The report says racial bias plays a role in hiring leaders at UCLA, UCLA, and California Community Colleges

Racial bias plays a role in hiring for executive-level positions in all three of California’s higher education systems, according to a recent report commissioned by the education advocacy group College Futures Foundation—although one of those systems defended its record on diversity.

The study — titled “Whiteness Rules: Racial Exclusion in Becoming an American College President” — was conducted by the research firm Bensimon & Associates and examined how leadership is sought at the executive level within the University of California, California State University and California community college systems. structurally biased against people of color and women.

While the report focused mostly on the presidents and advisors of the state’s three college systems, it also said that lower-level leadership positions, such as vice presidents and deans, faced similar problems.

“There are presidential search practices and perceptions about the right person to lead that favor white candidates, especially males,” Estella Mara Bensimon, president and principal investigator of Bensimon & Associates, said in a recent press release. These perceptions often become “obstacles for leaders of color who aspire to the presidency.”

The B&A said in its press release that the study included extensive interviews with heads of universities, executive search firms, and other stakeholders, and provides evidence that candidates are often evaluated based on a range of racial and gender biases.

The study also analyzed a slew of other issues within higher education recruitment, including the lack of transparency surrounding presidential searches, problems with job opening advertisements, unfair recruitment and interviewing processes, as well as the influence of search committees, boards of directors, and executive search firms on the process.

The report also said there was pressure among presidents and applicants of color to conform to “white mores,” such as how they dress or speak.

“Presidents of color report feeling they risk not getting the job if they stray from these white standards,” Bensimon said in her statement late last month. “There is an expectation of whiteness performance, which is essential not only to meeting white expectations — but, most of all, to making the selection of candidate colors not seem risky.”

About 70% of college students in California are Latino, Asian, or Pacific Islander, and black, according to Michelle Siqueiros, president of the Campaign for College Opportunity.

More than half of the presidents or chancellors at public higher education institutions in California are white, the report said.

The B&A report said some universities and colleges had few, if any, senior leaders who were not white men. Since the University of California System was founded in 1868, for example, only 11% of university presidents have been black.

Meanwhile, former UCLA president Janet Napolitano is the only woman to lead this system. Her successor, Michael F. Drake, chancellor of the University of California, Irvine, is the system’s first black president.

Unified Communications System officials did not respond to requests for comment.

But the CSU system, in a statement, defended its record for diversity among its leaders.

The CSU system, based in Long Beach, educates the most racially, economically, and academically diverse student body in the country, according to its website.

The system’s website says nearly 70% of CSU’s staff are women and minorities.

Of the 23 campus presidents, 11 are women and at least 11 are people of color. CSU’s interim advisor is Jolene Koester.

“In addition to gender diversity, California State University’s presidential leadership represents the rich racial and cultural diversity of California students,” the chancellor’s office said in a recent email. “Our 23 fair-minded leaders are passionate about students and the communities they serve.

The email added, “CSU is committed to advancing diversity and inclusion at the university level, including in other key leadership roles.”

But Raquel Rall, a B&A researcher and professor of higher education at UC Riverside, said the reporting findings show that an equity mindset must be built into the search and hiring process in order to effect meaningful change.

“It has to be an integral part in all aspects,” Rall said during a presentation in late October about the study. “Our report is just a drop in the ocean.”

But the report doesn’t just raise concerns about the hiring process – it also offers some solutions.

The report includes, for example, the Toolkit “Tools for Redesigning Presidential Research on Racial Equality,” a guide detailing ways presidential search committees can better recruit and recruit a diverse group of individuals.

“This timely report and toolkit can help institutions examine racial and gender bias in their processes for recruiting and selecting college presidents,” Eloy Ortiz-Oakley, president and CEO of the College Futures Foundation, said in a statement, “and develop critical race-informed standards and focused procedures.” On fairness.”

Oakley spent six years as a consultant to California’s community college system before leaving earlier this year to join CFF, which works to increase the percentage of students of color and low-income students who complete college.

Oakley, who served as the superintendent of the president of Long Beach City College prior to taking the statewide position, became a prominent education official in California, and to some extent, the nation before joining the CFF. He had a short-lived advisory role at the US Department of Education early in the Biden administration. Among the biggest accomplishments, as a community college advisor, was helping usher in the system’s vision for success, a student-centered path to closing equity gaps, increasing conversion rates, and increasing the number of students earning certificates and degrees.

Daisy Gonzalez is the interim advisor to the California Community College System, which oversees 116 campuses that educate 1.8 million students annually.

In his statement, Oakley said, “It takes diverse, fair-minded leaders to close equity gaps for students.”

The toolkit provides context and guidelines that higher education institutions can implement to reduce bias, improve equity and inclusion in presidential searches – further opening the door to more diverse leadership.

These strategies include properly assembling and training search committees, hiring race-conscious search executives, evaluating and holding the hiring process accountable, and evaluating and improving job opening advertisements.

“If we are to successfully address inequalities in college completion and socioeconomic mobility, and create more inclusive environments for students, faculty, and staff,” Bensimon said, “then the California public higher education system must make diversifying the college presidency and other leadership roles a priority.”

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