Capitol Alert

Two-thirds of California college students are minorities. Most of their professors are white.

Students walk past Sather Gate on the University of California, Berkeley campus in April 2017.
Students walk past Sather Gate on the University of California, Berkeley campus in April 2017. The Associated Press

While the student bodies at California’s public colleges and universities are rapidly diversifying, the academic leadership has not kept up with the state’s changing demographics.

A new report from The Campaign for College Opportunity found that more than two-thirds of faculty, senior administrators and board members in the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges systems are white.

By contrast, more than two-thirds of the 2.8 million students at those schools are minorities. At UC, nearly 40 percent of undergraduates are Asian American, while Latinos make up more than 40 percent of enrollment at CSU and community colleges.

Leticia Bustillos, director of policy research for The Campaign for College Opportunity, which advocates for expanding access to higher education, said having a diverse administration and faculty that better reflects the student population provides role models for students, improves their engagement and promotes a more welcoming campus.

“What are we doing to ensure that more inclusive environment for all individuals?” she said.

The Campaign for College Opportunity analyzed tenured and non-tenured faculty data, Academic Senate rosters, campus and systemwide administrative offices, and governing boards for the 2016-17 academic year to assess diversity at all levels of leadership.

The results were largely the same across UC, CSU and the community colleges, though the report found that minorities were often slightly better represented in administrative roles than they were in faculty positions.

Women, who make up a majority of California college students, also comprised fewer than half of executive and leadership positions across all three systems. They were, however, well-represented among faculty ranks. (A notable exception was tenured professors at UC, two-thirds of whom are men.)

The report noted some bright spots in the data: Nearly half of CSU campus and community college presidents are now women. The number of African Americans in leadership roles generally exceeds their proportion of student enrollment. The proportion of Asian American professors at CSU and the community colleges has grown to match the student body.

But Bustillos said campuses often have excuses for not doing better, including Proposition 209, the 1996 voter-approved initiative that outlawed the use of affirmative action in public employment, and a lack of diversity in the pipeline of potential new hires.

“How could this be when we’re one of the most diverse states in the nation?” she said. “If we do not have enough qualified candidates, then what are you looking for?”

In recent years, Bustillos noted, more than half of master’s degrees and doctorates – often a prerequisite for a professor position – at UC and CSU were awarded to minority students. She challenged colleges to recruit more diverse pools of candidates for job openings and to reconsider their hiring criteria.

"We have this intellectual commitment to diversity, but we’re not taking action,” she said.

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