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Beyond the News

When including faculty of color, policies aren’t enough

Policies and practices to create diversity exist, but they don’t seem to be functioning sufficiently, study says
University Business, October 2013

Subordinated and marginalized. That’s how faculty of color at community colleges are feeling.

While they tend to be highly committed to their institutions and students, they believe their potential contributions are being limited. It’s all according to a new report from the California Community College Collaborative (C4), based at the University of California, Riverside. The research consisted mainly of interviews with 36 faculty at four community colleges.

Policies and practices to create diversity exist, but they don’t seem to be functioning well enough, says lead author John Levin, a professor of higher education at UC Riverside and director of C4.

The more than 1,100 U.S. community colleges educate most Hispanic students and students of color (i.e., African Americans, Asian/Pacific Islanders), according to the American Association of Community Colleges.

But in fall 2012, only 18 percent of faculty were in these groups. In California, more than half of two-year students are students of color; less than 30 percent of faculty are in these groups.

The disparity also exists at four-year institutions, says Levin. To fix these problems, the report recommends that:

  • Colleges recognize that faculty of color can contribute to the development and educational attainment of students of color.
  • Colleges work toward a critical mass of faculty of color. Recruitment must be deliberate and strategic, with funding to create more full-time positions. Faculty of color should have strong representation on search committees.
  • Officials work to ensure their actions alleviate—and not aggravate—conditions. Diversity initiatives and multicultural programs must have substance and depth.
  • Faculty must have what, at one college, were called “courageous conversations” about race, and determine ways to function as a community of peers that also includes part-time faculty.

What all of this takes, says Levin, “is a commitment to a goal of creating a more equitable academic workforce and social development for students through more faculty of color.”