that individuals should be selected based simply on their merits or credentials. They claim preferential treatment based on race, gender, or other indicators may cause reverse discrimination, especially against white males. Proponents of affirmative action mention this philosophy is flawed given the systemic causes of racism in education. Affirmative action supporters believe the solution is creating a more equitable playing field (Brown, 1994).
In response to this type of push back and resistance, more progressive institutions have developed holistic models that truly address issues of inequitable hiring practices, such as creating mentorship programs, committees, taskforces and intentional recruitment of minoritized candidates (ACE, 2017). Researchers recommend that committees and taskforces conduct training on implicit bias and microaggressions that hinder employment opportunities for minoritized candidates, which may also foster more positive campus climates overall (Harper 2012; Wood, 2011). Equity-minded institutions will also intentionally follow up on a holistic model by conducting a post-hiring report on the number of candidates who applied, those who were invited to an interview, and those who were forwarded as finalists. These institutions also practice cluster hiring by hiring multiple faculty of color at once, so feelings of isolation are not so prevalent (Guenter-Schlesinger & Ojikutu, 2016).
Practical Steps for Anti-Racist Hiring Practices:
1. Cluster Hiring--Anti-racist institutions practice cluster hiring, where they hire multiple faculty of color at once, so feelings of isolation are not so prevalent (Guenter-Schlesinger and Ojikutu, 2016).
2. Intentional Recruitment--Diversifying pipelines by advertising positions in diverse magazines or posting advertisements with diverse organizations, as well as diversifying adjunct/part-time faculty pools.
3. Post Hiring Autopsy--Equity-minded institutions follow up on a holistic model by conducting a post-hiring report on the number of candidates who applied, those who were invited to an interview, and those who were forwarded as finalists.
4. Mentorship-- Mentorship is critical for the professional development of any college faculty; however, due to scarcity of faculty of color, it is more salient to their success to support them with intentional mentorship, which can come from white faculty as well, as research confirms that it is a common myth that only faculty of color can effectively mentor faculty of color (Brown, Davis, and McClendon, 1999).
The ambivalence of the current power structure of governing boards and shared governance across the California Community College system cannot be detached from the continued pervasive racism that ails our campuses and negatively impacts our students and employees.
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Harper, S. R., & Porter, A. C. (2012). Attracting Black male students to research careers in education: A report from the Grad Prep Academy Project. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education.
McNair, Tia Brown, Bensimon, Estela and Malcolm-Piqeux, Lindsey. (2020). From Equity Talk to Equity Walk: Expanding Practitioner Knowledge for Racial Justice in Higher Education. Hoboken: Jossey-Bass.
United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (2017). EEOC Releases Fiscal Year 2016 Enforcement and Litigation Data. Retrieved from https://www.eeoc.gov/newsroom/eeoc-releases-fiscal-year-2016-enforcement-and-litigation-data.
Wood, J. L. (2011, August 5). Laying the groundwork—Black male programs and initiatives in community colleges. Community College Times. Retrieved from http://www.communitycollegetimes.com.