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Fatal Flaws of Equity Work in Community Colleges – What Leaders Need to Know

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by Luke Lara, Ed.D.

When I go shopping for eggs at the local grocery store, I open the egg carton and check every egg. If I find one that is ever so slightly cracked, I put the carton back and begin the search process all over again. One time I went through my routine, bought a dozen eggs, and returned home. The next morning, when I took out an egg, I discovered that there was a very long and obvious crack along the bottom of the egg. I had not lifted and checked each egg at the store. I had only observed the top halves. My fatal flaw was that I did not check the underside of each egg. Luckily, I learned my lesson, avoided salmonella, and have modified my routine.

In this blog I write about my personal observations of leaders in regard to issues of equity (for students and employees). I describe three fatal flaws and provide examples for each one. A fatal flaw reflects a crucible moment in which a leader displays anti-equity mindedness attitudes or behaviors, thus disorienting the equity momentum or movement at their college.

Fatal Flaw #1: All Lives Mattering Issues of Equity

Most community college leaders agree that diversity, equity, and inclusion are worthy goals. In California, there are funds dedicated to improving the retention and completion rates of our students. Colleges have to create and submit a detailed plan of how the funds will be spent. Colleges were asked to identify student populations (e.g., race/ethnicity, gender, age, veteran status, socio-economic status, disability) that experience disproportionate impact in areas of access, course completion, basic skills, transfer, and degree attainment. Once a group is determined to experience disproportionate impact, an intervention and plan is created for the specific student group and area. However, we make the fatal mistake of arguing that the resources should provide equity for all students. This is akin to detractors from the Black Lives Matter movement insisting that “all lives matter,” whose claims negate the disproportionate number of unarmed black and brown bodies murdered by police. Institutional data indicate that not all students need more resources to succeed. For example, there is disproportionate impact experienced by Black, Latinx, and other racial and ethnic groups at the community college. Therefore, we must boldly and directly address race, racism, systemic racism, and White Supremacy. When we “all lives matter” issues of equity, we conveniently ignore issues of race, which also intersect with gender and socio-economic status.

Bottom line: Leaders, lead bold discussions about race, racism, systemic racism, and white supremacy. You may not be the expert, but you are the leader. Reach out to those that can help you deliver the message to the various constituencies on campus and off-campus. Avoid “all lives mattering” equity work.

Fatal Flaw #2: Not Protecting the Community

Free speech is a hugely debated topic in higher education. Many college leaders hide behind the rhetoric of protecting free speech, while alienating students and employees affected by vile speech (e.g., not harsh enough to be a hate crime, yet enough to create harm to the community). In many instances, these leaders’ responses are reactionary and are often done because an internal community pressures the administration for a response. Leaders and institutions of higher education are averse to negative publicity.

The University of California, Santa Barbara is a great example of how a university has been proactive in an age of hate. In the summer of 2016, campus leaders came together to discuss creating a discourse campaign that would be a positive and proactive measure in the heat of the presidential election season. They called it: “Resilient love in a time of hate.” As soon as student leaders arrived in the fall of 2016, they were incorporated into the development and implementation of the campaign. A series of events were created with renowned scholars, artists, and leaders. Stickers and shirts were printed. The campaign sought to promote conversation and creative work forged in a love-driven response to hate, hurt, and fear. I heard about this at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity (NCORE) in higher education. The workshop presenters shared multiple stories of how issues of free speech were supported, while creating an environment for authentic discourse and diffusing the potential for alienation and marginalization. In essence, a community was created around a campaign of love.

Bottom line: Leaders, if you are only reacting, you are not creating community, you are contributing to the hurt and pain caused by the protection of free speech. Remember, create and sustain community so that issues of free speech can be dealt with in an environment that supports authentic discourse. People come first.

Fatal Flaw #3: Marginalizing Equity

Equity work is often seen as the responsibility of specific individuals (e.g., chief diversity officer, dean of equity programs), specific departments (e.g., student equity office, sociology department), or specific committees (e.g., committee on equity-minded practices). In other words, equity work is not centered institutionally as a core value that is upheld by everyone, every department, and every committee. By relegating equity work to a small few, leaders marginalize equity. This may not be intentional. However, the results are damaging. For example, equity work requires examination of and changes to structural and systemic policies and practices. Few individuals, if any, can make substantial changes to historical structures. The eventual fallout includes burn out and low morale by the individuals involved within this marginalization of equity work. However, it is important to identify a responsible person/committee/department to facilitate the equity work of the campus, but only in an environment where it is understood that the work is collective and driven by the institution’s core values.

Bottom Line: Leaders, agree to center equity as a core value, then present and apply a clear and consistent message to every corner of the institution: We will center equity and everyone is responsible for identifying the changes that need to be made.

Community Colleges and Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity – What Leaders Need to Know

by Luke Lara, Ed.D.

Many community colleges are grappling with the notion of diversity, inclusion, and equity. Often, these three words are strung together, as if they are one thing. Leaders must be clear on these terms and steer their institutions so that they reflect the needs of their students. Clarity comes from understanding the history of higher education in the United States, especially the development of America’s community colleges.

The roots of community colleges are a mix of seemingly opposed grassroots and elitist movements in higher education to create access to the populace and also maintain the intellectual rigor of the university, respectively (see Cohen and Brawer). Community colleges now have a multi-pronged mission to serve the community through workforce development, associate degree and certificate attainment, preparation for university transfer, and lifelong learning. Over the last century, the American community college has gained prominence in contributing to local workforce development and creating greater access to higher education for minoritized communities. For instance, in 2009, president Barack Obama announced “The American Graduation Initiative: Stronger American Skills Through Community Colleges” that called for five million additional graduates by 2020. Thus, recognizing the strength of community colleges in advancing economic prosperity to millions of Americans.

There are roughly about 1,200 community colleges in America. Half the students in higher education in the United States are enrolled in a community college and the majority of students in the community college are non-white (see the American Association of Community Colleges Fast Facts 2018). Across most measures (completion, degree attainment, etc.), community colleges and four-year institutions struggle to close the racial achievement gap. Shapiro and colleagues (2017) found that “while almost one in four Asian students and one in five white students had completed [a] transfer pathway by the end of the six-year study period, just one in 10 Hispanic students and about one in 12 black students did” (p. 2). In other words, when disaggregated by race, retention and completion outcomes for minoritized students are less than those for white students. These data points are critical in understanding why community colleges are grappling with the notion of diversity, inclusion, and equity.

Some colleges are beginning to close the racial achievement gap. For example, with the support of the Achieving the Dream Network (ATD), Texarkana College has dramatically increased graduation rates for their Black students (by 18 percentage points from 2011 to 2017). They attributed their success to “an institutional commitment to evidence-based decision making, part of a holistic change model the team learned from their work with Achieving the Dream” (para. 7). The ATD’s vision, mission, and values are grounded in a commitment to equity. ATD “expects colleges to dismantle the barriers facing underserved students” (para. 12). While some colleges are making a difference in regard to equity, many are not. Yet, the equity movement is on the rise.

Have you seen this image before?

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Three people reaching for some apples hanging from a tree. One person is tall, then second person is of medium height, and the third person is the shortest of the three. Only the tall person can reach the apples. The label on this image is equality. It demonstrates that all standing on the same ground equally, yet only one can reach the apple. The picture labeled equity shows the same three people. However, in this image, they all attain the apple. The shortest person receives two additional crates to stand on and the medium sized person receives one additional crate to stand on.

If you search for images related to the word “equity,” you’ll see a variety of interpretations of this concept of equality vs. equity. What also appears in a search for the term equity is a definition stating that equity is “the quality of being fair or impartial.” One of the synonyms listed is “egalitarianism.” The fiction that higher education is egalitarian is rooted in the idea that by providing access to higher education is enough to create present and future opportunities for a student willing to put in the effort to be successful. As a primarily open access institution, the community college has prided itself on providing opportunities for communities that otherwise would not have access to higher education (e.g., minoritized student populations such as Black/African American, Latinx, and Native American students). However, in the age of accountability (since the 1980’s), institutions of higher education have been pressured more and more by outside forces such as the public, legislatures, and accrediting agencies to be more accountable to outcomes including graduation, transfer, and job placement rates. The equity movement seeks to scrutinize these outcomes further and decidedly change the structures that create these outcomes.

Bensimon, Dowd, and Witham (2016) argued that to do equity work, one must be equity-minded. In other words, to be equity-minded is to have “an awareness of the ways in which many groups within US society have been historically excluded from educational opportunities, or marginalized within the structures and institutions that house those opportunities” (para. 1). They explained that this approach “foregrounds the policies and practices contributing to disparities in educational achievement and abstains from blaming students for those accumulated disparities” (para. 1). Thus, equity-mindedness requires educators to recognize that higher education has never been an egalitarian system.

The simplistic imagery of the three people picking apples leaves out a critical step. Leaders and stakeholders must engage in discussions about WHY we are generating inequitable outcomes (e.g., contemporary analysis, historical reflections). We must ask: What institutional structures disenfranchise our minoritized student populations? The self-examination can be performed through hiring external entities or from within the colleges. The results must be actionable plans that fundamentally reshape the institutions and improve the students’ experiences through the college that include instruction, advising, and co-curricular opportunities.

Diversity and inclusion are not pronouncements. They must be action oriented and radical interrupters of the status quo. Diversity must be about reflecting the people you serve (e.g., proportional representation). This is important because in higher education, the vast majority of employees are White, while the growing majority of students are racially and ethnically minoritized students. The disparity is even more so within the faculty and administrative ranks. However, having proportional representation must also be accompanied by a meaningful culture of inclusion. Inclusion requires on-going access to power structures, prominence in voice, and acceptance of difference for and by all members of the community. Thus, to create an inclusive culture there needs to be a foundation of equity principles that drive the work of sustaining a diverse environment. Equity requires dismantling structures of oppression and creating new structures that truly allow for inclusion and diversity. To achieve equity, we need to understand how we became inequitable.

It is no wonder that diversity, equity, and inclusion are often conflated. These are three separate concepts that are inextricably connected. Many leaders confuse these terms, treat them as one concept, or only focus on one at a time. A great leader will work on all three at the same time, understanding the nuances of how they interrelate, and engage in equity-minded practices.

Community Colleges and Racial Equity – What Leaders Need to Know

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by Luke Lara, Ed.D.

Twenty-first Century Community College Leaders must account for and understand the impact of race, racism and white supremacy. The foundation of oppression in the United States of America is racial and is infused in our social institutions, such as higher education. Race is central to all inequitable outcomes and is compounded when it intersects with other subordinations (e.g., gender, sexual orientation, disability, age).

Historian Dr. Ibram Kendi writes that racist policies create racist ideas, not the other way around. This would explain why people cannot accept that they are themselves racist. Racist policies create racist structures, which create and maintain White Supremacy. These structures have been imbedded in every institution in the United States. Higher education privileges white students, staff, faculty, and administrators. Leaders of the 21st century must be visionary while also facing our past, learning from it, and dismantling racism and white supremacy.

On a national level, there is little guidance from professional associations.

One of the primary advocacy and leadership development organizations for community colleges is the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). In 2013, AACC introduced a second edition of the AACC Competencies for Community College Leaders. Within this document, meant for the 21st century leader, the word “equity” is only written once. It is recommended that after three years of leadership, the CEO must be able to “create an environment that promotes access, inclusion, and equity for all members of the community.” There is no mention of centering equity or centering racial equity within the document.

In 2016, AACC, along with the Association of Community College Trustees (AACT) wrote a “Joint Statement of Commitment to Equity, Diversity, and Excellence in Student Success and Leadership Development.” Their statement centers socio-economic background: “AACC and ACCT remain committed to programs that improve educational outcomes for all students, especially those representing various socioeconomic [emphasis added] backgrounds including, but not limited to race, gender, and age.”

What would it look like to center race in this equity statement? “The AACC and ACCT remain committed to programs that improve educational outcomes for all students, especially those representing various racial backgrounds including, but not limited to socio-economic, gender, and age.”

It would acknowledge what our students experience: gender, age, and socioeconomic status intersect with race and further compound oppression experienced within a white supremacy structure.

The joint statement acknowledges “that much work is required to provide programs for diverse students and equip current and future leaders with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in an increasingly diverse and demanding higher education environment.” We need the AACC to lead and advocate for change by centering race in equity.

One of the most importance competencies for the emerging leader and CEO in the 21st century is to be able to facilitate bold and critical conversations about white supremacy, its history in higher education, its impact on people (students, staff, faculty, administration), and its legacy on policy (locally, regionally, and nationally). Let’s talk about race, and then let’s get to work on changing our institutions.

 

Tips for Community College Faculty Position Applicants – Especially Faculty of Color

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by Luke Lara

Many institutions of higher education have a stated commitment to diversity. Institutions are judged by a variety of constituents (e.g., the public, Equal Employment Opportunity Offices, students) on the amount of racial and gender diversity in all positions. In fact, public institutions of higher education need to have an Equal Employment Opportunity Plan detailing how the institution plans to diversify its staff. Look up the plan at the institutions in your job search. However, how to achieve greater racial and gender diversity is harder than it seems.

Certain laws are in place (with good intention) to prevent discrimination based on protected classes such as race, gender, and many other categories. These non-discrimination laws (e.g., affirmative action, equal employment opportunity) are meant to create an “equal” playing field. That is, race and gender are not to be considered as factors in the employment decision. I make a more detailed and nuanced critique in my dissertation, which is forthcoming. However, for today’s blog, let me just say that despite these color-blind and gender-blind approaches to hiring, there is much to be desired in our diversity outcomes.

Employers cannot consider race, but they are expected to have a racially diverse pool of applicants and subsequently racially diverse hires.

Until race and gender can be dealt with directly in the search process, many institutions who authentically want to improve their diversity outcomes use indirect strategies.

One such approach is to seek equity-minded or cultural competent candidates in the search process. The Center for Urban Education (CUE) at the University of Southern California a great working definition of equity-mindedness. CUE has been leading a movement for equity reform and institutional transformation in California and around the nation. If you are in California, it is likely that the community college you are applying to has worked with CUE. The National Education Association also has a great diversity toolkit for educators, which is based on a cultural competency framework.

Candidates of color have an opportunity to shine as institutions and search committees infuse a cultural competency framework or equity-mindedness lens in the search process. Here are 4 tips for candidates of color to help them tap into their natural talents, gifts, and general awesomeness.

  1. Translate – The committee is most likely going to composed of mostly White people. You may be sharing an experience or cultural concept that the committee may not be familiar with, but is obvious to you. Be detailed in written and in your oral communication. For example, if you are asked a question about how you work with students that are from underrepresented backgrounds, do not say, “I am Latinx and have been all my life, so that means I am able to understand the students’ experiences.” This answer focuses on you, but the question was about students. A better answer would be, “I draw upon my experiences as a Latinx person in k-16 education, and my professional training to understand how systemic barriers impact historically underrepresented students. I engage in X, Y, Z practices to support my students.” If the committee is truly focused on equity and cultural competency, your personal knowledge, and professional skills will be valued as long as you keep the focus on the students and what you have done to facilitate their success.
  2. Transfer – You may have many transferable skills, but if you do not specifically write about them, you will most likely not get an interview. For example, if the job announcement has a desirable skill that the candidate have two years of teaching in the community college, but you only have one semester, how will you stand out? What else have you been doing that is transferable to this experience? Did you teach in high school or at a university? Did you teach adult classes? Just stating these on a resume or cover letter is not enough. You need to explain how these experiences are transferable to the job you are applying for. Connect the dots for the reader of your application. The way you describe your experiences will indicate how well you know the requirements of a community college faculty position. For instance, the committee is more likely to invite you for an interview if they can make the connections between what you have done and what they are asking. Do that job for them (translate) in your c.v. and cover letter. Now that job descriptions will have more equity-minded language, your work with racially diverse populations in non-traditional settings can be a strength if you can translate those experiences to the community college.
  3. Student Outcomes – Equity-mindedness is about acknowledging that there are disparities in student outcomes and taking action to improve those outcomes. It is not just about being student centered. It is about being action-oriented to improve student outcomes. CUE suggested that equity-minded faculty members “use systematic and data driven self-reflection to improve their own practices with a focus on students of color” CUE Multiple Measures Rubric for Application Review, 2017, p. 1). The term students of color can be replaced with any other disproportionately impacted student group (e.g., veterans, women, older students, low-income students), which may vary at each institution or within each department. In California, you can search for the Student Equity Plan at each community college to learn more about which student groups are disproportionately impacted. You should know which specific student groups are not achieving established measures at proportional rates as compared to other student groups within the same category. Here are examples of how to read data in a student equity plan. What percentage of students who have completed key college courses (math and English) and earned a certain amount of units within a given amount of time are Latinx? What percentage of graduating students are Latinx? If the ratio is less than 1.0, then we have disproportionate impact. If the ratio is 1.0 or greater then we do not have disproportionate impact for Latinx students for this measure. In the interview, be able to discuss student outcomes, how you measure them (or how you use data), and how you have addressed them. As a person of color, you are constantly assessing outcomes (formally or informally), as you navigate teaching students and/or interactions with your colleagues. Be ready to explain your strategies in direct and compelling ways.
  4. Cultural Competency – CUE also identified that an equity-minded faculty possess cultural competency. An equity-minded faculty member “shares common experiences with the students at the institution or intentionally creates classroom practices based on student backgrounds” (CUE Multiple Measures Rubric for Application Review, 2017, p. 1). This provides candidates of color an opportunity to really shine in the interview by drawing upon their experiences and what they do in the classroom for students based on student backgrounds. Saying “I treat all students the same” is not an acceptable answer. As educators, we have a responsibility to validate our students, learn from our students, and understand our students. This requires us to be culturally competent. As people of color, most of us are in-tune with our racial identities and how systemic racism has impacted our own experiences. We cannot all have the same experience, even if we are of the same race, however, we can be more compassionate and empathetic toward others because of our shared experiences. Be ready to highlight a couple of vivid examples. Also, be clear about the ways that you are culturally competent toward student groups who are from different backgrounds than you. Anticipate sharing how you arrived at this competency and how it shapes what you do in and out of classroom.

I hope these tips help you approach your job applications and interviews. May you shine and get the position you apply for.

Reflections on Leadership Communication Styles

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by Luke Lara

I spent Thanksgiving with immediate and extended family. Two family members (husband & wife) are both executives in the banking industry. The wife (I’ll call her Carla) started sharing how her husband (I’ll call him Pedro) is having a rough time at work because of his boss. Pedro is a nice guy, knows the industry, and is well respected by his team. His boss (a man) takes his ideas, gives poor direction, and has little regard for anyone but himself. His boss reports directly to the CEO ( a woman). Carla argued that Pedro is not approaching the situation correctly. She gave examples of how her husband has argued with his boss (i.e., let his emotions get the best of him). Carla also stated that Pedro isn’t building a relationship with his CEO.

At this point in the conversation, I agreed with her that arguing with your boss is not a wise strategy and that building a relationship with the CEO is a wise strategy. However, Carla began to give an example of how the CEO went on vacation and posted a picture of herself on the beach. What I mean by a picture of herself on the beach is just a frame showing her toes. The unspoken expectation is that people in the office should “like” her pictures. Pedro said he didn’t “like” the picture. I agreed, in fact, that seemed to me like the CEO was creating a hostile work environment and potentially leaning into sexual harassment territory. Carla, and another female family member (also in a leadership position in another industry) began to argue that “liking” the picture of the toes must be done to play the game of politics.

Where do you draw the line? What does politics at work mean to you? Is it different in higher education? What have you done, just to play the game of politics? What are you not willing to do?

Another story came about this interesting Thanksgiving dinner. Carla shared that her leadership style is about the people. To back this up, she gave the following example: One day she came to one of her branches and saw a teller with a wrinkled shirt. She immediately went across the street and bought an iron. She pulled the worker aside and said, “Take this iron and go to the break room and iron your shirt. The good thing is that you now have an iron.”

I asked her, “Was that your employee?” She replied, “No, but technically he works under me.” (She is the boss of the branch managers). Someone at the dinner table said, “Oh, that sounds like you were trying to mentor that fellow.” I think it was said, to reframe the conversation because it was a little awkward there for a minute.

Is that mentoring? Is it micro-managing? Maybe there were more details to the story. Maybe several glasses of gin and tonic may have distorted the facts?

In any case, both of these stories made me think about my own leadership communication style. That night, I tossed and turned, thinking and thinking. I came up with the following acronym: L.A.R.A. That is my last name. Believe me, I didn’t do it on purpose. I also have a counseling background, so it does mirror my counseling training and my understanding of mindfulness communication. It stands for the following:

Listen

Acknowledge

Reflect

Act

So, L.A.R.A. leadership communication begins with listening. That is something I didn’t hear in the stories above. We need to listen, gather information by asking questions, and hear the message behind the message. Listen to learn.

Second, after listening, we need to acknowledge what we’ve heard. Repeat it back to get clarification. Summarize the speaker’s thoughts and reflect it back. Acknowledge to respect.

Third, after acknowledging the message, we must reflect on what we’ve heard. Is it true? Do I need to apologize? What is it that I am being asked to do? How has what I’ve done impacted this person? How can I reply with mindful communication? Reflect to take responsibility.

Lastly, after reflection, we need to act. Through this mutual and collective dialogue, we have listened, acknowledged, and reflected. Now it is time to act respectfully, to commit to an action that represents the appropriate culmination of this process.

Equity in Faculty Hiring

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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.

California Community College

by Luke Lara

I want to say that the San Diego State University Educational Leadership Doctoral Program is incredible. I highly recommend anyone seeking to better understand the higher education system and the role of the community college to enroll in this program. Follow this link for more information. I mention this first because from time to time I will write about something that is related to what I have learned in the program.

Today, in my Law and Finance course, we discussed enrollment management. As a counseling faculty member and former department chair, I have had to deal with enrollment management at my departmental level. I saw words like FTES, WSCH, and FTEF, but NOBODY ever took the time to train me or define these terms for me. Today, I finally understood what all this meant. Enrollment management affects all aspects of the college. The ultimate decisions may lie in Instructional services, but there are so many gears that need to work together so that the college can provide the courses to meet the student needs and stay within the means of its budget. Sounds easy, but now I understand why it felt like a nightmare every time I had to deal with scheduling courses.

I recommend that anyone in the community college pay attention to the following key elements of the enrollment management process:

  1. Know the curriculum development process.
  2. Know when the schedule is determined.
  3. Know when the budget is determined.
  4. Know the formula for budget allocation (e.g., understand the importance of FTES).
  5. Listen to your front-line counseling and admissions folk (e.g., canaries in the coal mine).
  6. Get census/attendance data from Admissions Office.
  7. Know the college’s goals (e.g., master plan – grow, maintain, or reduce enrollment).
  8. Cancelling courses is a lose-lose situation (find incentives for faculty to fill their courses).

Lastly, as my instructor said today, “Everyone else can afford to be careless, but you cannot.” If you are an administrator, you cannot afford to be careless. Be transparent about your goals and help your faculty members understand them.

A faculty member perspective may be more about the immediate (e.g., the class I am teaching today), and the administrator may be more focused on the future (e.g., how will the college be responsive to projected demands one or two years down the road). Working together, we can provide quality education to students now and in the future.

First blog post

Welcome to Lara Consulting, where you’ll perspectives on US higher education from the community college and the four-year university. Topics will include faculty hiring, undocumented students, cultural competency, and social justice. Feel free to contact us if you have questions about any of these topics. Our associates have a combined history of 38 years of experience working in higher education. – Lara Consulting