Selective Enforcement: Disparities in Tenure


It is of great concern that many districts in our community college system do not take action involving inequality in the workplace. My colleagues and I are disappointed that racism and sexism continues everywhere in the world but especially in the educational sector. There have been several cases of systemic exclusion of people of color. This is one event of an injustice involving a former colleague, who was denied tenure. The female faculty member had been employed with her district for four years.  She was the only African American instructor in the district hired for a full-time, tenure-track position in the last few years. But, she eventually was denied tenure.

During her first two years of tenure evaluations, she received positive and favorable reviews from her evaluation committee. After this, there was a transition of departments and administration during her third and fourth year. The new evaluation committee did not appear to provide her with mentoring, guidance, or academic support, which lead to her third-year evaluation insinuating that she needed to improve, when in fact the union and the administrators were the ones unethically leaving out information and giving her unreasonable requests.

There were disparities in treatment with selective enforcement; for example, she was given deadlines that she would have to meet that her co-workers did not have. This then caused her fourth year of tenure review to show marks of unsatisfactory performance and an evaluation that led to the termination of her employment with the district. 

While the instructor felt that she complied with recommendations given to her, there was little help or support from the department or administration. It also seems to be very questionable that a once prominent instructor who received excellent marks, only began to suffer after an administration and department switch. The “proverbial” paper trail documentation should have validated her work ethic and performance, instead of creating a reason to deny her of her tenure and livelihood that she worked so hard to obtain.

Faculty members wrote letters on her behalf, and all agreed that she went above and beyond in her role as an instructor and member of the faculty to support her students and campus. We watched and mentored her since she lacked the support and resources of her own campus and administration. Near the end, I and other faculty members suggested that she learn her rights and contact outside help like the campus union representative for further assistance, who then still neglected to support her or even follow up with her about the situation.

The female instructor, who unfortunately suffered from a lack of support and who was punished based on sexual bias and skin color, is talented and an excellent teacher in the education and community sector.

During this time, she assisted the college with maintaining compliance, which without would have affected accreditation. She fulfilled the campus and district committee tenure contract by regularly attending the curriculum committee meetings and serving on the campus facility committee, as well as her discipline committee. She revisited all SLOs, updating and changing as needed, and she wrote, submitted, and received approval for an AA degree in her discipline. She won a seat on the faculty union executive board. She held student events every semester despite the lack of a budget, and she hosted a high school day for surrounding schools. Lastly, the students of her program also participated yearly in the district event in her discipline.

All of this to say, there are many instructors who have resumes that lack what this Black female instructor has accomplished. It is my opinion and many others’ that her case was not predicated on her academic achievements nor her talent as a recognized educator in her field. She was not unbiasedly considered for her tenure position. We stand in solidarity with our Black colleague.  We urge all colleagues to take action and review your college’s tenure processes.