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Experts To Study Campus Climate, Hiring Practices at UC Riverside

In an effort to address campus diversity complaints from minority faculty, students and alumni, the University of California, Riverside has invited three outside scholars to review faculty hiring policies and investigate the treatment of minority students within the Graduate School of Education.

In October, UC Riverside’s Acting Chancellor Robert Grey received a letter from a coalition of about 10 community and university groups, including the Latino Advisory Committee, expressing concern about the lack of diversity among faculty. The group called for UC Riverside’s chancellor and Board of Regents to investigate the problem and take action.

Members of the Latino Advisory Committee, a coalition of UC Riverside alumni that advocate for greater numbers of Hispanic student enrollment and faculty hiring, contend that the university squandered multiple opportunities to hire a person of color for a permanent faculty position in the Graduate School of Education and continues to be slow in its hiring efforts.

“There have rarely been any signs of diversity in the Graduate School of Education. And, this has been a problem for us for a long time. We want to see a greater number of Hispanics and other people of color hired as instructors in the Graduate School of Education,” says Lily Rivera, member of the Latino Advisory Committee and UC Riverside Graduate School of Education alumnus.

None of the Graduate School of Education’s 13 full-time tenured faculty are from an underrepresented minority group.

“There have been opportunities for the university to hire Hispanics, but those opportunities have fallen by the wayside for some reason,” says Rivera.

Those missed opportunities come as the university is planning to establish a Center for the Study of Diversity in Higher Education and Society in 2008 to disseminate research related to diversity and academic excellence.

According to UC Riversides’ figures, Whites make up 73 percent of the UC Riverside faculty, Asians 17.7 percent, followed by Blacks, Hispanics and American Indians, who make up 7.6 percent collectively. Underrepresented minorities, excluding Asians, represent 7.8 percent of all UC faculty. This year UC Riverside hired 50 faculty members for this fall’s term, six of whom are minorities.

UC Riverside has more diversity among its students than other schools in the University of California system, including the highest concentration of Black and Latino students of any other campus. “I didn’t see this type of diversity reflected in the faculty,” says Kaci Newman, a recent UC Riverside graduate.

“There are not enough Black faculty on campus, and of those who are there [few have] tenure,” Newman says. “We had rallies and sit-ins on campus to draw more attention to the issue, however more Black professors were not hired. The university certainly acknowledged our complaints, however they did little to respond to them.”

UC Riverside officials blame the small hiring pool of minorities with doctorate for their lack minority faculty. Finding faculty from diverse backgrounds is a national problem for research universities, officials insist.

“Underrepresented minorities make up 41 percent of California’s high school graduates, 17 percent of undergraduates for all University of California schools, 11 percent of undergraduates and 7 (percent) of faculty. As we can see, there is a precipitous drop off way before graduate school,” says Dr. Marlene Zuk, associate vice provost for faculty equity and diversity.

The outside experts will begin their work next month. Dr. Octavio Villalpando of the University of Utah and Drs. Daniel SolĂłrzano and Mitchell Chang of the University of California, Los Angeles will interview and observe teachers and students on campus and meet with people in the community.

Villalpando is associate vice president for diversity and associate professor of educational leadership and policy at the University of Utah. Chang, associate professor of higher education and organizational change at UCLA, has a background in diversity-related initiatives on college campuses. SolĂłrzano is a professor in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA. His work examines the college admissions process and access to Advanced Placement courses for Black and Latino high school students.

“We intend to take the Visiting Committee’s recommendations seriously and we will seek to address any problems the team identifies,” says Dr. Ellen Wartella, UC Riverside’s executive vice chancellor and provost.

Rivera says the proof will be in the hiring. “We want to seed the needs of students of color, which are very unique, addressed in the Graduate School of Education where future teachers and administrators are being taught,” Rivera says.

Last year, UC Riverside was ranked third for having the most diverse faculty in the UC system.

–Michelle J. Nealy

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