As Cal State Fullerton’s five-year strategic plan closes in 2018, the goal of creating a diverse academic learning community has seen slow progress in the ethnic distribution of tenured and tenure-track faculty campuswide.
Goal three of the plan expresses the university’s forward-thinking vision to recruit and retain a high-quality, diverse faculty.
“The heart of the university is in its employees,” said CSUF vice president of Human Resources, Diversity and Inclusion David Forgues, Ph.D. “To have a goal in the strategic plan around investing in, diversifying and finding the highest-quality faculty is us investing in our future.”
Since the plan’s launch in 2013, 32 percent of CSUF’s current 843 tenured and tenure-track faculty pool were hired. However, overall faculty ethnicity percentages approach, but still do not reflect the ethnic diversity of the student body.
In fall 2016, Latino students comprised 39 percent of the university’s students. Yet, only 9.4 percent of tenured and tenure-track faculty were Latino.
During the same semester, Caucasian students made up only 22 percent of the student body, but Caucasians make up 63.1 percent of faculty.
“When these numbers get closer to the student body, we’ll feel pretty good about it,” Forgues said.
Equilibrium does reside with Asian and Middle Eastern populations, with students making up 21 percent and faculty making up 23 percent of the university.
African-American students and faculty are also similar at 2 percent and 3.3 percent respectively.
“We’ve made progress here, we just have more work to be done,” Forgues said. “We want our faculty to reflect the diversity of our community.”
Some students question the need for promoting diversity through hiring, as selecting equally qualified candidates based on identity rather than merit raises some concern.
“I think it is very valuable that everyone is treated equally and fairly,” said political science major Ryan Hoskins. “I want the hiring practices of the university to be neutral and merit-based, and to say that diversity is more important than merit, I think that’s flawed and will lead to a lower quality of education.”
To consolidate the university’s hiring practices, CSUF President Mildred García established the Human Resource, Diversity and Inclusion division in 2013.
“Historically, our faculty have not always reflected the diversity of the community that we serve,” Forgues said. “This is not just us. This is a national problem. Goal three in the strategic plan is us saying this is an issue that we collectively need to work on.”
For the university, hiring and retaining faculty has many different limitations to consider. Tenured and tenure-track faculty come from a limited hiring pool, Forgues said. Doctorate degrees in specific disciplines are foremost on the list of qualifications for tenure-track employment and are sought after by universities nationwide.
CSUF competes against bigger research institutions, the cost of living in other areas and corporate industries as well. Not all doctoral candidates consider careers in teaching, and not all candidates have diverse backgrounds.
“The majority populations are much more overrepresented in Ph.D. programs than are minority populations,” Forgues said. “That’s nationwide. So if we don’t have enough candidates from diverse backgrounds receiving Ph.D.’s, it’s more difficult to get them into the faculty.”
Mary Ann Villarreal, vice president of Strategic Initiatives and Academic Affairs, said the university is committed to establishing a multicultural campus community and taking action by re-evaluating the recruitment process.
“We have not always been great practitioners of recruiting and this has been a trend in higher education,” Villarreal said. “We can’t be passive recruiters and expect that people want to come to us. We want to attract someone that wants to serve the students we serve.”
Once hired, Forgues said faculty need to feel welcome in the university’s academic community. The third goal from the university’s strategic plan evolved into Titans Together, a communal website for increasing diversity at CSUF.
The site also provides university policies, resources and demographics as a one-stop virtual space for all Titans.
“Anything that is related to equity, inclusion and diversity is on this site,” Villarreal said. “It’s about how we define diversity and equity, and how we do that together as students, staff and faculty, regardless of where you are on this campus.”
The 41 faculty members hired in 2017 contribute to CSUF’s academic diversity and inclusivity, and the Strategic Plan Steering Committee has begun soliciting feedback from the campus community to determine overarching themes to address for the next five-year plan starting in 2018.
“I can’t imagine equity and inclusion will be removed in any way from our plan,” Villarreal said. “It just may be framed differently to reflect who we want to become over the next five years.”