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 objectively.

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.

Recruitment Strategies
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.

Recruiting

  1. When recruiting, communicate broadly. Begin an advertising campaign. Conduct a national outreach. Advertising resources can include the Internet, professional journals, conferences, and newsletters.
  2. Make everyone a recruiter. Networking, a very effective means of finding candidates, is often discounted because of its informality. Don’t 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.
  3. Consider providing in-house workshops on employment-search skills, so employees within the organization have opportunities to progress.

Selecting

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 institution’s 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 X’s 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.

Retention Strategies
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 office.

Sensitivity
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 program’s components include an overview of the college’s 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.

Campus Activities
Opportunities for the college community to experience LACC’s 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 assignments.

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 didn’t have to meet minimum enrollment figures. Two years later, the course has attracted increased enrollments and expanded to two sections.

Campus Groups
Another strategy to maintain a welcoming environment is to support ethnically diverse organizations.

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 administration’s 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.

Compliance Office
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 administration’s 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.

Recognition Strategies
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 Clinton’s Campus Week of Dialogue on Race, and the African-American Manchild Conference, which emphasized social awareness and social reform efforts.

Other Efforts
Developing our own "best practices" is a strategic way to show our appreciation for each other’s 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 administration’s continuing commitment to achieving diversity. The college president’s 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).

Concluding Observations
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 institution’s 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 addressed.

Developing the college community’s 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 leadership’s 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 College’s 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 spanglms@email.lacc.cc.ca.us.

Cathleen Wixon is LACC’s compliance officer. Contact her at wixonce@email.lacc.cc.ca.us.



Copyright © 2008 - American Association for Higher Education and Accreditation