by Luke Lara
I just attended an Equity in Faculty Hiring Institute hosted by the Center for Urban Education from the USC Rossier School of Education. This institute hosted over 200 community college faculty, staff, and administrators. Estela Mara Bensimon, Professor & Director, Center for Urban Education, recently wrote in an email to all institute participants:
As you may know, currently in our California community colleges, Latinos represent approximately 45% of the student population, but only 15% of the full-time faculty. Whites, however, make up 26% of the student population, but 60% of full-time faculty. Recognizing that the California Community College system has made a commitment to close equity gaps, the Center for Urban Education (CUE) recently hosted our first ever Institute for Equity in Faculty Hiring at Community Colleges.
A wealth of information was provided within a very tight schedule of 1.5 days. While the topic is timely, it really deserves more conversation. I wonder what the 20 teams of 10 people from each institution will take back and work on.
The community colleges typically begin the process of hiring with the program review process. For example, this is when a department/discipline reviews data, program goals, and determines projected needs, including hiring additional faculty. The process continues with an Academic Senate approved committee that reviews proposed faculty hires and ranks them against each other. A parallel process that involves the CBO, the CEO, and budget forecasting helps determine how many faculty members the district might be able to hire. This sets the limit for the ranked positions. The CEO takes the recommendations and makes a decision, relying primarily on the advice and judgment of the Academic Senate (in most cases). This preliminary process varies from school to school, but typically takes place from August to December (at least at my college).
Now, the fun begins. Job announcements are created and posted. Committees are composed and trained. Committees meet to determine evaluation criteria, interview questions, topics for teaching demonstrations, and other structural components of the interview process. Then, the candidates apply, the committee reviews and select applicants to interview and finally, the interviews happen. After the interviews are complete (usually take place over a two or three day period), deliberation ensues about who to recommend for the 2nd level interview with the college president. The finalists are sent forward, references are checked, and the 2nd level interview takes place. This part typically takes three to four months and happens over the spring semester. The CEO makes the final decision (in most cases) and makes an offer to the selected candidate. The candidate will typically begin their full-time track at the beginning of the following fall semester.
My concern is that this institute had rich resources and an amazing message, yet it replicated the problems that we face in the community college. It was rushed. The tools were laid out before us and they were force fed to us. Sure, we’ll be able to make some modifications here and there, but they will be minimal unless we (our institutions) decide to invest the TIME that is necessary to have bold conversations about what equity means in hiring.
Speaking of equity, what does that really mean. If you read Dr. Bensimon’s email, the percentages refer to racial diversity. Let’s call it what it is. Let’s be bold about RACE. However, at some point in the conference, the conversation turned to looking for faculty who are equity-minded. Again, what was being said was, “We are looking for faculty who are race-conscious when working with students.” For example, Eloy Oakley Ortiz, Chancellor of the California Community Colleges, said, “People of color are not always equity-minded.” While this may be technically true, this message, coming from a person of color, gives permission to all the White people to use this as an excuse to not hire faculty of color.
The real conversation needs to be about how color-blind ideology is pervasive within hiring practices in the community college (see my forthcoming dissertation). CUE’s institute was a breath of fresh air and I am so happy that conversations about equity in hiring are beginning to happen. However, authentic conversations about race, racism, color-blind ideology, and equity need time, space, and regularity. Then, tools like the ones provided to us at CUE’s institute will be meaningful to us and allow us to make powerful and lasting changes to our processes.