Francisca Beer, Ph.D | Associate Dean, The JHBC Office Academic Equity, CSUSB
During the Spring semester of the academic year 2020-2021, the Jack H. Brown College of Business and Public Administration Office of Academic Equity (JHBC OAE), Cal State University San Bernardino held its very first Essential Conversations event.
While this was the initial launch, it served as the third “Essential Conversations: African American Men” held by the office. Approximately 30 people participated in the event.
The group consisted of businessmen, educators, administrators, students, and staff from across the Inland Empire. The event began with a short presentation on the racial inequalities Black men face in the workforce and everyday life and how people of color have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in various communities across California, especially in places with higher levels of poverty.
Professor Kathryn Ervin, Theater Arts, co-hosted the event and it would not have been possible nor as successful as it was without her participation, help, and support.
Unfortunately, the event was too short to hear all the participants who had expressed a desire to share their experience.
Following is a summary of the central elements for which there appears to be consensus between all participants.
Fear of Speaking Their Mind
Participants mentioned the fear of speaking their mind, the need to go the extra mile to succeed, disrespect from colleagues, lack of mentorship and bias of the recruitment committee members.
During the conversation, Dr. Marc Fudge, Professor, Public Administration, indicated that many faculty members have a fear of speaking their minds when they are not tenured because they are worried anything they say would impact their promotion.
Dr. Fudge also shared that he had always been told he would need to work harder to succeed simply because of the color of his skin.
Meanwhile, an Assistant Professor stated he felt the discrimination directly because a couple of his colleagues told him, “You were hired because they needed a Black man in the department,” which made him feel his abilities and hard work were not recognized.This is congruent with what a lot of African American men experience in their workplace.
Need for Diverse and Inclusive Faculty and Staff
Businessman, Babatunde Olanipekun, remembered the time he applied to California State University, San Bernardino to be a staff member. He stated that he believes there is a need to hire a diverse and inclusive faculty and staff. He also felt that the hiring process could be improved by a more diverse composition of the recruitment committee.
A diverse faculty and staff can be beneficial in a myriad of ways including supporting students from diverse backgrounds, creating a sense of comfort for culturally diverse students, and broadening the range of what is taught and how it is taught.
A Dual Perspective
Duane Cofield, Lecturer and Marketing, said he can talk from the perspective of both a student and a member of the faculty. From a student’s standpoint, there is a lack of role models. From a professor’s point of view, the absence of other faculty of color deepens feelings of isolation. Cofield also talked about the need for more support to conduct research.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Tahirah Simpson, Guided Pathways Task Force Faculty Leader, joined our conversation from San Bernardino Valley College. Simpson mentioned how distressed she was when she heard faculty members stating that issues involving DEI will no longer be of concern to them once they are tenured. This mentality really discourages those who are working hard for their futures as well as the future of their students.
Racial Inequities, Multiple Platforms
All in attendance agree that something needs to be done about the racial inequalities across multiple platforms. Andre Harrington, Professor, Theater Arts, shared, “[You’ve] got to feel safe and comfortable” and because many do not feel secure when speaking up about these inequalities in the workspace, “more work is needed!”
“I want to inspire and make sure students have the opportunities they deserve,” shared Anthony Roberson, Associate Director of Operations, Santos Manuel Student Union.
Interestingly, all the comments made by the participants of this event have been well documented in the literature about DEI since the early 1970s and probably even before. As the literature would suggest, people have been asking for change that has yet to happen.
The literature also supports participants’ opinions that they need to prove more than any other group that they are qualified.
A meta-analysis examining 20 years of research focusing on faculty of color in academia found that racial minorities describe undervaluation in their research interests and challenges to their credentials and intellect contribute to the dissatisfaction and lower retention rates among faculty of color at universities
The literature is also clear about the lack of training of recruitment committee members and the feeling of isolation experienced by faculty of color. The social isolation minority-group faculty members have experienced are large obstacles to retention.
When will things change?
We want to remain positive and will monitor progress during the next Essential Conversations.
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