Strategies to Achieve a Diverse Faculty and Staff
Attracting and maintaining a truly diverse campus community takes hard work, creativity, and a campus-wide commitment.
By Mary S. Spangler and Cathleen Wixon
From the June 2000 AAHE Bulletin
Achieving staff diversity at a two- or four-year college is not only
an ambitious objective, it is a leadership responsibility, and many institutions regularly
wrestle with its multiple challenges. In 1988, the State of California declared that it is
educationally sound for all students to experience education in a diverse environment. As
one of the most ethnically diverse community colleges in the country, Los Angeles City
College fully supports this principle and is committed to implementing it fairly and
Los Angeles City College is the flagship institution of the
nine-college Los Angeles Community College District. With 16,500 students, the LACC
student body is 46 percent Hispanic, 23 percent white, 19 percent Asian, and 12 percent
African-American; 55 percent of our students are women. Our campus has 300 full-time
faculty and 270 staff. Of our 13 most recent full-time faculty hires, six are ethnic
minorities and seven are women. Of the 23 members of the administrative team (academic and
classified), 48 percent are ethnic minorities, and 48 percent are female. Of the full-time
faculty and staff, 46 percent are ethnic minorities, and 45 percent are female.
Our college has implemented three specific strategies in its efforts
to build and maintain a diverse campus community: recruitment, retention, and recognition.
Simple ideas, but when implemented with creativity and imagination, quite effective.
In addition to recruiting a rich applicant pool, this process includes selection and
hiring procedures. Before beginning the recruitment process, it is essential to have
support from top management. This may include a formal statement from the Board of
Trustees or simply a verbal commitment from the president. That support must be in place
before any search process is started.
- When recruiting, communicate broadly. Begin an advertising campaign.
Conduct a national outreach. Advertising resources can include the Internet, professional
journals, conferences, and newsletters.
- Make everyone a recruiter. Networking, a very effective means of
finding candidates, is often discounted because of its informality. Dont overlook
reaching into the community. In small or remote areas, published community services lists
may miss sources that can be found in the advertising section of the telephone book.
Churches, temples, clubs, and organizations are sources that can be targeted.
- Consider providing in-house workshops on employment-search skills, so
employees within the organization have opportunities to progress.
- Identify a diversity officer or equal employment opportunity (EEO)
representative to oversee the process, ensure the recruitment process is adequate, proctor
the formal voting, and maintain comprehensive notes and records of the process to ensure
that all aspects of the selection are handled fairly and consistently.
- Selection committees should be as diverse as possible. Invite
community leaders to participate if the committee does not reflect diversity. The
committee should create a comfort zone so all candidates can perform well. This aspect of
the recruitment process is key and should not be underestimated. We have aborted selection
processes when committees have been unacceptable.
- Training a selection committee is an essential part of the success in
learning to evaluate candidates. There is a tendency for people to select others just like
them . . . clones! Or to evaluate candidates on one or two factors, such as education and
experience, rather than look further into behavioral factors such as flexibility,
creativity, currency in the area of specialty, and interpersonal skills.
Some suggestions for training include the following:
- Familiarize your committee with your institutions policies,
procedures, and processes. Even search committee veterans may need a refresher.
- Provide information on employment laws that prohibit discrimination
based on race, religion, national origin, color, ancestry, sex, age, sexual orientation,
martial status, medical condition, or disability.
- To develop an awareness of and sensitivity to others, present The
Color of Fear, a powerful documentary that shows eight men of diverse ethnicities
talking openly about racism (available from the Oakland, California-based Stir-Fry
Productions, 1222 Preservation Park Way, Oakland, CA 94612, and in many college
libraries). Or construct a "culture" evaluation by asking committee members to
respond to questions such as "What was Malcolm Xs last name?" or
"Where was chocolate first used?"
- Train committees how to evaluate candidates. For example, accents
create special concerns for committees, but the assessment issue is clear: Does the
candidate understand the questions? Can you comprehend the candidate? We have accents.
Just ask a person from another English-speaking country.
- Allow persons with disabilities to demonstrate their ability to do
the job with or without accommodation. They are often assessed based on their appearance
if the disability is observable.
When newcomers begin working at LACC, the college accepts the responsibility for providing
a welcoming, supportive environment. For employees in general, we recognize the importance
of providing activities to support professional growth and development. Although we
welcome all interested staff, we strongly encourage newcomers to participate in the
activities focused on issues addressing sensitivity to differences and similarities. The
college also provides a range of opportunities to participate in campus diversity
activities, supports ethnically diverse organizations, and maintains a strong compliance
Develop sensitivity to diversity issues through college-wide workshops for all faculty and
staff and with special events that focus attention in a specific way. A very successful
activity at LACC has been a 30-hour formal orientation program for all new faculty and
staff. This mandatory workshop is broken into five 6-hour sessions held at the beginning
of the semester. The programs components include an overview of the colleges
mission, a campus tour, presentations on contractual issues and curricular methodologies,
information on the student body, and suggestions for multicultural inclusion in the
classroom. An ancillary feature is that new faculty spend a significant amount of time
together as a group and establish immediate relationships. For some faculty members, this
instant camaraderie has acted as a springboard for cross-disciplinary collaboration. The
program has been so successful that our sister colleges have adopted its philosophy and
format, which we are pleased to share on request.
Opportunities for the college community to experience LACCs diversity on a regular
basis support the message that a diverse environment is valued. One key example is several
creative faculty members from the art, humanities, English, and history disciplines
developed an innovative multicultural, multidisciplinary course celebrating that
diversity. The "City of Angels" curriculum uses Los Angeles to demonstrate the
relationship between culture and environment while indirectly teaching both students and
faculty sensitivity to their differences and similarities. The six-unit transferable
course draws faculty from different disciplines (foreign language, art, history, English
composition, and literature) to teach one or two class sessions in a semester. Part of the
class time involves the students and faculty traveling by bus together around the city to
experience its diversity. Students use these hands-on experiences as the basis for written
When the concept was first proposed, the college administration
recognized how innovative and opportune the approach was in providing a meaningful way to
value diversity and to look at and understand different cultures. To assist in the
development of the curriculum, the faculty members received special funding and the
initial courses didnt have to meet minimum enrollment figures. Two years later, the
course has attracted increased enrollments and expanded to two sections.
Another strategy to maintain a welcoming environment is to support ethnically diverse
At LACC, faculty and staff have formed the Latino Employees
Association, the Black Faculty and Staff Association, and the Asian-Pacific Association.
These groups have bylaws and officers, collect dues, and operate with the
administrations support. While they focus on issues specific to their constituency,
membership and activities are open to all faculty and staff. The organizations contribute
to the richness of the educational experience by sponsoring specific college-wide events.
If an institution hopes to retain a diverse faculty and staff, the administration must
provide and support a strong compliance office. During the last five years, LACC has
benefited from having this office readily accessible to the entire college community. When
the office was initially established, the number of complaints was substantial. Gradually,
however, the number of complaints stabilized, and today the office reinforces the
administrations commitment to supporting and valuing diversity. That reality was
achieved by providing a safe, confidential environment where faculty, staff, and students
can take their complaints. The office also provides help to groups and individuals in
adjusting to their environment by offering a range of solutions, including mediation,
referral to outside assistance, and workshops that cover all aspects of compliance. The
compliance officer receives all complaints and investigates those that warrant follow-up.
Resolutions may be formal or informal and are promptly reached.
Another strategy for achieving a diverse faculty and staff is holding public ceremonies
and events that, in themselves, are statements about how diversity enriches the entire
college community. LACC celebrates its diversity through a range of formal college-wide
activities, some long-standing and others relatively new. And our definition includes
diversity in ability, lifestyle, and gender.
For example, LACC has the largest population in California of
disabled community college students, numbering almost 1,100. Disability Awareness Day
activities, for example, include an art exhibit that offers an opportunity to learn how
blind and developmentally challenged students express their feelings and emotions in paint
and sculpture. Other examples, including celebrating the Year of the Woman and Foreign
Language Day, focus on how cultural and gender differences express themselves. Cinco de
Mayo, Black History Month, and Chinese New Year are also celebrated. These activities
enlarge the perspectives of students, faculty, and staff, and help us explore our
similarities and differences.
LACC opens the campus to the community for many of these activities,
and hosts the City of Angels multicultural festival, which is patterned after the course
described previously. This event was so successful last year that it will become an annual
event sponsored by the college foundation. LACC also opens its campus to state and
national events, for example President Clintons Campus Week of Dialogue on Race, and
the African-American Manchild Conference, which emphasized social awareness and social
Developing our own "best practices" is a strategic way to show our appreciation
for each others uniqueness. One example is Project Match, a mentoring program to
attract diversity candidates and provide them a semester of supervised exposure to the
campus before they apply for a full-time position. Another is offering workshops through
the Administrative Leadership Institute, a state-recognized program developed in the
district to improve leadership skills for administrators while attracting potential new
leaders. Featured topics have included conflict resolution, communication sensitivity,
mentoring skills, and networking.
Opportunities to acknowledge individual contributions and efforts in
a public way broadcast the administrations continuing commitment to achieving
diversity. The college presidents regular biweekly written communication with the
faculty and staff identifies individuals achievements and applauds special
activities that underscore or advance our diversity efforts. Finally, we are committed to
achieving and valuing diversity in our formal vision statement that expresses our
intention to "shape an energetic and harmonious community, and inspire a deep
appreciation for the new and different, an abiding spirit of tolerance and mutual
respect" (Los Angeles City College Vision Statement, 1995-2001).
Research data show that a diverse institution is more likely to attract diverse candidates
and provide an environment conducive to retaining that diversity. College leadership is
responsible for maintaining a quality institution so diversity candidates, who often have
multiple options, will be attracted to it, apply and accept an offer, remain for the long
term, and contribute to the institutions development.
Following the values of the institution is sometimes a challenge.
Hiring qualified candidates should be the top priority so that the individuals who are
selected are prepared for success. Giving in to the temptation to hire someone to satisfy
political pressures undermines intent and puts candidates at an inherent disadvantage. The
criteria on which hiring and evaluation decisions are based should be clearly and broadly
disseminated. Periodically monitoring the nature and number of formal challenges to the
recruitment process provides an objective review of weaknesses that need to be promptly
Developing the college communitys confidence and trust reduces
perceptions that the recruitment, retention, and recognition processes are biased, unfair,
or inconsistent. Formal and informal surveys can assess the satisfaction, morale, and
comfort level of new staff and maintain the leaderships sensitivity regarding how
effective, appropriate, and relevant current practices are or whether new strategies need
to be developed.
Los Angeles City College in many ways is experiencing and responding
to the demographic, cultural, and educational challenges that other two- and four-year
colleges across the country will inevitably address. Building and maintaining a diverse
faculty and staff has not happened rapidly nor is it completed. However, with a full
commitment from the leadership and thoughtful planning in the areas of recruitment,
retention, and recognition, this institution is making and will continue to make progress.
This article is based on the authors presentation at the AAHE
2000 National Conference on Higher Education, "Successfully Recruiting, Retaining,
and Valuing a Diverse Faculty and Staff: One Urban Community Colleges
Strategies," Session 260. Audiotapes of this and most other sessions are available
for purchase from Conference Media Contractors, Inc. See www.cmc-net.com or call 888/222-1614.
Mary S. Spangler is president of Los Angeles City College. Contact
her at email@example.com.
Cathleen Wixon is LACCs compliance officer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.