Faculty concerned about lack of diversity

Daisy Aguilar

Despite the growing number of minority students at Sacramento State, the low number of minority faculty is evident throughout the university’s seven colleges.

While 51.2 percent of the student body identify as minority, only 23.4 percent of the faculty do.

In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 209, which prohibits the use of race, sex and ethnic backgrounds by state agencies, including education, government hiring and contracts.

Kent Porter, associate vice president of Human Resources, said despite Proposition 209, there are measures of affirmative action under federal law.  

“The only thing that a university or any employer can do is cast as broad a net as possible,” Porter said.

Introduced by President John Kennedy in 1961, affirmative action established the government’s commitment to equal opportunity for all applicants regardless of sex, race and ethnic background.

According to the California Faculty Association, the CSU system has an obligation to continue its efforts to remedy the limited use of women and low presence of minorities in employment.

Every department on campus is required to elect an equal opportunity representative among its tenured and probationary faculty.

According to the University’s Appointment, Retention, Tenure and Promotion policy, the equal opportunity representative in the committee has the responsibility to ensure fairness and equality when searching for faculty.

“If in the end it results in a minority hire among our faculty, not only does it improve our affirmative action plan, but (we) nonetheless are closer toward achieving the diversity we embrace,” Porter said.

The recruiting and hiring process is conducted by faculty through the department by putting together search committees, receiving applications and conducting interviews. The committees then make recommendations to their deans for successful candidates.

Porter said given his interactions with faculty who are involved with recruiting, he has not interacted with anyone who does not understand diversity.

“(Faculty) have a clear understanding of the importance of not only conducting a fair search, but one that will further enhance the diversity of our faculty,” Porter said.

Sociology professor Manuel Barajas said Proposition 209 brings a widespread misconception that race cannot be used as a consideration for hiring and must be corrected.

“The use of race as one element of diversity that can enhance the academic experience of students, staff, faculty and community is legal under federal affirmative action law,” Barajas said.

Barajas said with the growing numbers of diversity amongst students, a diversified full-time faculty is critical.

“It prepares future professionals that are well-equipped to work and to live constructively in an increasingly diverse society and it improves the graduate and success rates of underrepresented minorities,” Barajas wrote in a research article entitled “Facing the Higher Education Crisis in California.”

William Bishop, director of equal opportunity for Human Resources, said he wants the university to give everybody the same opportunity and believes the university looks like society.

Although Sac State as a whole is a diverse university, Barajas said he believes there is an absence in faculty diversity and the university needs to do more to recruit diverse faculty.

According to the California State University analytic studies enrollment report, 29.4 percent of the student body were made up of Latinos in fall 2011 and only 8.4 percent of faculty were Latino faculty.

There were 32.4 percent of caucasian students in the CSU system and 67.8 percent caucasian faculty.

In his research, Barajas wrote the College of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies had 115 full-time professors. Over the past 10 years, African-American faculty declined from 12 to 6 and Chicano faculty decreased from 12 to 3.

Porter said he believes if a minority student is taking a class taught by a minority professor, he or she is more likely to succeed because they are able to look up to someone who may have shared the same experiences.

“A broad range of diverse people, in my opinion, increases the educational value that we give our students,” Bishop said.

Sociology graduate student Jessica Castellon said diversity amongst faculty is essential to her learning experience.

“It’s important to be reflective on the person teaching you,” Castellon said. “As a Chicana, it is relevant to the way I learn.”

Castellon said she believes minority students need more minority professors to look up to for inspiration.

Although human resources only assists in faculty hiring, Bishop said it is the responsibility of human resources to ensure a fair, balanced and objective process.

“If we truly want diversity on campus, [Human Resources has] to make that happen,” Bishop said.