Why We Pursue Diversity

February
2006
Lesley Kawaguchi, Equity and Diversity Action Committee Chair

Although it is almost 16 years later, the memory is still bittersweet. I had just been offered a full-time position at Santa Monica College (SMC), and while attending a non-SMC event, I met a part-time Santa Monica College instructor, who whispered loudly to me when we were introduced, "Well, it's good you got the job as long as you don't mind that you're an affirmative action hire." I had a Ph.D. in U.S. history from UCLA, had been teaching part-time at Cal State, Northridge and UCLA, including a graduate seminar in Asian American studies, and was in the middle of a one-year full-time teaching position at occidental college. Yet those words, "affirmative action hire," would continue to grate on me, because they insinuated that I was only hired because of ... What? my gender? My race and ethnicity? My age? My religion? A combination? Her turn of phrase had implied that something was not right about my being hired. My credentials and what I might bring to the classroom were somehow inferior to those of other applicants-that I was not the "best" candidate. had her attitude reflected the environment at the college, I might not be there today.

Since the 9 Brown v. Board of Education decision, attempts to address inequities in education for students have taken many forms, including court orders, busing, and voluntary transfers.

Educational and academic institutions have also witnessed ways to address underrepresentation of specific groups within the ranks of faculty. Affirmative action, in particular, sought to address the issue, but that option disappeared in California with the passage of Proposition 209 in 1996. In its stead, the call for diversity in faculty ranks that has emerged today is an effort to mirror more closely the increasing diversity in student populations: ethnicity, race, language, culture, populations: ethnicity, race, language, culture, national origin, socio-economic class, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, disability, political viewpoints, veteran status, and gender identity/expression, and any other factors that one can consider in expressing the full array of human diversity.

The California Community College system more so than the University of California or California State University systems reflects the democratic underpinnings of the California Master Plan for Education with its policies of open access and affordability, as well as a commitment to diversity.

The mission of the community colleges as codified in education code 66010.2.C reflects this responsibility:

Educational equity not only through a diverse and representative student body and faculty (emphasis added) but also through educational environments in which each person, regardless of race, gender, age, disability, or economic circumstances, has a reasonable chance to fully develop his or her potential.

Delegates at the Academic Senate for the California Community Colleges plenary sessions have consistently reaffirmed the principle of diversity in the community colleges through its resolutions. (see for example, Resolution 3.01, Chancellor's Office Oversight of Diversity Hiring Plans and Practices, Fall 2000, and Resolution 3.01, Equity and Diversity, Fall 2002 under Resolutions at http://www.academicsenate.cc.ca.us). The System Office has also made a concerted effort to support diversity in community college hires by recognizing and honoring specific colleges, such as modesto and citrus, for improving the diversity of their staffs by developing special initiatives to attract more diverse candidate hiring pools. And at the local level, individual colleges have adopted and embraced principles supportive of equity and diversity in their various public statements. for example, part of the mission statement at my college includes "Santa Monica College serves, represents, and embraces the community's racial and cultural diversity." (http://www.smc.edu/welcome/mission.html)

Despite the law and rhetoric, community colleges' continue to reflect inequities.

For example, in Fall 2004, with the most current data available from the System Office website regarding ethnicity and race (see http://misweb.cccco.edu/mis/onlinestat/staff.cfm), faculty ranks, both full-time and part-time, remain overwhelmingly white (70.85% or 12,496/17,638 for full-time and 72.71% or 28,261/17,638 for full-time and 72.71% or 28,261/38,867 for part-time), while our students are overwhelmingly from historically underrepresented populations (only 37.59% or 603,378/1,605,282 were white) see http://misweb.cccco.edu/mis/onlinestat/studdemo_coll_cube.cfm).

Despite the passage of Proposition 209, solutions to further the realization of diversity in the ranks of community college faculty have begun to emerge. Some are system-wide. However, the ultimate solution still exists where it should-in the hands of the faculty in their local community colleges.

In January 2006, the system office introduced its new Model Equal Employment Opportunity Plan and Guidelines for California Community Colleges to the Board of Governors. (see http://www.cccco.edu/executive/bog/agendas/attachments_0106/05-1-EEO_Pla...). Each district will have to submit its plan to the system office. Several components of the plan examine issues of diversity, including Plan component 11: an analysis of degree of underrepresentation and significant underrepresentation, Plan component 12: methods to address underrepresentation, and Plan component 13: additional steps to Remedy significant underrepresentation. Faculty members should be aware that their districts will be writing their plans and that faculty should participate in crafting them. It is important to note that any part of the plan incorporated in the hiring procedures must be jointly agreed between the academic senate and the board of trustees. Furthermore, the system office intends to publish a brochure highlighting the best practices of community colleges that have succeeded in boosting the diversity of their staffs.

Ultimately, local faculty will determine how these policies are enacted. Recruitment is a key factor in the process. Data from the california community colleges Registry suggest that applicants who choose to go through that process are more diverse. As of september 2005, the total number of white applicants through the registry was 59.15% (15,333/25,924). (Data from Beth Au, Director of the Registry, Yosemite Community College District.)

This suggests that more colleges should consider using the Registry as a means of attracting applicants.

Several factors are at work restricting the pool. These need to be considered during the recruitment process. First, higher education as a whole is facing demographic changes. for instance, more females regardless of race or ethnicity are attending college compared to males. (see the national center for education statistics report at http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2005169). In the california community college system, we teach more female students (in fall 2004, 56.18% of our students were females) and female instructors are increasing (50.99% of fulltime faculty and 50.15% of part-time faculty in the same period). Recruiting pools are also limited by the preponderance of certain populations in them. For instance, Political science and economics are predominately male dominated disciplines (see, http://www. apsanet.org/content_18107.cfm and http://www.vanderbilt.edu/AEA/TblEarnedDoctorates.pdf). Moreover, community colleges have to compete with the four-year colleges and universities for faculty from underrepresented populations. Nevertheless, by actively recruiting for a diverse pool and hiring to achieve diversity, we would provide students with role models and mentors who would by their example encourage students to consider teaching in a community college as a career path.

While recruitment is an essential factor in generating a diverse pool of candidates, it is the individual faculty member who will participate in equal opportunity and diversity training and sit on the hiring committees, go through the paper screening and interviews, and ultimately forward candidates to the Superintendent/ President.

Thus, a commitment to diversity begins with the faculty members. (as an aside: While some colleges have faculty representatives sitting in on the final interview, even the final deliberations, others do not. Perhaps now would be the time to push for faculty inclusion at the final interview.)

To return to my experience, several circumstances worked to make my career at smc a terrific choice. Fortunately for me, the then superintendent/President hired two other individuals in my discipline who were also "affirmative action hires." both had their doctorates, were actively writing and publishing, and had extensive teaching experience. Moreover, we were close in age. together, we introduced new courses, including Native American history, latino/latina history, african history, and World history. I also taught Asian American history, a course that had not been offered at SMC since the 1970s. But perhaps our greatest accomplishment was the introduction of history 10, ethnicity and american cultures, which became the first class approved by the smc curriculum committee to fulfill the american cultures AA requirement and meet the uc berkeley american cultures graduation requirement. During the 1990s, the three of us participated in rotational team teaching of the course, which resulted in our becoming close friends and colleagues, plus we exposed our students to three faculty members of different genders and races. During our tenure at smc, we have mentored students from diverse backgrounds through transfer and beyond, including graduate school. Professionally, one of us became active in our union and served in the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges (FACCC) at the statewide level. I was elected as local academic senate president and am now on the ASCCC Executive Committee. Our being hired together brought diversity to the college and made a difference in the lives of our students, our college, and in the california community college system as a whole. chasing diversity is a goal worth pursuing.

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