California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

    University works with Council for Urban Education, faculty diversity increases

    Since a 34 percent increase in underrepresented student minorities on campus over the past five years, California Lutheran University has made a commitment to hiring ethnically diverse faculty.

    Throughout 2016, Cal Lutheran worked closely with the University of Southern California’s Council for Urban Education (CUE) to look into ways in which it could hire more ethnically diverse staff.

    “We really felt like we needed to do a better job of bringing in more underrepresented faculty who could serve as models, as mentors, for all of our student body,” said Cal Lutheran Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Leanne Neilson.

    During this time, Neilson said that she, along with 19 other Cal Lutheran faculty members, became part of an evidence team. This team met with CUE once per month in order to seek out, diagnose and draw solutions for the problems Cal Lutheran was facing in terms of faculty diversity.

    “We would talk about what are the barriers, what are the challenges,” Neilson said. “One of the issues we came up with is that our process for searching for new faculty needed to be altered. And there was a lack of consistency that was happening across the faculty searches.”

    Every year, Cal Lutheran takes on 12 to 15 of these faculty searches. They consist of a group of about six current faculty members that meet together in September to search for incoming faculty they wish to hire for the following academic year.

    In addition, the school has also given retirement incentive packages to current staff who chose to retire, thus creating more hiring spaces for more diverse faculty.

    “We intentionally did a retirement incentive program a year or so ago,” Neilson said. “We timed it in line with this whole effort because we thought it would open some lines we would be able to hire new faculty.”

    With these extra positions available, Cal Lutheran has had to create new job advertisements, but Associate Professor at Cal Lutheran’s Graduate School of Education and equity advocate Diane Rodriguez-Kiino saidthe university needs to make sure the job ads come across as inclusive and appear in periodicals in places where underrepresented minorities can access them.

    “When we draft a job description, are we drafting it with an equity mindset? Are we drafting it so that underrepresented faculty will feel welcome and warmly received at Cal Lutheran?” Rodriguez-Kiino said.

    In order to make sure these questions are addressed, Cal Lutheran implemented an equity advocate into each faculty search group.

    “[These advocates] are kind of the keepers of making sure we follow the process properly we put together and helping us to make sure that we are equity minded, making sure that we are watching for implicit bias,” Neilson said.

    Implicit bias is the notion that people will make assumptions about other people based off social norms, in this case regarding race or their ethnicity. Cal Lutheran trains these equity advocates about implicit bias, and instructs them in ways to avoid it.

    “The reason that we’re doing this is because a more diverse faculty provide the best education for students,” Neilson said. “It’s about students, and it’s about the education that they’re getting. With a more diverse faculty, you get broader perspective in the classroom,  the students get a better experience, a more enriched experience in their education.”

    Moving forward, current equity advocates will train new ones so that this system of equity checks and balances will continue.

    “In my opinion, one of the reasons we decided to work with CUE was precisely so that we could develop internal ownership of the process rather than offload responsibility for faculty equity to an outside group,” said Samuel Thomas, a religion professor at Cal Lutheran in an email interview.  Thomas also serves as co-leader of the evidence team and as an equity adviser.

    As Cal Lutheran’s student population grows, the university has been hiring on more staff in the last years.

    “As we grow, we change, we adapt—we can celebrate the ways we are living out our university commitments to diversity, justice, equity and inclusion,” Thomas said. “But that doesn’t mean we’ve overcome all of the challenges—that work is always ongoing, never complete.”

    In the last two years since working with CUE, Cal Lutheran has increased the number of underrepresented minority faculty members by nearly 30 percent.

    “The applicants are different. There’s a spark to them that, maybe, I haven’t seen before,” Rodriguez-Kiino said. “I just feel that the outside community senses our shift, so now we’re seeing some really great applicants who can be in touch with our college students. Who may be first gen[eration], maybe veterans, maybe single moms. The process is generating success, and that is so cool to see.”

    Rachael Balcom