ECC Sets Sights on Diversifying Faculty, Staff

Article excerpt

Byline: Anna Johnson Daily Herald Staff Writer

Classmates Tamie Smith and Leigh Oprondek wish they had a more diverse range of teachers at Elgin Community College.

The two Algonquin residents believe professors of different ethnicities could teach them assorted viewpoints and ideas, especially in their culinary classes.

"I don't think the faculty here are representative of the students," said Leigh Oprondek, 19. "It seems like they are all Caucasian."

Smith, 21, agreed.

"It would be great to have more diverse teachers, especially in culinary arts," she said. "We could learn more about other cultures from people who are really specialists."

The numbers back up their feeling.

One look at ECC's current full-time faculty makeup, and it's obvious the numbers are not representative of the school's surrounding community.

For example, ECC employs only three full-time Hispanic faculty members of a total of 117 full-time faculty - that's 2.6 percent.

Comparatively, 29 percent of ECC's students are Hispanic.

In total, only 10.3 percent of ECC's full-time faculty are ethnic minorities. In ECC's part-time or adjunct faculty, which makes up about 50 percent of ECC's total faculty, minorities account for 10 percent.

But instead of ignoring the imbalance, the college hopes to seize an opportunity that may not return for many years.

Within the next year, more than 20 of ECC's 117 full-time faculty will retire and leave the college.

The process of filling these positions - many of which will be replaced with part-time faculty - will be a long one consisting of several search committees reading resumes and interviewing the qualified.

But unlike in the past, this round of hiring will have a stronger emphasis on diversity.

"We're quite interested in diversifying our work force," said ECC President Michael Shirley. "We won't have this sort of opportunity of so many positions turning over for 15 to 20 years."

The college says though diversifying its work force is not a new idea, it does plan to initiate fresh strategies to assist its search for underrepresented groups.

"We need to figure out what about ECC is its marketing point and how we can sell ECC to others," said Roger Sprayer, ECC's managing director of human resources. "But we also must analyze our own biases and learn to avoid them."

With many of its faculty job openings already posted, ECC began to put its diversification initiative into practice recently.

As part of the plan, ECC held its first minority recruitment and retention workshop last week.

More than 50 faculty and staff members attended the daylong seminar, conducted by Pauline Kayes, president of Champaign-based Diversity Works Inc., an organization that provides diversity education.

The seminar specifically targeted the faculty and staff serving on the search committees to help the individuals discover the benefits of a diverse faculty and staff. Through the seminars, the participants also identified the biases, conscious or subconscious, individuals might have in the process. …