Credit: Alison Yin/EdSource

From teaching at higher education institutions to my current role leading an educational justice organization, one truth has remained crystal clear to me throughout my career: There can be no education without educators.

The faculty and staff of the California Community Colleges prove this daily. Each year, the community college system’s Hayward Award recognizes faculty members driving excellence in service of students.

Winsome Jackson, a political science professor at Sierra College for 25 years, is one of three faculty members recently honored. In her remarks, Jackson said, “I encourage more members of the community to not treat equity as a garnish, but to recognize that it is the main ingredient in everything we do, not only for students but all employees.”

Jackson’s words could not be more apt. As the largest and most diverse system of higher education in the country, California’s community colleges have a tremendous opportunity to improve the lives of students by breaking down existing barriers to equity.

I am all too familiar with these barriers, both personally and as the current executive director for The Education Trust–West, an organization working to improve education in California.

The experience of educators and advocates alike makes it clear — the opportunity ahead for California’s community colleges will hinge on their ability to fully implement the system’s strategic plan, the Vision for Success, which is based on a central commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility.

To meet this moment, the system must commit to a set of efforts that provide a road map to make campuses safer, more accessible and more welcoming to students of color and other underserved student groups. Diversifying faculty and staff and placing an emphasis on equity and inclusion in the classroom environment are core components of this work. Research shows that all students benefit from diverse faculty, staff and curriculum. A more diverse learning environment supports students’ socio-emotional needs by creating an increased sense of belonging and validation, which leads to greater retention and success.

We know the diversity of faculty and staff has a direct impact on the experience and success of students, both from the research on student success and the overwhelming amount of qualitative evidence from students themselves. Faculty and staff’s leadership and commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility are essential if California is to move forward with equity as the main ingredient, not a garnish.

To deliver on these commitments, California Community Colleges must embed diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility into faculty and staff evaluation and the tenure review processes.

This month, the Community Colleges Board of Governors has an opportunity to integrate cultural competency into the evaluations and tenure processes of all system leaders. The proposed changes require campus leaders to support faculty and staff with professional development opportunities and call for campuses to work with local collective bargaining partners to incorporate diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility competencies and criteria into performance evaluation and tenure review. This framework was carefully developed with input from district leaders, faculty and colleges alike, with a special focus on ensuring student, faculty and staff representation.

Over the past several years, we’ve seen countless examples of institutions saying the right words when it comes to advancing equity but failing to take concrete steps to match their words with action. With higher education systems across the country looking to California to lead by example, we must do better.

Making equity more than a garnish means making diversity and inclusion a necessary component of what it means to be an effective, excellent educator. The proposal before the board of governors supports faculty, staff and students by requiring that community college educators demonstrate these competencies while also offering ways for them to learn and grow. It offers a chance to break down barriers to equity for students and create an inclusive campus and classroom culture where students are more likely to persist and succeed.

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Christopher Nellum is executive director of The Education Trust–West, a statewide research, policy and advocacy organization focusing on educational justice and closing achievement and opportunity gaps for underserved students, especially students from lower-income communities. 

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  1. Jnot 3 months ago3 months ago

    Thank God my kids are finished with school and don’t have to be brainwashed with indoctrination. The CA institutions are being taken over by the woke mob.

  2. Diana Smith 3 months ago3 months ago

    I think one of the elements that is never spoken about is the ridiculous cost of going to college. You speak of inclusion, and lessening the opportunity gap, especially for those of low income. How can they pay for the price of college? I really don't think that loans are the answer. I think that the colleges have too much overhead. I live near Southwestern College in San Diego and see that they are always … Read More

    I think one of the elements that is never spoken about is the ridiculous cost of going to college. You speak of inclusion, and lessening the opportunity gap, especially for those of low income. How can they pay for the price of college? I really don’t think that loans are the answer.

    I think that the colleges have too much overhead. I live near Southwestern College in San Diego and see that they are always building. Wouldn’t the money be best spent on helping low-income students, regardless of their race, to not have college debt when they get out?

    I am white and would like to go back to college. I am low-income (actually I earn less than $15.00 an hour). I applied to a school and would have had to get a loan and pay it off after I finished. I turned it down. I had to.

    I think that there should be many more scholarships and a socio-economic study on each student where there would be a sliding cost scale to help us out. Also, maybe we could perhaps start paying it as we go.

  3. Celeste Solis 3 months ago3 months ago

    Why did this article leave a huge gap by not addressing the fact that all community colleges employ more part time faculty than full time/tenured faculty? It's cheaper to employ part time than full time in any business. And California is a business that is getting away with a 2 tiered faculty system of the haves and the have-nots. So go ahead and evaluate full time faculty for equity, diversity and inclusion but … Read More

    Why did this article leave a huge gap by not addressing the fact that all community colleges employ more part time faculty than full time/tenured faculty? It’s cheaper to employ part time than full time in any business. And California is a business that is getting away with a 2 tiered faculty system of the haves and the have-nots. So go ahead and evaluate full time faculty for equity, diversity and inclusion but you will only be evaluating maybe 1/3 of the faculty statewide in community colleges.

  4. Cynthia Mahabir 3 months ago3 months ago

    Yes, Mr. Nellum is absolutely correct: education needs educators. But here's the gaping hole he omits: the indispensable need for equity for the vast majority of contingent ('part-time') educators who comprise a second, lower tier of community college faculty. I hope he does not mean to say that equity in education is necessary for students but not for the mass of contingent faculty members, stuck in inequality, a condition which is corrosive to … Read More

    Yes, Mr. Nellum is absolutely correct: education needs educators. But here’s the gaping hole he omits: the indispensable need for equity for the vast majority of contingent (‘part-time’) educators who comprise a second, lower tier of community college faculty. I hope he does not mean to say that equity in education is necessary for students but not for the mass of contingent faculty members, stuck in inequality, a condition which is corrosive to students, faculty members themselves, academic institutions, local communities, and the state’s health and economic prosperity.

  5. PHILLIP LEASURE 3 months ago3 months ago

    Please present your evidence that anything you brought up has any material effect on school performance.

  6. John Martin 3 months ago3 months ago

    I would like to add a radical perspective to this editorial comment which has been completely left out. This editorial failed to mention the reality of the existence of a two-tiered system within the CA community college system: those who enjoy all the benefits that employment provides, and those who endure equally long hours and responsibilities but are provided none of the benefits. Unequal treatment of part-time faculty (which constitutes a majority of the … Read More

    I would like to add a radical perspective to this editorial comment which has been completely left out. This editorial failed to mention the reality of the existence of a two-tiered system within the CA community college system: those who enjoy all the benefits that employment provides, and those who endure equally long hours and responsibilities but are provided none of the benefits.

    Unequal treatment of part-time faculty (which constitutes a majority of the actual teaching faculty at most community college campuses) has been made legal but it is still a corrupt system (much like our current biased legal system, no?). Why are part-time faculty still being marginalized by full-time faculty and administration (and ignored by the Chancellor’s Office, etc.)? Why do PT’s still suffer lack of parity pay (equal pay for equal work), no real health benefits, marginal paid office hours (if any), and lack of shared governance?

    Diversity within the faculty ranks is a very worthy goal but we know, or should know, that this is a false narrative. I’ve had students (especially students of color) who tell me they want to teach in higher education, but I have to tell them, don’t do it unless they have a spouse who works full-time and they have health benefits, etc. These students are very surprised to learn that I’m not a tenured full-time instructor despite working on my campus for over 20 plus years now. Getting a full-time position is, statistically speaking, next to impossible.

    We need to be honest with our students not only about the dismal working conditions that part-time faculty face every day but also how the voiced concerns of the majority of the employed faculty at our community college campuses falls on the deaf ears their full-time colleagues, administrators and policy-makers in Sacramento who continually uphold this unjust system.

    Replies

    • Chris Stampolis 3 months ago3 months ago

      John Martin, I appreciate your accurate and well-written piece which should wake up decision-makers and journalists to the inequities of part-time non-tenured Community College faculty. During my 8 years as an elected local College District Trustee and 4 years on the state board of the California Community College Trustees (CCCT), I repeatedly heard disparaging, snarky comments from administrators and other Trustees about part-time faculty. Often these decision-makers treated PT staff as undereducated charity cases … Read More

      John Martin,

      I appreciate your accurate and well-written piece which should wake up decision-makers and journalists to the inequities of part-time non-tenured Community College faculty. During my 8 years as an elected local College District Trustee and 4 years on the state board of the California Community College Trustees (CCCT), I repeatedly heard disparaging, snarky comments from administrators and other Trustees about part-time faculty. Often these decision-makers treated PT staff as undereducated charity cases who should be grateful for a pack of peanut butter and cheese crackers and an occasional warm can of soda.

      Sadly it was negotiators for the FT faculty who were most willing to reduce PT faculty compensation and workplace rights. When I would object on behalf of PT educators, I repeatedly was admonished that Trustees cannot get involved with negotiations!

      My own kids now have graduated from Community College, launching them towards 4-year University degrees (and beyond). John, I thank you and your colleagues and I would be glad to assist with your next ten-year PT faculty PR plan. It is time to educate about the plight of educators.

      Chris Stampolis
      Santa Clara, CA

  7. Jim 3 months ago3 months ago

    I read this twice and still an unable to find any content. Did I miss something?