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Putting the spotlight on increasing diversity

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Putting the spotlight on increasing diversity
The Cost of Freedom: “Speaking Up to Diversify the Faculty Ranks” virtual seminar of Black Student Success week was held over Zoom presented by the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges on April 30, 2021. The panelists of the webinar explained how black members of California community colleges can work together to overcome obstacles, insight change, and ensure adequate representation to diversify the faculty ranks. Screenshot by Tatyana Ekmekjian

The California Community Colleges (CCC) held a series of webinars for Black Student Success Week, which focused on amplifying the voices of Black students and faculty.

Many speakers during the webinar on Friday discussed why there needed to be racially conscious hiring for Black faculty so that there are curriculums being created with Black students in mind. 

Diablo Valley College Umoja Program Coordinator and Professor Eric Handy and San Diego City College Counseling Transfer Center Director Abdimalik Buul hosted the webinar directing questions to faculty.

LaToya Parker spoke on what it means to hire and understand diversity. 

“First and foremost for diversity purposes, but also work for racial imbalances,” Parker said. “We want to begin to think about how we are going to move to design a fair outcome as it pertains to the elimination of what we call barriers or opportunities as we create programs specifically for African American and Black students.” 

Sociology and Gender Studies Professor Jessica Ayo Alabi said that to have a diverse staff, more time and effort are needed. She said that students of color connect more with faculty of color and tend to gravitate toward them.

“I think all of us know what it is like to have our offices be the Black student place to hang out,” Alabi said. “That’s the reason we need to target and hire Black faculty. Many of us, for years, have joined Black organizations to have a safe haven. So, if you don’t target, do the footwork to go out of your way to find them.”

Alabi said that schools need “intrusive invitations.”

“I’ve been a part of the Association of Black Sociologists for 20 years and it’s the only place I go, because it feels like a family reunion,” Alabi said. “When I go to the American Sociological Association, I feel invisible. So I tell my human resources, why aren’t you going to the Black associations to hire? We needed safe havens, we needed colleagues who supported us. So you need to go to those places and do the footwork so you can find us.”

Umoja Coordinator and Professor of Counseling at San Diego City College Erin Charles said that schools treat hiring diversely as an option, not a requirement.  

Charles said she caught herself secretly trying to tell others about inviting more Black faculty.

“I caught myself whispering to colleagues on a hiring committee about you know we need to hire Black males,” Charles said. “No more whispering, we will not change the system with a whisper. We are not comfortable right now. People are not comfortable. When they get back into 2022 and they’re comfortable and George Floyd is no longer in their way, shout.”

Many students and faculty in the Zoom chat typed supportive comments as she told her story.

Throughout the webinar, members of CCC faculty expressed their struggle with the school system’s ability to make change within their hiring committees.  

Director of the Race, Equity and Social Justice Center Nyree Berry said that she was frustrated with the lack of diverse hires.

“I’m coming from the largest community college district in the nation, LACCD, and we have about 250,000 Hispanic students,” Berry said. “But when I say that we are lacking in hiring permanent tenure and administration of African American people, it’s absurd. The LACCD serves in Southern California with some of ‘our most marginalized communities.’”

Professor of African American Studies at San Jose City College Khalid White said that while Los Angeles County consists of a large number of African Americans, there are still students who have never had an African American teacher.

“I’m the first Black teacher that tons of students have had,” White said. “So I don’t take that responsibility lightly. I don’t take that privilege lightly. I want to ensure all students of all races, all colors and especially Black students can see this level of success and this level of positive life from a Black male educator.”