Over spring break, SF State's administration dealt a blow to tenure-track diversity hiring in cutting the California State University’s only office that ensures affirmative action.
Robert Corrigan, SF State president, announced that most of the Office of Human Relations (OHR) will be closed at the end of the semester. With the closure of most of the OHR all but certain, the future of any further push for diversity in tenure-track faculty hiring is uncertain to some.
Dean Kenneth Monteiro of OHR will return to a faculty-level position at the end of the spring semester. He said OHR acts as a major resource for campus colleges and departments that found hiring a diverse tenure-track positions a must for their respective faculty.
Tenure-track is a path to lifetime employment as a professor at the university. Each department has different requirements for those on tenure-track to achieve in a five- to seven-year window. It can include assembling a record of activities i.e. speeches and publications and following a course of good student-performance evaluations.
“Budget or not, this university needs to show a continued commitment to diversity,” said Nina Fendel, SF State field representative for the California Faculty Association (CFA).
“It saddens me that we take budget cuts in the area of diversity,” she said.
Malcolm Collier, an Asian American studies lecturer, fears diversity will take a hit from the budget cuts.
“Cutting lectures and faculty due to the budget will most surely have a negative impact on university diversity,” Collier said.
The SF State department of Human Relations and the Affirmative Action and Employment Equity Program (AAEEP) that operate in the OHR were cut during spring break and their respective duties are set to be parceled out to various colleges and departments.
“Human Relations is leaving a blueprint of their diversity training with the university,” Monteiro said.
“The whole campus is now accountable for diversity; that includes the Academic Senate, the administration and the students,” he said.
The Human Relations advisory council, which includes at least one senior adviser from each vice president’s cabinet, the chair of the Academic Senate and the Associated Students Inc. president, will be left intact, Monteiro said, but the key is to hold all responsible for continued diversity.
According the SF State Affirmative Action Plan in 1999, President Robert Corrigan is responsible for the Equal Employment Opportunity Policy and the Affirmative Action program. The plan also charges Monteiro with the task of periodically reporting the university progress “toward achieving equal employment opportunity/affirmative action goals and objectives to senior administrators.”
“If there is no identifiable means to track the diversity issue, then it will not receive attention,” Fendel said.
“Diversity is not a top priority, even though we’re being given lip service,” she said.
The California State Employees Association was not a fan of the work done by the Office of Human Relations. The group gave the OHR a vote of no confidence, claiming that the office failed to seriously investigate charges of discrimination by staff, faculty and administrators against CSEA-represented employees.
Monteiro said that claim is false. “The office seriously investigates all complaints of discrimination filed by any staff, faculty or student. Most specifically, the office has continuously accepted and investigated complaints from members of the unit represented by CSEA,” he said in an e-mail.
“The facts of a case dictate our conclusions. An individual can still disagree with our findings and has the ability to appeal those findings. When outside agencies have been asked to review our findings, they have routinely upheld our conclusions.”
Monteiro also laid out the grounds in which the university could continue to diversify without the Office of Human Relations.
He said he has given a pilot plan to each university vice president, college dean and department chair for continuing diverse hiring and a guide for how to attract a wide pool of diverse applicants tailored to the needs of the college or department.
None of the vice presidents, college deans or department chairs has formally implemented the plan, according to Monteiro.
“No one has to wait for a person (vice president) to tell you to do the right thing,” Monteiro said.
But not all Californians believe that affirmative action is the right way to achieve diversity in hiring.
Since the passage of Proposition 209 in November 1996, the state has taken a stance against any type of affirmative action.
But Proposition 209 conflicts with federal law. Since the Kennedy administration, equal employment opportunities in hiring practices and later in education admissions have been mandatory.
California is not the only state to ban affirmative action -- the other two being Washington and Florida to a lesser degree -- SF State has maintained an affirmative action program.
It is the university's policy to attract a diverse candidate pool to the tenure-track search in the first place.
“California doesn’t use all the Ph.D candidates of color it produces,” Monteiro said.
In 1990, The California Forum for Diversity in Graduate Education, which is composed of graduate deans from the University of California and the CSU systems, recognized the need for diversity in doctoral programs, which in turn provides a more diverse hiring pool for future tenure-track professors.
The result is semi-annual conferences in which some of California's minority undergraduate and graduate students gather to discuss ideas and provide a boost for underrepresented students to make the move to either a master’s or doctoral program. The most recent was held on the first weekend of this month, according to UC Santa Cruz’s Web site.
The mission of the April forum is “designed to meet the needs of advanced undergraduates and master’s candidates who belong to groups that are currently underrepresented in doctoral-level programs, according to the site.
Many CSU campuses have an affirmative action plan, but SF State has the CSU’s only OHR, according to Monteiro. Some feel that cutting the oversight of the OHR leaves the university at a disadvantage.
“I’m just worried about the lack of experience of those who have to oversee the program now,” Fendel said.
Though the administration said that it would release a new plan to oversee the duties of the OHR, neither Monteiro, Fendel nor Collier has seen such a plan.
“The future of hiring at SF State is unpredictable,” Collier said.