The Coast News Group
Racial diversity
MiraCosta College serves some 10,000 students in North County. File photo
Cities News Oceanside Oceanside Featured

MiraCosta College seeks racial proportionality

OCEANSIDE — Far more of MiraCosta College’s instructors and administrators are white compared with the school’s student population, and vice versa for Hispanics, notwithstanding programs aimed at “diversity, equity and inclusion.”

“There are some areas to improve on in terms of Latinx [Latino or Latina] faculty, administrators and staff,” said Vice President of Human Resources Charlie Ng at the trustees’ Nov. 19 meeting. “We are not reflecting nearly what our student population is.”

MiraCosta, a community college district with four campuses, serves some 10,000 students in North County. Governed by an elected board of seven trustees, it operated last year with an unrestricted General Fund revenue budget of some $130 million, 85% from property taxes.

Consistently over the period 2015 to 2019, about one-fifth of faculty were Hispanic, some 20 percentage points lower than the student body share and a couple of points lower than the region, according to a report by Ng.

Conversely, nearly two-thirds of faculty were white, some 20 percentage points higher than the student body share, though on par with the region.

MiraCosta racial diversity
The racial/ethnic composition of MiraCosta College’s students, administrators, faculty and staff misalign with each other, as well as with North County as a whole. Graphic by Dan Brendel

Of 55 Southern California community colleges, MiraCosta had the 14th least diverse faculty in the academic year ending 2019, according to Ng’s report. Of the 14 least diverse schools, 7 call San Diego County home.

Though the Black share of MiraCosta’s administrators exceeds that of the student and regional populations.

MiraCosta seeks to increase its diversity and so-called “engagement” of demographic subgroups deemed “marginalized,” though short of affirmative action, which California prohibits.

While “some people [believe] the district is actually hiring based on race …, we’re not doing that,” Ng told the board.

California’s constitution, as amended in 1996, disallows “preferential treatment … on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”

Californians overwhelmingly upheld this prohibition in the general election earlier this month, rejecting Proposition 16, which would’ve reinstated affirmative action, by a 20-point margin.

“But we can actually create a diverse pool to hire from, and then from there we hire based on your knowledge, skills and abilities,” Ng said.

The college has endeavored to remove “inadvertent hurdles” minorities may face in hiring, Superintendent Sunita Cooke said. For example, “we really weren’t reimbursing folks for travel when they came to interviews,” cutting out those who can’t afford travel out of pocket.

Members of the hiring committee must receive preliminary training, which aims in part to combat “implicit bias,” Ng said.

“We are not screening people out of the candidate pools based upon their demographics,” MicraCosta spokeswoman Kristen Huyck said. “The racial diversity of our hiring pools does not change significantly from the applicant stage to … final interviews.”

The total talent pool — graduates with degrees MiraCosta seeks to hire — may not mirror the student or regional populations to begin with.

“Some disciplines graduate many racially diverse students, and some do not,” Huyck said. “To expand the ‘career pipeline,’ MiraCosta coordinates and hosts various programs and events” to connect Hispanic and Black youths, as well as girls, with higher education opportunities.

Only 2% of respondents to a 2019 “campus climate assessment” survey said they “personally had experienced exclusionary, intimidating, offensive, and/or hostile conduct,” which they believed was “based on ethnicity.”

Opposition to Proposition 16’s bid to re-establish affirmative action in California didn’t necessarily break cleanly along color lines.

Californians for Equal Rights, a nonprofit against the proposition, has Ward Connerly, an 81-year-old Black man and prominent anti-affirmative action advocate, as its president and Wenyuan Wu, a Chinese immigrant and a woman, as its executive director. They eschewed what they called “racial bean-counting” and the “Big Diversity” industry, according to an interview in a recent Wall Street Journal editorial.