Testimony on CSU Faculty Diversity
By Dr. Cecil Canton, CFA Associate Vice President - Affirmative Action

Presented October 6, 2016 to the Oversight Hearing of the California State Assembly Committee on Higher Education and Assembly Budget Subcommittee #2 on Education Finance

Good morning, Chairman Medina, Chairman McCarty, Assembly Member Dr. Weber, and honorable members:

In most four-year college strategic plans, there is a good-faith statement calling for increasing diversity as an institutional goal. There are good — even noble — reasons for doing so.

The principal one is that American colleges and universities must look more like the rest of America if they are to remain relevant in the 21st century. Once federal and state governments adopted the principle of increasing access through programs like the GI Bill, direct state subsidies, the Pell Grant and various federal loan programs, there was no turning back.

It’s been good for America as the nation continues its chaotic march toward broader equality for its citizens. Fundamentally, it affects America’s ability to compete in a global economy.

And yet, we are a nation in crisis! Our democracy appears to be failing many of our most vulnerable citizens. It is failing to protect their pursuit of life, liberty and happiness and it is failing to appropriately educate them!

This condition has been especially acute in the “People’s University,” where the CSU administration has failed to grasp the devastation that structural racism, white supremacy and implicit bias have wrought on the life chances of our students and their families. And even on the CSU system itself! Over time, as the student body of the CSU became darker, funding for the CSU became lighter!

Today’s students, the majority being students of color, are paying more for their education than their counterparts, the majority being white, did just a couple of  decades ago. Without an honest look at how these issues have impacted the development of the CSU in terms of both faculty and student diversity – and taking the requisite steps to address them! – the managers of the system are abrogating their leadership responsibility.

California State University faculty serve an incredibly diverse student body. When the CSU was established in 1960, the typical student was White and male. Today, the majority of CSU campuses are majority “minority” campuses, and many have earned the coveted Hispanic Serving Institutions designation.

Statistics tell the tale:

  • Some 26% of CSU students identified as White, compared to 64% of faculty.
  • More than one in three students identifies as Latino/a, compared to less than 10% of faculty.
  • And while students and faculty who identify as Black account for roughly equal proportions of the student and faculty populations, Black faculty have accounted for just 4% of all faculty since 2005.

Regardless of their racial/ethnic or gender identity, faculty are responsible for teaching courses, building a record of scholarship, and providing service to the institution to meet the standards of the retention, promotion and tenure process.

  • For underrepresented faculty and faculty of color, however, these processes take on increased and amplified weight in predominantly white institutions, a tension known as “cultural taxation.”

Cultural taxation” is a term coined by Amado Padilla in 1994 as a way of describing the unique burden placed on ethnic minority faculty in carrying out their responsibility to service the university.

  • Added to the normal burdens on all faculty, for faculty of color is the additional role of advocate, counselor and therapist for underrepresented students and students of color, a role most other faculty may assume as well but without the additional pressure faced by minority faculty.
  • Underrepresented and students of color often come to the university from unique social settings, which may lead to a more challenging path through the university than that faced by other students.
  • That leads to greater demands on faculty time and resources than that faced by other faculty.

Exacerbating this problem of cultural taxation within the CSU and higher education institutions across the country is the heavy reliance on part-time faculty to meet the needs of a 21st century, world-class learning institution.

  • This year, the CSU reached a milestone in terms of numbers of faculty: we now number 27,000. But at the same time, a higher percentage than ever before – 60% – are on temporary appointments, and there are 10% fewer tenure line faculty now than there were 10 years ago.
  • As a result, more and more faculty in the CSU— tenured and lecturer alike—are losing ground economically and losing faith in their institutions and in the future of their profession.
  • Because faculty play such a critical role with students and in shaping the kind of education they receive, they also play a huge role in defining what a university is.

How can the CSU and other institutions of higher learning address this lack of diversity in their faculty and broaden the educational experience their students can expect?

  • First, institutions of higher learning must recognize that it has a problem. America, and California, must maintain a higher education system based on access and choice. But it cannot afford to stumble, thereby creating narrow pathways — two-year, online and mission-oriented solutions — that effectively segregate minority students by pathway.
  • Second, we must redefine the definition of diversity more broadly. Diversity is a complex term that has nuance and subtext; nevertheless, the commitment must not waver even if the practical solutions differ for individual students by preparation and need.
  • Third, the federal and state government must not apply a bureaucratic Band-Aid as a well-intended effort to improve diversity. A better policy is to begin by focusing on the students and faculty who serve them, rather than the institutions. What do students and faculty need to succeed, even if it means saving one soul at a time?
  • Fourth, the CSU and other institutions must acknowledge the impact of structural racism, white supremacy and implicit bias on the recruitment, hiring, promotion and retention of faculty of color. A California Faculty Association (CFA) initiative that shows promise for addressing the lack of diversity among CSU faculty is CFA’s own “A Journey into Change: An Unconscious Bias Workshop.” The workshop was developed over two years ago to help faculty and administrators become aware of unconscious biases, preferences, and micro-aggressions that interfere with the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty. CSU administrators and managers, as well as faculty, should be encouraged to participate in this training.
  • Fifth, a CFA initiative that addresses the issue of “cultural taxation” was enshrined in the 2014-2018 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the CSU.  Article 20.37 of the CBA, Assigned Time for Exceptional Levels of Service to Students, stipulates that:

“For each fiscal year 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/ 17, the CSU will provide a pool of $1.3 million, allocated based on campus full-time equivalent students (FTES), to provide assigned time to faculty employees who are engaged in exceptional levels of service that support the CSU’s priorities, but who are not otherwise receiving an adjustment in workload to reflect their effort.”

  • Finally, American colleges and universities must use their tools to build diversity — especially financial aid — in a more focused and creative way. Too many higher education institutions use financial aid as a way to fill their freshman class rather than meet their mission and strategic goals.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak. I look forward to the rest of the discussion and am happy to answer any questions.