Equity and Diversity. Implementation and the Role of Local Senates

October
2003
Wanda Morris, Chair

Note: The following historical summary was compiled from on-line histories and documents prepared by the Chancellor's Office.

A Little History
California community colleges are bound by state and federal legislation to provide a working and learning environment that reflects the rights of all students to study and to access services in an environment that is equitable, free from discrimination and harassment, and in which everybody is respected and treated fairly. We are also bound by a pervasive understanding that to do so is morally right.

In the tradition of a series of federally enacted laws (e.g., the 1984 Sex Discrimination Act 1984, the 1986 Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act, the 1998 Anti-Discrimination Act, the 1999 Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act), the California legislature made its own statement in 1991. At that time, the legislature charged all levels of public education to provide educational equity, regardless of ethnic origin, race, gender, age, disability or economic circumstance, and to offer students a reasonable opportunity to develop their potential. In calling for each public institution of higher education in California to make those provisions, the legislature hoped to promote inclusion and appropriate support for students.

In response to this legislation, in 1992, the Board of Governors (BOG) of California Community Colleges adopted a Student Equity Policy, further amended in 1996. In 1993, the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, in turn, responded to the BOG's policy and developed the Guideline for Developing a Student Equity Plan. These guidelines further expanded our understanding of student equity by addressing the needs of students from rural isolated regions, from low socio-economic or non-English speaking communities, or of women whose studies were in non-traditional courses.

MORE RECENT HISTORY: PLANS OF ACTION
The current Board of Governors has actively committed itself to student equity and to greater diversity throughout our system. In response to expressed concerns, the Chancellor appointed a Consultation Council Equity and Diversity Task Force, co-chaired by ASCCC Executive Committee member, Dibakar Barua.

At the BOG meeting in November 2002, the task force report, Realizing Our Commitment to Access and Success for All Students Through Student Equity, Equal Opportunity, Nondiscrimination and Workforce Diversity, was adopted. "This report focused on ways to assist diverse students in entering higher education and finding workforce opportunities." It stressed that equity is both historic and an ongoing commitment in response to federal and state legislation and in keeping with the highest moral concerns we articulate. Additionally, it called for specific actions and presented a matrix that stipulated "Systemwide Commitments to Equity and Diversity." On adopting this report, Board members expressed their desire that they receive periodic updates on the system's progress fulfilling these specific objectives.

A Recommitment by Faculty
ASCCC
The Academic Senate responded promptly to this renewed interest-and ahead of schedule. In the Fall 2002, before the BOG had even adopted the Task Force report, the ASCCC had adopted the revised edition of Student Equity: Guidelines for Developing a Plan. The objectives of the new guidelines are to:

to improve access, participation, success and retention rates for under-represented equity groups.
to foster a climate of equal opportunity, educational excellence, and success for all students throughout the system.
to encourage the acceptance and valuing of diversity within its student population.
to provide a supportive and open organizational culture in which all students are able to develop to their full potential.

In addition, the Executive Committee endorsed the renaming of its standing Affirmative Action/Cultural Diversity Committee, now the Equity and Diversity Action Committee (EDAC). The renaming was not an idle exercise: the emphasis is to be on ACTION. Thus, the EDAC Committee sponsored breakouts and resolutions in 2002-03 to reflect its new activist spirit. That energy continues in 2003-04.

This year, in adhering to the Task Force report, the ASCCC will exercise its leadership to secure commitments from all local senates to join collegially with representatives of their governing boards, chief executive officers, administrators, classified staff organizations, and students to address the goals noted below.

Local Senates
The matrix adopted by and now monitored by the BOG also makes very specific requests of local academic senates and sets time-lines for completion.

Revision of your college's Student Equity Plan: The Chancellor's Office has now mandated that each college's plan be updated by June 2004 to ensure that educational environments continue to be conducive to the academic success of all students and to the full development of their potential. It has been ten years since we adopted our initial student equity policy, done in an effort to best ensure students' success; we now need to revisit our original plans and to conduct thorough research. That research must identify specific problem areas associated with faculty and staff diversity as well as patterns of student equity. The roles of local senates are obvious; clearly student success is an academic and professional matter. Yet the ASCCC and its EDAC Committee can assist colleges in identifying successful strategies and promulgating them, or in identifying useful research.

In addition, the matrix calls upon local senates to

respond to Academic Senate requests to "form [at the local level] a committee on hiring" to consider non-discriminatory hiring practices that will result in the highest rate of success for all students;
coordinate with your local administrators to "ensure that training is provided to Board [of Trustees] members and district faculty and staff regarding
a. how to effectively promote faculty and staff diversity, and student equity; and
b. the latest changes to the diversity and equity statues, regulations, and policies, including the Title 5 regulations on equal employment opportunity";
work with your local Human Resources officers to "develop procedures to expand diversity of part-time faculty and provide mentors to assist part-time faculty to develop the potential to fill full-time positions";
work with Classified Staff Organizations to "encourage and support classified staff in meeting minimum qualifications for instruction."
We welcome these challenges and invite you to join us at our Fall Plenary breakouts to learn how you might creatively meet your obligations and reflect our shared principles; our breakouts are intended to identify components that local senates will want to consider in revising their student equity plans.

The articles published in the Rostrum do not necessarily represent the adopted positions of the academic senate. For adopted positions and recommendations, please browse this website.