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Fostering diversity requires more than empty gestures

Joseph Rogers

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Illustration by Trevor Moore

Hung on lamp posts throughout the Chico State campus are a series of banners bearing statements on what qualities “Chico State values…”

One of these values is excellence. That’s true — it looks good for the administration.

Another is diversity, because it also … wait. Seriously? I don’t think so. Especially not when looking at the data.

In the fall of 2013, 23 percent of Chico State students identified as Hispanic-Latino, but only 3.8 percent of faculty identify as the same. African-American students and faculty tallied in at 1.8 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.

What is the experience of nonwhite students on college campuses when this type of disparity exists?

To place this in perspective, the same data shows that 52.4 percent of Chico State students identified as white or non-Latino, compared with 80.2 percent of faculty and 76.2 percent of staff.

Is there something about working in higher education that is unattractive to Hispanics or African-Americans? I don’t think so.

Issues of diversity have been part of the conversation when hiring faculty at Chico State, said Tray Robinson, director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Robinson said that the administration is looking at university policies to make sure that the hiring pools for applicants are as diverse as possible.

While this is fantastic news, Chico State is a little behind schedule. Something like 51 years behind schedule.

Right now in the United States, the conversation around racial inequality has reached a new fervor, particularly around institutional racism. There are similarities around the racial construction of larger social institutions and Chico State.

There also seems to be some things missing in Chico State’s data or at least the public reporting of data. Gender is reported only in the traditional binary of male and female. Sexual orientation is either not collected or not reported.

Even the Cross-Cultural Leadership Center — a center that “exists to create an environment in which all students, regardless of their ethnicity, culture, or differences, feel safe and respected. Through leadership development, cultural awareness, community education, and the creation of a constructive social change, the Cross-Cultural Leadership Center will contribute a positive, enriching, and memorable life experience to every student of CSU, Chico and its surroundings” — is only partially funded by the university.

The funding for the CCLC’s programs comes from Associated Students funding. If Chico State really values diversity, why is there no programming support for student diversity programs?

Chico State may value diversity, but it seems to me that Chico State needs to take more steps to actually “do” diversity.

Joseph Rogers can be reached at [email protected] or @JosephLRogers1 on Twitter.

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Fostering diversity requires more than empty gestures