“We need faculty and staff members who share experiences with, and speak the common language of, the people we want to serve – and hold the academic and workforce bona fides to help them excel,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “The VCCS mission statement says that we give everyone the opportunity to learn and develop the right skills so lives and communities are strengthened. The keyword there, I believe, is everyone.”
At the outset of the Chancellor’s Virtual Summit last week, DuBois acknowledged that past efforts to improve faculty and staff diversity at Virginia’s Community Colleges have lost momentum. DuBois said the system’s next six-year plan will include mechanisms to hold managers accountable and institutionalize a greater commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
System-wide, 41 percent of our students are minority. Twenty percent of VCCS full-time faculty are minority. Twenty-three percent of our adjunct faculty are minority.
Calling for action to better serve the system’s largest group of minority students, DuBois cited what he called “troubling and unacceptable” statistics on lagging enrollment and success rates for Black students at Virginia’s Community Colleges.
• Only one out of every three Black students who apply to attend our colleges in the fall will actually enroll. If the student is female and over the age of 25, this drops to one out of every four.
• Forty-five percent of our Black students will be placed into developmental math, almost twice the rate of White students. And of the Black students in developmental math, only nine percent will complete a college level math course within four semesters, half the rate of other groups.
• Four out five of our first-time, full-time Black students fail to complete a community college credential or degree of any type in three years.
DuBois said the system’s next six-year plan will be a blueprint to move the VCCS toward more diversity, equity and inclusion, recommending three principles to guide strategic planning.
“First, our business case both demands and justifies a focus on faculty and staff diversity. You see, it’s not enough to talk about diversity as simply doing the right thing. This priority must be stated clearly and pursued consistently to support our business case,” said DuBois.
“Second, we must focus not just on diversity, but also on inclusion. It’s not enough just to have a diverse looking collection of people in the room. They must be at the table where the decisions are made, and they must have a voice in that process.”
“And third, finding and fostering inclusion is a leadership competency that must permeate our organization. Leaders at every community college, at every level, must be part of embedding this into how we think, who we hire, and all that we do.”
Dubois continued, “It means building a community of faculty and staff capable of engaging people across the economic spectrum; people from different regions; people of different ages; people with disabilities, or more accurately, different abilities; people who were born elsewhere; people from across the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer spectrum; people who come from different faith traditions, including those with no faith tradition; and — this may be the most controversial thing I say today given the climate these days — people who come from across the political spectrum.”
“So, how do we do that? How do we recruit, hire, manage, and develop that throughout our organization? The answer isn’t easy. But I would suggest that we must build inclusion into a leadership competency. After all, it’s simply another form of talent management. The same way that we have to articulate a clear and convincing connection between inclusivity and our central mission, we must make the case to managers, at every level, that diversity and inclusiveness is essential to student success.”
To read the Chancellor’s entire speech, click here.
Other Summit highlights:
Harvard researcher Lena Shi made the case for training to avoid unconscious racial bias, which is common and harmful to minority students and faculty alike. “Even good people are subject to implicit bias,” said Shi.
Shi also observed that faculty members are in the critical position when it comes to building relationships with students, especially minority students.
Tim Renick, senior vice-president for student services at Georgia State University, described GSU’s transformation in recent years from a segregated institution “with a pretty shabby past” to a university that successfully enrolls and graduates African American students in great numbers.
“We changed our institution to remove bureaucratic barriers to our students,” said Renick.
GSU has embraced technology, targeted financial assistance, better guidance, and more assertive intervention with students who are having trouble.
A pair of panel discussions rounded out the Summit, offering experts who described the benefits of student peer groups, additional training for faculty members to ensure better connection with minority students, and the positive impacts of a more diverse faculty and staff on all students.
Southside Virginia Community College professor John Hicks said our colleges will be more successful with students if “we meet them where they are.” Hicks described SVCC’s “Make It Happen” program that provides minority students with wide-ranging mentoring, academic and career counseling services. “Students are very perceptive,” noted Hicks.
Details regarding the release of recordings of the Chancellor’s Summit will be announced later this week.