Let’s make LGBTQIA part of the conversation about diversity in community college hiring practices.

I received an email this morning, like I do most mornings, from our college’s president that has tidbits of news, inspirational quotes and the general goings-on related to our school and community. This email, however, also had a link to a recording of a webinar addressing something near and dear to my heart with an alluring title: “Diversity in community college faculty and leadership: Why it Matters.”

With a mug of coffee and a pad of paper ready to take notes, I cozied into my office chair to watch the (nearly) 1-hour-20-minute YouTube video. It was, at the same time, an enlightening, but moderately aggravating 80 minutes of what amounted to either a poorly-chosen title, or another example of how the discussion about a diverse community college faculty pool seems to fall short of including many sectors of the community it purportedly represents.

EdSource.org, in conjunction with UC Davis’ Wheelhouse, hosted the webinar on September 29th (2020) and posted the recording on their website. Wheelhouse states that its mission is, “… to support and resource current and future leaders in the California Community Colleges system.” EdSource (I’m summarizing here) is an informational outlet focusing on “strategies for student success.”

A quick search on the EdSource website came up with a solid number of articles related to LGBT issues, mostly as they pertain to students: abuse, violence, homelessness, the lack of inclusion of LGBT history in textbooks. Frankly, nothing too surprising to see being covered — the usual bag of horrors young queer people deal with. But the point is that, to their credit, EdSource is clearly aware of and addresses LGBT-related topics.

So, I started watching the webinar. Opening remarks and introductions were made of the panelists that included (among others) presidents of two community colleges, the Chancellor of a community college district, and the Deputy Chancellor of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the entire California Community College system.

“This,” I thought to myself, “is going to be good!”

Inspiring statements were made by the Deputy Chancellor during her presentation that gave me goosebumps.

“I want to begin here and really highlight that the connection to worksite diversity is really important in our system because it’s tied to student success. We know that students who benefit from a diverse faculty staff and administration are better educated, better prepared for leadership, citizenship, and professional competitiveness.”

Daisy Gonzalez, California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, Deputy Chancellor of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

It was about 20 minutes into the video that I noticed that not one of the speakers had mentioned anything outside of racial diversity. Not that I don’t believe racial diversity NEEDS to be addressed, but the title of the webinar led me to think it was supposed to be about the importance of “diversity in faculty”. Diversity… meaning a variety of ideas or topics. So far, only one aspect of diversity had been addressed.

I scratched my head, rewound the video and started making hatch marks on my notepad of how many times various segments of our society were mentioned. By the end of the video, I was astounded.

Use of terms during the 80-minute webinar:

Race/color: 68 times

Gender/women: 7 times

LGBTQIA: 0 times

Disability: 0 times

Religion/religious background: 0 times

Age: 0 times

From what I could tell, the words “sexual orientation”, “disability”, “religious”, or “age” appeared only once during the webinar. Ironically, that was during the Deputy Chancellor’s segment when she showed a slide that cited the California code (5 CCR Section 53001), laying out specifically how “diversity” is defined:

” ‘Diversity’ means a condition of broad inclusion in an employment environment that offers equal employment opportunity for all persons. It requires both the presence, and the respectful treatment, of individuals from a wide range of ethnic, racial, age, national origin, religious, gender, sexual orientation, disability and socio-economic backgrounds.”

To be fair, after doing a little research, I found that the mini-description for the talk on the EdSource website did briefly mention that the webinar covered “improving the racial climate” on campus (but not on the webinar’s landing page, nor on YouTube page on which the video is hosted).

In itself, racial diversity is a subject that deserves months, if not years, to really cover. Generations, even! I am in no way saying that racial diversity of faculty isn’t a critical issue that should be supported with full thrust. I am 100% of the belief that all forms of racial discrimination and marginalization should be dealt with swiftly and purposefully. And inclusion is SO important to reflect our student population.

But diversity means inclusion. I was surprised that there was not even a simple “shout-out” to the rest of us. Not a single word for many of us. In a discussion about the importance of diversity? That seems to be the very definition of marginalization. At least “gender” got a couple nods of recognition. Gay folks? Sorry… apparently, we’re not part of the conversation.

Perhaps this was just an oversight when choosing the title of the webinar. If it had been, for example, “The Importance of Racial Diversity in Faculty,” believe me, I would still have watched and enthusiastically cheered the attention to these important issues. But probably not have felt so left out of it. And that was how I felt: excluded.

At the risk of this sounding like a rant, there was an important take-home message about the words we use, the people we choose to represent within the faculty, the things we talk about (or, more importantly, don’t talk about). It came from one of the speakers during the webinar.

“Addressing racial inequities that have led to disparate educational outcomes requires all of us… to have real, honest, and sometimes brutal, conversations about policies and practices in the very structures that have fueled and enabled those inequities. So, without honest conversations about power, privilege and, frankly, our own leadership we run the risk of further perpetuating the very inequities and disparities that we seek to disrupt.

What we teach represents what we value.”

Francisco Rodriguez, Chancellor, Los Angeles Community College District

Perhaps it is time to start having honest, perhaps even brutal, conversations about the purposeful and explicit inclusion of LGBTQIA members (along with ALL marginalized identities) when considering a diverse worksite, as outlined by the CCC Chancellor’s Vision for Success, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force.

If what we DO talk about represents what we value, on the flip-side what we DON’T talk about, at least implicitly, indicates what we find less valuable. At this time, unfortunately, LGBTQIA issues typically feel like an after-thought. Please, let’s make us part of the conversation moving forward.

Are we tolerated? Yes.

Accepted? Mostly.

Included as an important and relevant part of the faculty? Mmmmm… maybe could use some work.

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