A Report from the Affirmative Action/Cultural Diversity Committee

October
2001
Dibakar Barua, Chair

During the last academic year, following extensive deliberations and research, the Affirmative Action/Cultural Diversity Committee completed a draft of an Affirmative Action Handbook, which was circulated and discussed during a breakout of the 2001 Spring Plenary Session in San Francisco. After much discussion and debate, the session voted to refer the draft back to the Executive Committee for revision and rewriting. Delegates liked the overall content of the Handbook, but many felt that some passages of the Handbook seemed too preachy and might alienate some readers, thus hampering rather than promoting the principle of equal opportunity hiring in community colleges. The Committee has now completed the revision. However, the Handbook may still not see the light of day.

On September 4th, the state Appellate Court ruled on Connerly v. State Personnel Board et al. Specifically, they ruled that the statutory scheme contained in Education Code 87100 through 87107, codifying the community college provisions for affirmative action in faculty hiring, violate the principle of equal protection and Proposition 209. The AA/CD Committee and the Executive Committee of the Academic Senate consider that the affirmative action regulations in the Education Code and Title 5 were wise, fair, and effective. However, the Handbook, as it is currently written, is based on regulations that have been put into question for now. It remains to be seen what the outcome will be of the Board of Governor's appeal of the appellate ruling to the California Supreme Court. No further consideration of the Handbook would make sense until it is decided what regulations are invalid. As President Simpson has reminded us in his recent email to the field, until there is a final resolution of the legal situation, the current regulations remain in effect. Most important, the obligation to hire without discriminating against people based on their ethnicity, gender, or disability is definitely still an obligation. The AA/CD Committee has several proposals for new ways to strengthen fairness in hiring in ways consistent with this and other recent court decisions. These ideas and recommendations will be circulated to the field in conjunction with one or more resolutions.

We will also be discussing the Student Equity Grant from the Chancellor's Office-its charge is the preparation of a student equity handbook. Equity for community college students is a top priority for the Academic Senate, as is evidenced by the theme for the 2001 Fall Plenary Session, Community Colleges: Equity for the Top 100%. However, before we undertake the task of writing guidelines for a model Student Equity Plan, several questions have to be dealt with. When the first Student Equity Handbook was written in 1992-93, college districts were required to have a student equity plan. Now that requirement no longer exists. Moreover, most of the existing plans are not worthwhile. The question is, are we in a position to recommend good programs in the absence of model programs on various campuses? Last year's student equity turnaround survey did not yield sufficient information. In addition, the Chancellor's Office has given a $300,000 grant to City College of San Francisco to prepare precisely the kind of report on student success that we are being asked to prepare for $10,000. Lastly, what good is a plan if there is no incentive or legal compliance attached to it? These and possibly other questions will have to be discussed and answered before the committee goes ahead with the project of revising guidelines for implementing Student Equity plans.

I would like to end this brief report on a more personal note. A new climate prevails in the nation since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. This period of mourning and resolve has had a cathartic effect on the national psyche. We see television images of rallying and rebuilding in the midst of destruction and loss, and this gives us a sense of unity, strength, and purpose. The classrooms are becoming more serious in delving into important issues. However, this period is also an opportune moment for some to vent their prejudice and hatred against certain immigrant groups, including people who have been American citizens for generations. We need to protect not only our national interest, but also our very human interests such as civil liberties, non-violent conflict resolution, and academic freedom.

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