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Opinion: Changes to UC hiring process are necessary to facilitate greater faculty diversity

The UC has made great strides to increase diversity among its faculty, but it can – and must – do more. (Sakshi Joglekar/Daily Bruin staff)

By Sarah Karim

April 16, 2021 4:25 p.m.

When it comes to faculty diversity, the University of California has more than enough room for growth.

As of 2020, 55.7% of UCLA’s lecturers and professors were white. The number of faculty of color at UCLA has grown a mere 3% from 2010 to 2018. For context, the state’s nonwhite population grew about 4% from 2010 to 2019, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

While the numbers are close, this doesn’t mean the UC is doing as much as it should.

As an institution that champions diversity, the UC has an obligation to meaningfully promote and preserve diversity among faculty. To do so, the UC should implement new methods throughout its hiring processes to keep diversity at the forefront.

Otherwise, progress will continue to stagnate.

The hiring process for UC faculty has a very specific method of advertising and screening individual applicants. Throughout this process, the University considers diversity an important feature when choosing new applicants. The UC advertises job listings through various outlets such as national journals, and the applications are later screened by various faculty committees, according to BruinX, a UCLA Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion think tank.

UCLA specifically attempts to increase faculty diversity by training faculty committees on the search process, which includes measures to emphasize the importance of equity, said Bill Kisliuk, a UCLA spokesperson, in an emailed statement.

The UC has additionally established the Advancing Faculty Diversity program, which strives to create new innovative strategies to increase faculty diversity, said Ryan King, a UC Office of the President spokesperson, in an emailed statement.

However, these strategies may not be enough to reverse the UC’s slow increase in diversity. True progress requires innovation and the University’s current methods aren’t cutting it.

Instead, the UC should look into changing its advertising methods. For example, the University can make sure that listings reach a diverse set of candidates, which means being mindful of where jobs are posted and what networks are tapped into, said Adriana Villavicencio, an assistant professor of education at UC Irvine.

“I think … prior to even the recruitment, (the UC should think) about the language of a job description or job opportunity,” Villavicencio said. “Is it inclusive? Does it mention priorities such as equity, inclusion and belonging?”

Additionally, the UC should also focus on retaining staff members who belong to underrepresented communities for a longer amount of time.

According to King, UCOP is supporting projects that focus on academic climate, faculty recruitment and retention. But the key to this is maintaining an environment where faculty members feel valued, which is something all UC campuses can work on.

When pre-tenure faculty consider applying for jobs, they most likely look for certain qualities, such as if there are people of color in leadership positions and if their work is being acknowledged or celebrated, Villavicencio said. These factors not only affect recruitment but also employee retention, she added.

The UC should also focus on fostering a culture of inclusiveness across its campuses. An important part of fostering diversity in faculty means cultivating a culture of inclusiveness to ensure staff feel welcome.

“A lot of colleges and universities in general need to stop trying to have ‘diversity’ on their terms,” said Constance Iloh, an assistant professor of education at UCI, in an emailed statement. “Some of the ‘goals’ institutions claim to want can only occur when harmful and hegemonic aspects of the culture are dismantled.”

In order to create a more diverse space across the UC campuses, it is important to remember that the real goal isn’t to meet specific benchmarks. It’s to ensure that everyone feels they belong on their campus.

“Any institution seeking to sincerely facilitate change has to understand its culture and what in their culture is inhibiting change,” Iloh said. “Moreover, it is worthwhile to explore if a space is even a healthy ecosystem for racially minoritized faculty.”

Increasing faculty diversity is also important for students, who should be able to see themselves in the people providing them their education. College is a space for opportunity and growth – but without increased efforts to enhance diversity among instructors, students are missing out on the benefits that come with racially and ethnically representative faculty.

“There’s a large body of research that shows positive effects for students of color when they have teachers of color – particularly Black teachers actually benefit both Black students, other students of color and even white students in their classrooms,” Villavicencio said.

Having a representative body will only increase the quality of education, making it a worthy investment for the UC system.

To be fair, the UC has made valid efforts to increase diversity in its faculty. The problem is, current hiring procedures aren’t causing significant growth. Bolstering old efforts while implementing new measures can ensure the University’s faculty reflect the diverse student body it teaches.

Having a diverse staff can change the environment of UC campuses for the better – the UC should keep this in mind.

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Sarah Karim
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