College of the Canyons is one of hundreds of colleges and universities throughout the state evaluated for its diversity among faculty and educational leadership in a recent report from the Los Angeles-based Campaign for College Opportunity.
The report, released Tuesday on the 50th anniversary of the East Los Angeles walkouts, found that there is a “drastic disparity” between California’s public college and university students and higher education leaders and faculty when it comes to race and gender.
“Sixty-nine percent of students in college in California are ethnically or racially diverse, but more than 60 percent of college faculty and senior leadership and 74 percent of academic senators are white,” the report read.
The report used 2016-17 data from all colleges at California State University, University of California and California Community Colleges, including College of the Canyons, to compile their report.
“Diversity is a big part of who we are and what we do at College of the Canyons, it’s included in our mission statement so that it is something we are committed to,” said Eric Harnish, COC’s vice president of public information, advocacy and external relations. “We try to recruit diverse qualified applicants for all of our positions. Over the last 10 years, 39 percent of the faculty hired are racially diverse.”
Data from COC indicates that 63 percent of students are ethnically or racially diverse, while 28 percent of tenured faculty, 37 percent of non-tenured faculty, 18 percent of academic senators, 9 percent of senior leadership and 20 percent of district trustees are ethnically or racially diverse.
“Our public colleges and universities have to do more than communicate that they ‘value’ diversity while tolerating its absence and not acting to ensure their campus leaders and faculty reflect the diversity of the state of California,” said Michele Siqueiros, president of the Campaign for College Opportunity.
However, COC is diverse when it comes to its representation of women in educational leadership and faculty positions. The college is led by a female chancellor, Dianne Van Hook. It also has nearly equal number of male and female tenured and non-tenured faculty, and three of five of the college’s Board of Trustees are female.
This means that COC is one of the few colleges and universities in the state where women are not underrepresented among tenured faculty, academic senators and college leadership.
“I can tell you that at the Board of Trustees level we support diversity at every level of the college,” board President Steve Zimmer said.
To improve diversity on all levels, the report from Campaign for College Opportunity called on leaders to prioritize and set goals for improving diversity and to create a more “wholesale” hiring process.
The report also encourages college leaders to annually collect data about race, ethnicity and gender for various leadership positions and for hiring decisions, a practice COC already has in place according to Zimmer.
“I will say that, as a community college, we’re one of the leaders in the system on meeting diversity and addressing diversity at the faculty level,” Zimmer said.
Student success measures
In 2014, COC became designated as a Hispanic-serving institution by the U.S. Department of Education because more than 25 percent of its student population is Latinx.
This designation provided COC with a five-year grant, which supported the hiring of a bilingual outreach technician to work with high school students and parents, create Spanish language versions of the college’s key educational materials—including financial aid options and registration.
The college also works to support diverse, first-generation college students at the high school level through its It Takes a Barrio program, which offers cultural field trips, college visits and school counselors to students at Golden Valley High and Canyon High.
“Most of the students don’t even know they can attend college, so what the program does is it helps them and their families understand there is a pathway to higher education through College of the Canyons,” Harnish said. “The goal is to keep growing the program and to bring more students into it.”
To increase student success rates, COC condensed lower-level English and math classes into one course, and began using high school grades, as well as standardized test scores, to determine student placement.
This increased graduation rates, Harnish said. Between 2011-17, graduation rates for Latinx students increased by 193 percent, for African American students increased by 157 percent and for Asian American students increased by 113 percent, according to Harnish.
“We’re in the midst of the process now, and there’s been a lot of work done on campus,” Harnish said. “I think we’ll continue to see improvement in student success and completion as that work comes to fruition for the benefit of students.”