Sac State brings in 49 new faculty members

Daisy Aguilar

While Sacramento State has hired 49 new tenure-track faculty this fall semester, both students and professors hope to see more diversity for next year’s hiring expectation of 35 faculty.

Although demographics of the new 49 faculty are not yet available, an issue in the past has been the University has not recruited more professors of varying ethnicities.

“It seems as if the University has been unable to understand the academic value that racial-ethnic diversity among faculty could offer in the production of knowledge, classroom instruction, curriculum and democracy in society, “ said sociology professor Manuel Barajas.

Government professor Robert Oden agrees in the sense that the University has done little to encourage a more diversified faculty.

As selection committees within different departments search for potential candidates, Oden believes committees do not always reflect the student body and their needs.

“[Selection committees] are not diverse and they do not understand diversity,” Oden said.

According to Provost Frederika Harmsen, faculty search committees are instructed to strive for diversity.

“Faculty diversity is important to [Sac State] for a variety of reasons, including diversity of expertise, a diversity of viewpoints and as a reflection of the diversity in our student body,” Harmsen said in an email.

Although the University may affirm diversity, numbers show otherwise.

As universities have made a progress in diversifying student bodies since the civil rights movement, it is evident there has been little progress over the years with faculty diversity.

According to Sac State’s Office of Institutional Research, the Latino student population has been increasing rapidly. Back in 2000, the Latino student body was only 12 percent, today it is 22 percent.

The University fact book shows how the Latino faculty has decreased or stayed the same and the numbers are similar to African-American, Native American, Asian and Pacific Islander faculty.

“Sac State students are coming from a state with about 40 percent Latinos, six percent African-American, 13 percent Asian-Americans and 39 percent of Europeans-Americans,” Barajas said. “ For [students] not to see this full diversity among faculty has some serious negative consequences.”

Women studies major Aisha Engle, 37, said if the University does not accommodate students with a more diversified faculty, it will contribute to creating an environment which does not consider the needs of marginalized and underrepresented student populations.

“This mode of exclusion begins to manifest itself when students don’t see people like themselves succeeding in academia and continues to further exclude them from attaining careers in the fields of education,” Engle said. “I believe as students we imitate the leaders we see in professions. When you don’t see people you can relate to, it makes it appear that the odds are not in your favor to succeed.”

Associate Vice President for Human Resources Kent Porter said the University has limited resources to do comprehensive recruiting, such as going to different universities that are producing doctorates.

“If we’re going to advertise it in journals, why not advertise through those colleges and universities that produce the doctorates that we know will bring us not only qualified individuals but the diversity we seek,” he said.

However, Oden said he does not understand how the University cannot have enough resources for faculty diversity outreach.

“Where there is not a top priority, the money is not there,” Oden said.

Although recruiting a more diversified faculty has been a challenge, Porter hopes to see the diversity in time.

“Nonetheless if faculty does not reflect students, we appreciate and teach diversity,” Porter said.

With the hiring of 35 new tenure-track faculty for next year, some students believe it is not only the University’s responsibility to make a change that has not been a top priority but most importantly for students to take action.

“I do believe students play a big role in demanding faculty diversity,” environmental studies major Omar Ceja, 23, said. “The first thing they should do is learn the concept of paying it forward. I believe that many students don’t partake in any acts to voice this issue because they won’t benefit from it directly.”

Engle said students play an essential role in demanding faculty diversity and their voices need to be heard.

“I have supported faculty diversity by speaking on panels and tabling,” Engle said. “If I was asked to do it again I would jump at the chance to participate in any form of demonstration to support faculty diversity.”

Oden said faculty can complain all they want but in the end it is the students who need to take charge.

“Students are keys to this whole endeavor,” Oden said. “If students don’t support faculty of color, if students don’t care about these issues, change is not going to happen. Students have to be the one to go out on the pavement and let people know the system the way it is, is unacceptable and they want more out of their education and that they demand diversity.”