Growing Diversity at SMC

Santa Monica College was honored by the California Community Colleges' Chancellor's Office with the 2004 Chancellor's Excellence in Diversity Award for diversifying the administrative staff over the last 10 years.

SMC was one of seven community colleges chosen out of 180 in 72 districts statewide, to be named for increasing diversity in its administration.

The college has nearly doubled its representation of minority groups in its administrative ranks in the past decade according to Bruce Smith, SMC's public information officer.

Ten years ago, 27.3 percent of SMC's administrators were members of under-represented ethnic groups. Now that percentage has increased to 47.3.

When Dr. Patricia Brown, the human resources dean for one year and with SMC since 1996, was informed that SMC was awarded by the Chancellor's Office, she was ecstatic.

"The Board of Trustees were very pleased," said Brown.

"By having a diversified staff, it sets an example to the students of Santa Monica College to be diversified in their learning," she said.

To some the campus does not just represent diversity in ethnic groups but also diversity in thought.

"With the student body always changing, it is important to have diversity of thought, so many conclusions can be possible solutions to one thought," said Dr. Robert Adams, vice president of student affairs, who has been with the college since the '70s.

"Diversity in different philosophies will impact students with a better education," said Darryl-Keith Ogata, director of the International Students Center. "The district is committed to diversifying this campus," said Sherri Lee-Lewis, also dean of human resources and with the college for 14 years.

"Compared to when I started when Richard Moore was the president of the college, Piedad Robinson [who resigned as president as of Jan. 31] took the college in a direction requiring more from a team that was willing to consider under-represented groups."

"I think it is very important to have diversity at the highest levels of the administrative ranks of our colleges so that students of color will have role models and mentors at their colleges," said Mark Drummond, chancellor of California community colleges.

Jackie Nagatsuka, institutional research director, provided equal employment opportunity surveys conducted during Fall 2003 for full-time academic faculty.

The results were: 1 percent Filipino, 12 percent Afro-American, 7 percent Asian, 11 percent Latino and 69 percent Caucasian. And in terms of gender: 55 percent female and 45 percent male.

Some, though, don't see the change. "I have not seen the ratio change," said La Rue Muhammad, 11 years with the college and department secretary for three departments.

"Looking at the Academic Senate as a representative of the faculty at large, I can remember when I first got hired, and there was an Afro-American, Hispanic, and another white woman," said Vicki Rothman, SMC faculty in counseling.

"I do not think we have reached our goal in terms of faculty," said Adams.

Our student body is comfortable with different types of people.

As a result of having a diversified administration and student body campus, Belinda Phillips, SMC student as of Fall 2004, said that you gain a better understanding of different cultures. This contributed to her motivation for majoring in sociology."The type of faculty we hire affects our student body in my opinion," said Lee-Lewis.

Both Brown and Lee-Lewis said SMC has gotten away from the term affirmative action and has generated a group of employees that believe in equal employment opportunities for all. "It is what it says it is," said Lee-Lewis.

"The California community colleges represent and serve one of the most diverse populations in the world in terms of race, ethnicity, language, culture, national origin and socio-economic class," Drummond said.