Since 1990, districts have been required, per California Education Code §87360, to include in their hiring processes for faculty and administrators “criteria that include a sensitivity to and understanding of the diverse academic, socioeconomic, cultural, disability, and ethnic backgrounds of community college students.” This statute is included in the Minimum Qualifications for Faculty and Administrators in the California Community Colleges, also known as the Disciplines List.  Title 5 §53022 dictates that job requirements for faculty and administrative positions include these criteria and broadens the list to also include sensitivity to and understanding of gender identity and sexual orientation. The regulation also specifies that “any ‘required,’ ‘desired’ or ‘preferred’ qualifications beyond” the minimum qualifications in the Disciplines List comply with equal employment opportunity requirements and nondiscrimination laws. Taken together, the statutory and regulatory requirements that applicants possess a responsiveness to and knowledge of students’ diverse backgrounds and identities constitute a minimum qualification. This minimum qualification, distinct from the discipline-specific qualifications listed individually in the Disciplines List, applies not to a single discipline but to all faculty and administrative positions. For this reason, the requirement has come to be known in the community college system as “the second minimum qualification,” though some districts have begun to apply it as their first.
Since districts are legally required to have such criteria in place, most districts’ job announcements and applications for academic and administrative positions state that candidates are required to possess sensitivity to and understanding of students’ diverse backgrounds and identities. However, statute and regulation offer no clear guidance regarding how to apply this criteria in practice. Screening committees are therefore often left to determine for themselves whether candidates possess this qualification and to understand its significance on their own.
At some districts, this important qualification may simply be screened for with a boilerplate yes or no question—essentially a check box—or a single narrative question to which candidates are compelled to respond and that screening committees can simply determine does or does not demonstrate evidence of meeting the second minimum qualification. These approaches may comply—or nearly comply—with the letter of the law, but gauging whether or not they are meaningful or effective is difficult. Surely, districts can do more.
One must remember that this requirement is a minimum qualification. When screening for applicants that meet the first, or discipline-specific, minimum qualification, districts do not simply ask candidates if they meet the stated minimum qualification and then grant an interview. Most, if not all, districts require that candidates submit their academic transcripts as evidence of required academic preparation and other documents and artifacts as evidence of professional experience or equivalency and ensure that minimum qualifications are met before offering an interview. The second minimum qualification should be no different, yet it is generally not held to the same standards of confirmation, whether because it is perceived to be less important or because is it simply more difficult to measure.
By now, most faculty in the community college system will agree that the second minimum qualification is not less important than the first, given the wealth of information about disparities in attainment of outcomes that the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, the CCC Chancellor’s Office, and local districts have been sharing for many years. In one study, Robert Fairlie (2014, p. 2577) and his colleagues reported the results of their longitudinal examination of one California community college, determining “underrepresented minority students” were more likely to complete courses and more likely to complete with a grade of B or higher in sections taught by an “underrepresented instructor.” The California Community Colleges Student Success Scorecard reports that in 2017 the gulf in completion rates for degree, certificate, and/or transfer within six years of entering community college was 30.1 percentage points between the group with the highest completion rate and the group with the lowest rate. The placement of students of color into remedial courses and outcomes of students beginning in remedial courses as reported by the Scorecard even found a home in AB 705 (2017) as justification for the bill’s action on assessment and placement. Despite all of the abovementioned efforts and findings, the proportion of underrepresented minority students in the California Community College System—over 50% in fall of 2017—is the inverse of the proportion of underrepresented minority faculty—roughly 20% in 2017 (California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, 2017). While carefully applying the second minimum qualification is not exactly the same thing as diversifying faculty, presentation and evaluation of the second minimum qualification could be leveraged to reinforce an institution’s commitment to equity.
When candidates for a position do not meet the first minimum qualification, they are not granted an interview. However, discipline-specific minimum qualifications—barring sometimes complex local equivalency procedures—are relatively straightforward and easy to measure. The second minimum qualification cannot typically be demonstrated by an academic degree; it is not only cognitive but also affective and behavioral. Faculty and administrators are required not only to possess knowledge but also to act with sensitivity. Measuring this qualification effectively requires triangulation. At the very least, application processes should include more than a simple yes or no question or limited narrative response.
Some promising practices that various districts have embraced and begun to implement approach screening for the second minimum qualification by infusing equity-mindedness throughout the job announcement, application, screening, and interview process instead of just in one place. The following are some tangible examples from CCC districts that can be used in concert with each other:
- Clearly listing the requirement as a minimum qualification in the job posting. In at least one district, it is listed as the first minimum qualification.
- Stating the institution’s mission—with its special attention to equity, diversity, and inclusion—on top of the job announcement and referring to it in various ways throughout the description as it pertains to duties and responsibilities and specific desirable qualifications.
- Including district demographic information in the job posting.
- Requiring as part of the application materials specific evidence of how the applicant exhibits the second minimum qualification and directing applicants on the type of evidence they should include. Evidence might include relevant professional development attended, coursework addressing cultural competence, and other documented experiences.
- Requiring the applicant to submit as part of the application a detailed diversity statement and providing clear explanations of what the applicant should address.
- Infusing equity-mindedness into as many aspects of the hiring process as possible, including multiple interview questions and any live performance of skills for candidates granted an interview.
- Development of and use by screening committees of a rubric measuring how application materials demonstrate knowledge of and sensitivity to the diverse backgrounds and identities of CCC students.
As new faculty enter a district, minimum qualifications, job announcements, and interview processes introduce them to the institutional culture. Local senate leaders must understand the role of their academic senates in shaping hiring criteria, policies, and procedures as directed by California Education Code §87360. Since local governing boards are required to reach mutual agreement with their academic senates on these issues, as established in regulation, a worthwhile examination of ways to improve how the district evaluates the second minimum qualification should be senate-led and student-focused but involve appropriate stakeholders. Faculty leaders should consider how their districts are addressing equity in their missions, student equity and achievement plans, guided pathways work, and cultures to ensure that each district’s approach to screening for the second minimum qualification best supports institutional efforts to promote equity.
California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. (2017). Equal Opportunity Employment Report. Retrieved from https://www.cccco.edu/-/media/CCCCO-Website/Reports/2019-cccco-eeo-repo….
Fairlie, R., et al. (2014) A Community College Instructor Like Me: Race and Ethnicity Interactions in the Classroom. The American Economic Review. V. 104, n. 8, pp. 2567-2591.
1. The disciplines list is available at https://asccc.org/sites/default/files/Minimum_Qualifications2018.pdf.