Our Obligation to Equitable Hiring Practices: A Partnership Approach to Ensuring an Equity-minded Selection and Recommendation Process

November
2020
Jenifer Taylor Mendoza, Vice President of Instruction, Skyline College
Michelle Bean, Vice President of Instruction, Skyline College

“Unless we’re intentional about wanting to recruit faculty of color and then specifically weight that in the hiring process, it’s hard to imagine how we’ll get to a more diverse faculty anytime in the near future.”
— Eloy Ortiz Oakley, Chancellor of the California Community Colleges [1]

INTRODUCTION

The diversification of faculty at colleges and universities has been a subject of discussion and priority since the 1960s as a result of the civil rights movement. The scope and persistence of inequities in educational institutions can seem devastating because changing these systems of inequities requires widespread alliance from all constituency groups. According to an American Council on Education report, over 122,000 full-time faculty work at public two-year institutions (Espinosa et al., 2019). Of these, over three-quarters are white (76.8 percent), 20.4 percent are faculty of color, 0.7 percent are international, and 2.2 percent are of unknown racial and ethnic backgrounds. The California Community Colleges system (CCC) currently employs 17,662 full time tenured or tenure track faculty, and 58.54% are white. [2] Faculty members remain predominantly white, while race and ethnicities of students continue to become more diverse. In 2019-2020, 70.52% of the CCC students were of color or mixed race. [3] The imbalance in faculty hiring and student demographics is problematic.

Several studies (Sanchez et al., 2018; Wilson, 2015; Contreras, 2011; Darling-Hammond, 2010; Ginsberg & Wlodkowski, 2009; DeGarmo & Martinez, 2006; Shaw, Valadez, & Rhoads, 1999) demonstrate the overwhelmingly positive impact a representative faculty body has on student success and well-being. More compelling, however, is the argument that all students are better educated and better prepared for leadership, citizenship, and professional competitiveness in a multicultural America and within the global community when they are exposed to diverse perspectives in their classrooms (Taylor et al., 2010). With Proposition 16 on the ballot, repealing the ban on affirmative action will more easily allow educational institutions to intentionally design procedures to prioritize equity in hiring for faculty positions.

Community colleges need to destroy the racist structures in which they have invested and truly start redesigning structures built on the foundation of love and empathy that operationalizes diversity and equity. The obligation of faculty on local hiring committees is to use their positions of power and influence to make transformational change. Faculty and administrators together have the opportunity to collaborate, share values, and move to action that focuses on diversifying faculty and holding each other accountable to do better, to have brave conversations, and to make intentional and meaningful change in hiring processes, and that work begins with interrogating hiring policies and practices.

FRAMING HIRING PRACTICES IN EQUITY-MINDEDNESS

As campuses engage in brave conversations that acknowledge systemic racism and institutional barriers to black, indigenous, and people of color, they must frame hiring practices in equitymindedness, which includes engaging both hiring committees and administrators in processes that examine the historical and adverse impacts on faculty hiring. Such processes should begin with an understanding and awareness of the racialized patterns in hiring data at the district level and at the campus level. This race-consciousness normalizes conversations focused on bias and inequities in order to dismantle structures that perpetuate systemic racism and to highlight the disparity in the number of faculty of color in the CCC system. This process is an equity-lens approach that allows for open-mindedness and celebrates a widening of an equity aperture that is foundational to diversity, equity, and inclusion work. Advancing equity should move from leading discussions to actualizing systems, practices, and policies that operationalize equity, which begins with awareness and critical consciousness.

INTRODUCING THE ASCCC MODEL HIRING PRINCIPLES AND PROCEDURES CANVAS COURSE

In the new Canvas modules on hiring, recently published by the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges in collaboration with partner groups such as the Association of Chief Human Resources Officers, the CCC Chief Instructional Officers, chief executive officers, and the Chief Student Services Officers Association, a principled, equity-minded approach is highlighted and described for every part of the hiring process, from pre-hiring to hiring to post hiring.

If community college educators believe that having a representative body is essential to student learning, they must consciously hire according to these values, which in some cases may supersede individual or department professional preferences. As noted in the ASCCC Hiring Model Hiring Principles and Procedures Canvas modules, screening committees should adhere to the following principles when recommending faculty finalists to second or final level interviews:

  • Principle 1: Confirmation of the candidates’ holistic understanding and validation of students’
    diverse backgrounds.
  • Principle 2: Ability to actualize equity and frame teaching or student services in culturally responsive methods and philosophies.

Individuals representing institutions are obligated to be prime agents of change. The obligation gap necessitates acts of genuine care and calls for a civic consciousness, predicated on justice, with the intention to inspire epistemological disruption and reconstruction of educational structures (Taylor-Mendoza, 2020, p. 36). Locally, colleges need to develop their own policies with these principles in mind. To address the obligation gap, the institution is bound to act with purpose and brave leadership to dismantle and disrupt inequity in the faculty hiring process.

MODEL ACTIVITY

A model activity that colleges may want to consider that is based on the foundational principles promoted by the ASCCC is a rubric activity for ranking. Rubrics help create common ground and a clear norming that when framed in equity principles is foundational to setting up a fair and consistent process, especially for ranking and recommendations that hiring committees will make for next level or second level interviews with administrators. Such rubrics should be based on the initial discussions in which the hiring committee engages prior to starting the application screening process. Initial conversations should be focused on the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) determined and detailed in the job description. The rubric should then include those KSAs and embed equity-minded principles in every question. For example, if the committee asks a question in the interview about the applicant’s experience, it should be sure to delineate on the ranking rubric a focus on celebrating diversity and avoid returning to a status quo hierarchy approach that is often based on traditional ideas of merit and fit; in other words, a candidate should or could be ranked high if the answer to the interview question addressed any diverse leadership experience, whether in or out of the classroom. In traditional views, faculty often tend to rank university or college experience higher, but instead they should consider the applicant who can relate to and engage groups from diverse backgrounds and varied lived experiences in any venue, as this skill and ability is often one that is easily transferable to the classroom, whether the applicant has had classroom teaching experience or not. These types of conversations are needed when reviewing the rubric scores and deciding the recommendations of candidates to the final or next level interview.

Administrators share in the responsibility to encourage and support faculty in prioritizing equity and social consciousness in both the screening and final interview processes. They should therefore consider the following when gauging whether a candidate is qualified to teach community college students:

  1. Ask deeper diversity, equity, and inclusion questions during the interview to activate an individual’s cultural fluency and literacy.
  2. Implement an informal interview format to allow for interpersonal exchanges, real discussion, and increased inclusivity.
  3. Prioritize student learning and teaching over academic pedigree.
  4. Set diversity goals to frame and transform outcomes in hiring.

SUPPORT FOR FACULTY OF COLOR

Acknowledging and addressing how to level the playing field for applicants of color should be a focus that leaders help support—a strong, clear focus on knowledge, skills, and abilities that are framed in equity needs as the standard and the praxis of hiring committee processes. Administrators and hiring committees working together to keep this goal in mind is powerful.

Faculty of color, and faculty in general, should implore administrators to demand a diverse list of faculty members from every recommendation process. Asking for hiring committees to fully address diversity and equity in their recommendations as a priority would help support and structure accountability. It would be valuable to have the support of administrators in doing this anti-racist work and challenging the traditional notions of merit and fit in the system. Administrators should ask for this change and help provide time and resources to faculty hiring committees to invest in addressing implicit bias, discrimination, racism, and sexism.

The California Community College system has an obligation to enact equity and social justice in hiring processes to ensure a representative tenured faculty body. To do so, the system must firmly believe that education is the foundation of the American democracy. Local leaders of the 116 colleges must be fearless and transformational in their leadership, direct in their communication, fervent in the pursuit of justice, equity, and inclusion, and responsive in their design. Faculty and all members of the community college system should strive for a day when campus communities celebrate diverse representation among college constituency groups and together draw out from each and every student limitless potential.

CONCLUSION

As colleges reflect bravely on their processes, they should ask what their actions are fueling, what is being perpetuated, what is being dismantled, who is benefitting, and who is being harmed. The ASCCC Hiring Canvas course modules [4] can help institutions to investigate principled questions to help move from words to action that invests in supporting equityminded faculty who will invest in black, indigenous, and people of color. Such action can be a beautiful way to support the diverse student populations of the California community colleges.

REFERENCES

“Annual/Term Student Count Report 2019-2020.” (2020). California Community College Chancellor’s Office Management Information Systems Datamart. Accessed 14 September 2020. https://datamart.cccco.edu/Students/Student_Term_Annual_Count.aspx.

Espinosa, L. L., Turk, J. M., Taylor, M., & Chessman, H. M. (2019). Chapter 10: Post secondary faculty and Sstaff. In Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education: A Status Report. American Council of Education. http://www.equityinhighered.org/.

“Faculty and Staff Demographics Report Fall 2019.” (2020). California Community College Chancellor’s Office Management Information Systems Datamart. Accessed 14 September 2020. https://datamart.cccco.edu/Faculty-Staff/Staff_Demo.aspx.

Taylor-Mendoza, J. (2020) Embracing the obligation: Social consciousness and epistemological disruption. In J.J. Sims, J. Taylor-Mendoza, L. Hotep, J. Wallace, & T. Conaway, (Eds), Minding the Obligation Gap in Community Colleges and Beyond: Theory and Practice in Achieving Educational Equity (pp. 35-59). Peter Lang Publishing.

Taylor, O., Apprey, C.B., Hill, G. McGrann, L. & Wang, J. (2010). Diversifying the faculty. Peer Review, 12(3). Association of American Colleges & Universities.

Zinshteyn, M. (2020, September 8). A ballot prop that could boost racial equity among university faculty. CalMatters. https://calmatters.org/education/2020/08/prop-16-racial-equity-universit....


1. Quoted in Zinshteyn, Mikhail. “A ballot prop that could boost racial equity among university faculty.” Accessed 18 September 2020. https://calmatters.org/education/2020/08/prop-16-racial-equity-universit....
2. Data found at “Faculty and Staff Demographics Report Fall 2019.” California Community College Chancellor’s Office Management Information Systems Datamart. Accessed 14 September 2020. https://datamart.cccco.edu/Faculty-Staff/Staff_Demo.aspx.
3. Data found at “Annual/Term Student Count Report 2019-2020.” California Community College Chancellor’s Office Management Information Systems Datamart. Accessed 14 September 2020. https://datamart.cccco.edu/Students/Student_Term_Annual_Count.aspx.
4. ASCCC Canvas Hiring Principles and Procedures modules found at https://ccconlineed.instructure.com/courses/4924~5733.

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