Equity and Diversity in California Community Colleges


Note: The following historical summary was compiled from online histories and documents prepared by the Chancellor's Office.

Changes to higher education practices and curricula began over 50 years ago, when institutions first opened their doors to groups that previously had been excluded from higher education. The Brown v. Board of Education (1954) left a lasting imprint on America and its notions of citizenship, democracy, diversity, and social equity, that is second only to the Post-World War II student enrollment boom caused by the GI Bill.

Although the Brown decision mandated an end to racial segregation in K-12, education has also had a direct and revolutionary impact on higher education across American society. The lasting lessons, legacies, and spirit indelibly changed the social, cultural, and political landscape of the United States; this is a landmark event in American history. The Brown landmark immeasurably transformed higher education that continues to grapple with its complex implications. In recent years, the definition of "diversity" has expanded from race and gender to include religion, age and physical capabilities.

For many years since the Brown legacy, community colleges throughout the United States have tried to build more welcoming climates on their campuses for faculty of color and white females. Despite these efforts, a vast discrepancy in faculty representation still exists; increasing the number of underrepresented tenured faculty may be effective by improving the climate for an increasingly diverse student population.

California Tomorrow, is a non-profit research organization that embarked one year ago on a statewide exploratory research project to inform policy, stimulate dialogue and action, as well as provides information on the experiences of students of color as well as immigrants in the California Community College System. According to California Tomorrow "The majority of people who enroll in a California institution of higher education do so in the community colleges, the primary institution of higher education for all ethnic groups in California. Those groups that rely most heavily on the community colleges are Latinos (77% of first-time freshmen in 1999), Native Americans (74%) and African American (73%). The community colleges also enroll 69% of White first-time college freshmen, 58% of Filipinos and 45% of Asian/Pacific Islanders (1999, CCCCO data). Students of color comprise the majority (60%) of the community college enrollment-and more than half of the students of color are Latino." While the youth of today are becoming increasingly diverse and constitute a majority in California, the faculty and staff remain largely White and middle-class.

However, research found that increasing the number of underrepresented faculty requires more than just focusing on recruitment efforts. Institutions need more focus on diversity awareness and retaining of underrepresented faculty. Increasingly diverse student enrollments have presented challenges on campus and in the classroom; many of the challenges are at the core of institutional improvements that enhance student learning and involve faculty development. Institutions interested in improving student learning outcomes are devoting greater attention to helping faculty and teaching assistants while develop a repertoire of instructional methods that foster respect for cultural differences and address variant learning styles.

Martha Tack and Carol Patitu (1992), in their research study, described the various reasons why underrepresented faculty are dissatisfied with their jobs and look for employment outside academia. Some of the faculty's reasons include feelings of isolation, experiences with prejudice and discrimination, lower salaries and professional ranks as well as lack of tenured status.

The Chronicle of Higher Education Almanac (1997) cites a 1992-93 U.S. Department of Education study showing that nationwide, white male faculty currently hold 58.9% of all full-time instructional faculty positions, while white female faculty hold 27.9%, and male and female faculty of color hold merely 13.2%. Male and female faculty of color are clearly underrepresented. Although white female faculty are represented more than faculty of color, they tend to be concentrated in lower ranks and are without tenure; therefore they both are considered to be underrepresented (Tack and Patitu, 1992).

Diverse student enrollments resulted in pressures that led to the development of new academic support programs, student organizations, diversification of faculty and staff, along with the establishment of ethnic and women's studies programs. The revision of educational policies and curricula was intended to reflect the diversity of human experience and perspectives. However, the significant number of women and minorities in both faculty and administrative position indicates that we have not yet moved quickly enough in hiring underrepresented faculty and staff.

Statewide statistics in California community colleges demonstrate a significant increase in diversity in hiring. In 1994 there were 438 of 1522 (28.78%) average of non-white tenured track faculty. Over a ten year period that number increased in 2003 to 639 of 1909 (33.47%) averaging an overall change of 4.79%. Based on an increase in diversity hiring among tenured track faculty, California Community College Chancellor Mark Drummond presented diversity awards to four colleges/districts who have done a outstanding job of increasing their percentage of diversity in their tenured track faculty on Saturday, November 20, 2004. These four colleges were:

Citrus College in 1994, had 18 of 130 who were non-white (13.85%); in 2003, 42 of 150 faculty were non-white (14.15%).

Napa Valley College in 1994, 14 of 105 faculty were non-white (13.33%); by 2003 they had increased that number to 27 non-white of their 102 faculty, (13.14%);

San Jose/Evergreen District in 1994, had 70 of 240 who were non-white (28.11%) and by 2003 had increased that number to 97 of 239 faculty were non-white an increase of 12.47%; and

Palo Verde College in 1994, 4 of 20 were non-white (20%) increasing that number in 2003 to 11 nonwhite faculty of 34 (an increase of 12.35%, now 32.6% of their entire faculty) (2003, CCCCO data).

The efforts in these districts have shown tremendous strides to improve diversity within their campus climate.

Drummond also presented diversity awards to seven community college districts who, did the best job in increasing their diversity in hiring administrative staff over the last 10 years with an averaged total of 3,759 of 16,523 in 1994 (22.75%), these numbers increased in 2003 to 4822 of 17, 664 administrators and improved by an average of 27.30%. The community college districts demonstrating this effort were West Hills, West Kern, Solano, Santa Monica, Desert, Palomar and Victor Valley. People's differences are what we call diversity-a natural and enriching hallmark of life. Diversity includes, but is not limited to, ethnicity, language, culture, national origin, socio-economic class, race, gender, age, class, sexual orientation, religion, disability, political viewpoints, veteran status, and gender identity/expression. A climate of healthy diversity is one in which people value individual and group differences while respecting the perspectives of others, and communicate openly. California Community Colleges represent and serve one of the most diverse populations anywhere. Chancellor Drummond feels very passionately about the issue and wants to focus specifically on the importance of diversifying the faculty and staff in our local community. The benefit of a diverse workforce includes an environment that attracts a broader pool of candidates, who in turn possess a wider range of knowledge and experiences to build upon.

Diversity is the key to excellence in education. According to Estela Bensimon (2004) about three-fourths of California community college students enter the two-year colleges with high aspirations to transfer to a four-year college and earn a Bachelor's degree. However, the great majority of these students will not fulfill their high aspirations. California community colleges are committed to enriching the lives of our students, faculty, and staff by providing a diverse campus where exchanging ideas, knowledge, and perspectives are an active part of learning. Community college administrators, local academic senate, Academic Senate, staff, and the Chancellor's Office need to participate in training activities centered on diversity training and institutional change.


Bensimon, E. (2004). Equity for All: Institutional Responsibility for Student Success Executive Summary. Los Angeles: USC-Center for Urban Education, Rossier School of Education.

Irvine, J.J., & D.E. York. (1995). Learning styles and culturally diverse students: A literature review. In J.A. Banks & C.A. McGee Banks (Eds.). Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education. New York; Macmillan.

Tack, M.W., & Patitu, C.L. (1992). Faculty Job Satisfaction: Women and Minorities in Peril. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 4. Washington, DC: The George Washington University, School of Education and Human Development.

The Chronicle of Higher Education. (1997). Characteristics of full-time faculty Members with teaching duties. The Chronicle of Higher Education Almanac (vol. 26). Washington, DC: Author.