As the April 4th voting day approaches, consider the Parkland College Board of Trustees candidate’s responses to a question about increasing racial diversity in employment. The question was posed at the candidate forum held at the college on March 6th.
“As a Board of Trustees member, how do you plan to advance initiatives to increase the racial diversity of Parkland’s teaching faculty, administration, and Board of Trustees?”
“Well, I can tell you, nationally it’s a huge issue attracting minority candidates to our pool as faculty members. I think it’s been articulated at some of our meetings, the challenges. I’m a trustee nationally on the Association of Community College Trustees in D.C., and we’ve talked about that very thing, about why would you want to come to Illinois right now? Why would you want to come to Parkland College right now?
I think the fiscal things that we’re in only exasperate that process, but I think more importantly you have to have a welcoming campus, you have to make people feel included, they need to feel wanted, they need to see people that look like them. And that’s not something that we probably have done enough of, but I think when you look at diversity efforts, students want to see a teacher that looks like them, an instructor that looks like them. And so it’s an ever-ongoing effort and certainly we’re committed to do that. And I know we have a long way to go, and as a trustee we’ll continue those efforts.”
“As a trustee, one of the first things I would do is talk to the NAACP who already has programs in place such as, I believe is ACT-SO, identifying high school students who have talent, that we can recruit to come to Parkland College. I’m assuming that there’s also programs like that to come up with talented faculty that through not just the Champaign chapter, but other chapters, can reach out to individuals who have talent, and encourage them to come and apply when positions open at Parkland College. Thank you.”
“In the years that I’ve been on the Board, we’ve passed two different resolutions stating as a Board our desire to increase the diversity of our faculty and to encourage more applicants along those lines. We’ve also offered a couple of free programs to help with that, and unfortunately one has been suspended right now due to the budget situation. But it is important to us that we keep the faculty as diverse as is appropriate. I think those resolutions speak to that, and I think we will continue to look for other ways that we can encourage diverse candidates to apply.”
“You know equity in education is just a huge issue on the national, local, and state levels. The bottom line is, I would ask the question of when we talk about increased diversity—by what ethnicity, by how much? Have we brightened that goal? Have we looked at that and said okay, we want to increase diversity by what? Which stakeholder groups? And identify the benchmarks that can help you get there. So, have an end in mind. Begin with the end in mind, have a goal. Take a look at that, break it down. Use incremental steps, and then focus on those activities and strategies that will help you meet that particular goal.”
“At Parkland we have a mentoring program that we call “Together We Achieve”, which currently involves 3-4 faculty members who work with diverse students, for free, if they identify themselves as somebody who wants to be a part of the program, we try to get the word out. I would love to see us be able to find a way to expand that mentorship so that we can start to identify those diverse students who are right here at Parkland, that are showing the leadership skills and the educational talent that would make them a great fit for Parkland in a faculty or staff position. And I think that we can go a long way toward that, it’s just a matter of honing our focus and figuring out a way to make that happen.”
John Barry Howell:
“Increasing diversity in both faculty and student population is a challenge. What can we do as a Board, what can the college do to entice those folks to come to the school from within the district, from the perimeters of the district, from out of the district? How do we get faculty that will represent diversity across the board? I think one of the largest markets we have for the faculty side of it is in Chicago. If we have openings, and we will have openings when the money comes back, and we can start hiring faculty again, then looking at the opportunities here within the state to bring people down from the Metropolitan areas, down to the Champaign-Urbana area, and to work here at Parkland is one of our best opportunities. And when you have a diverse faculty, then you’ll get a diverse population of students.”
“When you’re laying off faculty and staff it’s tough to increase diversity at that time. But we have a challenge right now, we’re talking about, I think everybody on this panel mentioned increasing enrollment while we go along. We have a new Director of Marketing and Public Relations and putting together a program to recruit minority students, and look at that on the short term and the next year or two before the state gets its act together. I think it’s critical to do that. And the desire, I mean the need for diversity, I think is obvious in our country. And I would think the Board could be part of that in helping that happen.”
Rabel J. Burdge:
“I would like to go back to the issue of retention. I would look at our present minority students, so to speak, and ask them the questions: Are you affected by such things as lack of food, food deprivation? Are your living conditions adequate? Are you stressed financially? Are you working too many hours outside of the classroom? I think I’d like to focus on what minority students are doing today, can we improve that situation with the hope of attracting others in the future.”
Eugene John Donaghey, Jr.-
“I spent quite a bit of time, and have for the last 15 years, mentoring college students, and one of the biggest challenges is connecting minority students and then as they graduate, merging employees and executives with their group. And the best way to approach diversity in my experience is by networking. I think a part of that has to be done by maintaining a strong network and insisting that trustees and individuals at the college use their network to identify and find individuals that want to work or want to attend the school. Then I would look at the Alumni base of Parkland College, meaning anyone that has benefited from this. There are probably hundreds of individuals who would be more than willing to share their network and help identify students and help identify teachers. and professors. And that could be leveraged pretty heavily. Thank you.”
“As the only person of color up here, it’s hard to acknowledge the greatest failing of letting go of 8 of the faculty members, two of them are African-American, two of them are African-American males, one of them who teaches in the “Together We Achieve” program. We’re letting him go. He’s an important support system. Mr. Knott talked about creating an environment that feels safe and welcoming, Tracy Dace is part of that welcoming environment and he is being let go. Jason Keist, he is another part of that welcoming environment and he is being let go. I understand the decisions that the Board had to make in order to let these people go, but if you really are invested, then you will find away to keep the most talented faculty members, who also happen to be people of color.”
Racial diversity among teaching faculty, staff, and administration is an ongoing concern at Parkland College. While Black students make up over 15% of the student body, there are only FOUR Black women who are full-time teaching faculty and only TWO Black men who are full-time teaching faculty.
Therefore, there are only seven Black full-time teaching faculty out of 170 full-time faculty in the college. Parkland’s administration eliminated the positions of two Black men faculty, Jason Keist and Tracy Dace, in its recent layoff of 8 tenure-track faculty members. While the Illinois state budget impasse is a real issue, it cannot be used as an excuse to disregard the need.