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The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

‘Eyes are on the Institution’ to promote diversity

Students, administration and faculty weigh-in on SF State’s diversity
Cameron Lee
A woman walks by Burk Hall at SF State on Friday February 5, 2021. (Cameron Lee/ Golden Gate Xpress)

SF State is celebrated as one of the most diverse schools in the nation; Since 1968 it implemented the state’s first department of Ethnic Studies and is recognized for its outspoken, progressive student body.  

The Wall Street Journal, for instance, ranked the university as the fifth most diverse public college in the nation in 2020.

Despite having a storied history of progress, members of the SF State community report having mixed feelings about inclusion. This idea stems from feelings of neglect regarding equity, and lack of diversity amongst the administration. Students and faculty have spoken up about the need for diversity among the administration; however, some feel their needs have fallen on deaf ears.

Ibory Moore, president of Black Residents of University Housing, specifically points to a lack of representation among administrative officials. 

“As [far as] the administration goes, there is no diversity,” Moore said. “It is all white people.”

According to Moore, Black faculty are mostly confined to the Ethnic Studies Department and haven’t been integrated into the campus administration as a whole. 

According to SF State’s Facts page, provided by the Strategic Marketing and Communications Department, as of Fall 2019, 37 out of 854 faculty and staff members were African American. 

In an email to Xpress, Sha’Nice Robinson, a doctoral student studying Ethnic Studies, said that roughly 25 faculty members of the Africana Studies professor are Black.

This trend aligns with San Francisco’s demographics regarding African Americans. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, San Francisco reported 5.6% of its 805,184 residents as African American in 2010; in 2019, 5.6% of 881,549 residents identified as African American.

SF State President Lynn Mahoney acknowledges these discrepancies that continue to exist. Mahoney’s administration fell under scrutiny from the California Faculty Association, which sent her a letter expounding upon frustrations over inequitable representation.

“I have to make an institutional commitment to working as hard as we can to make sure that our faculty and administration better represent the diversity of our students,”  Mahoney said. “That doesn’t happen quickly. We’re not doing a lot of faculty hiring at the moment, because the budget is a little shaky, but when we resume we will focus on that.”

In an interview on July 10, 2020, Mahoney told Xpress she would prioritize Black student success by hiring more Black faculty members along with other underrepresented groups.

On March 16, SF State’s Academic Senate passed a resolution on prioritizing the recruitment, hiring and retention of Black, Indigenous, people of color staff, faculty and administrators.

Some students in the SF State community have reported concerns about the administration’s hiring process. Victor Aguilar, a graduate student studying history, suggested that the administration needs to give the student panels more weight in the hiring process. He added that these panels, however, often feel performative, and that hiring decisions are predetermined prior to holding these panels.

“Let them have a say as to who is getting picked for certain positions on campus, to make sure that the needs of the students are being represented,” Aguilar said. “Because you don’t want to hire someone with the mentality that all students are the same.”

During a virtual town hall meeting in February, students requested spaces dedicated to healing and dialogue related to social justice. At the event, attendees had an opportunity to speak their own stories. Students voiced their concerns of the lacking diversity in SF State’s administration.

Frederick Smith, hired in July 2019 as associate vice president of Equity and Community Inclusion and had previously served as the director of the Cross Cultural Centers at Cal State LA, echoed Mahoney’s ambitions for improving representation within administrative officials.  

“I think that many of us know and see and value that San Francisco has great numbers in terms of representation,” Smith said. “To build upon that, we really want to make sure that all those different groups and demographics and population groups really feel like they’re important to campus and feel like they matter.”

Associated Students director of Retention & Graduation Initiatives, Jennifer Valencia, weighed in on what she thinks SF State’s diversity plan should look like.

“We all come from different backgrounds, we all come from different communities. But even within our communities, we are all individuals, and that is where that conversation of intersectionality really comes through,” Valencia said. 

While members of the community are eager for change, Valencia understands the unusual circumstances brought by 2020. “There are current hiring freezes. And it’s difficult to hire during a pandemic, but I know that there are conversations of wanting to hire —basically aiming to hire — people that represent the student body,” Valencia said. 

For now, it remains to be seen what the administration will do when the hiring freeze ends. Carter Roa, student organization representative for the Associated Students, said that the student body is keeping a close eye.

Roa said she feels like students are currently waiting for answers from the administration regarding its future. She said that the university has leeway given the pandemic, and is waiting to see what moves the administration takes next.

“Our eyes are on the institution. I think it’s definitely safe to say that a lot of students are waiting and looking at the administration right now,” Roa said.

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About the Contributors
Nick Mazzoni
Nick is a Print/Online major. His goal for the semester is to hone his writing skills and continue to work as hard as I can to produce good journalism. He spends his free time working on his 1970 Volkswagen, playing guitar and hanging out with his family.  
Cameron Lee
Cameron Lee is in his last semester at SF State and is looking forward to creating interesting visuals for both the newspaper and magazine. He is a San Francisco native and freelance photographer and is into everything tech, photography, and eighties music. Lee is also an Instant Film fanatic.  

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    Tom MoodyApr 24, 2021 at 6:51 pm

    The demographics of San Francisco are irrelevant to their hiring practices. Universities do not draw their faculty from the local population, they hire from a nation-wide and, many of them, a world-wide pool.

  • J

    Jace GarrishApr 3, 2021 at 9:15 am

    Growing up in the Bay Area I have always been blessed to be surrendered by a diverse community. Having all my coworkers, classmates, friends and peers coming from different background It is surprising that our institutions do not reflect that diversity. Nice article, I am interested to see the follow up with SF state in the next few years.

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‘Eyes are on the Institution’ to promote diversity