Academic Equity

MIT deals with fallout from canceled lecture

A canceled lecture divides MIT and prompts a review, even as the talk finds new life at Princeton University.


College seeks to fire professor for 'insubordination'

Truckee Meadows Community College seeks to terminate a tenured professor of math for being repeatedly uncooperative, but the professor says he was standing up for math standards.


IUPUI creates a path to promotion and tenure based on DEI work

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis says it's putting its policies where its mouth is, approving new promotion and tenure options based on diversity, equity and inclusion work.


Scholars talk about being Black on campus in 2020

Scholars discuss what it’s like to be a Black professor in 2020, who should be doing antiracist work on campus and why diversity interventions that attempt to “fix” Black academics for a rigged game miss the point entirely.


Editors' note about our series on the Black experience in higher education

A note about the series.


Black students need changes to policies and structures beyond higher education

Experts agree higher education needs to do more to create equity for Black students. But more attention needs to be paid to barriers Black students face before they step foot on campus.


Using data to dislodge barriers to equitable student success (opinion)

Over the past year, colleges and universities have gained valuable experience collecting, analyzing and disseminating data. They initiated much of this work in response to the devastating impact of the global health crisis and the need to develop centralized dashboards to monitor the well-being of their campus communities.

But while institutions published many of those dashboards with the singular goal of keeping the public informed of conditions on the ground, some efforts have also leveraged data to determine how to better support students in the virtual learning environment—addressing such topics as food and housing security, mental and emotional well-being, and technological needs. This data collection and analysis continually pointed to one truth: to make impactful decisions, you need to gather information that you can understand and trust.

As campuses progress through this academic year, the challenges that our students are facing continue to be no less daunting than when the pandemic began. At a time when pernicious and long-standing racial and socioeconomic inequities have been laid bare, higher education leaders must provide their campus communities with disaggregated equity data that empower faculty, staff and administrators to better support students from all backgrounds in realizing their true potential. By democratizing student equity data and disseminating them throughout the arteries of their college or university, higher education leaders can enlist the collective expertise of the campus community to identify and dislodge barriers to student success and advance equitable outcomes.

As part of systemwide work under Graduation Initiative 2025, the California State University system is working to close equity gaps and improve graduation rates across its 23 campuses through its Student Success Dashboard. With over 20,000 annual visits, the dashboard has helped our system’s community address critical equity-focused questions such as: How many additional students of color need to graduate to eliminate the equity gap? Which academic behaviors have the most differentially positive impact on retaining first-generation students? Are students achieving junior status at equitable rates? The dashboard answers such questions with data-informed insights at the campus, college, department and course level, thereby empowering everyone in the CSU community to be agents for equity-minded change.

We have already seen meaningful improvements. For example, a faculty member at Cal Poly Pomona tapped into data for her department and discovered that none of its transfer students were graduating within two years. She also found an equity gap in course grades among students of color. With that knowledge, she implemented small learning groups and began offering supplemental instruction for her course. Those interventions helped transfer students improve their grades and stay on track for graduation while also narrowing the GPA gap between students of color and their peers by 0.3 grade points—a 75 percent improvement.

Another professor at Sacramento State University learned through the dashboard that 32 percent of psychology majors left the department within four years—and the rates were even higher among students of color and those receiving Pell Grants. Digging deeper into the data, she uncovered an introductory course that approximately 10 percent of her students were consistently failing. Accessing these data helped the professor redesign the course and develop a more engaging, student-centered learning experience that both enhanced academic rigor and improved learning outcomes.

Such interventions illustrate the value of not only disseminating relevant and actionable equity data, but also making sure they are widely accessible across campuses. Sharing anonymized student data with faculty, staff and administrators can better inform pedagogy, strengthen how faculty mentor students and guide staff across all disciplines to adjust practices to better support students.

For years, higher education professionals have understood the fundamental importance of accessing and analyzing data such as enrollment trends, graduation rates and even fundraising targets. We must now place at least as much emphasis on nuanced data that are specifically targeted at closing equity gaps. Working together, we can hold a mirror to our own practice and collaboratively identify opportunities to enhance student support.

We in higher education are at a distinct moment, with the pandemic inviting a new wave of innovation and creativity in how we approach student success and equity. Indeed, for many of us, eliminating equity gaps is the calling of our time. By sharing equity data broadly among all members of our campus communities, we can build a collaborative culture that is laser-focused on addressing equity across our institutions.

Jeff Gold is assistant vice chancellor of student success initiatives, research and innovation at California State University.

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Applying an Equity Lens to COVID Impact Statements
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Completion Rate Gaps by Gender for Black Californians

While more Black students in California are earning college degrees, concerning equity gaps in graduation rates remain, with differences based on gender, according to a new report by the California-based Campaign for College Opportunity.

The report, released Wednesday, follows an earlier report in February 2021 and examines college completion rates for Black men and women in the state’s three public higher education systems: California Community Colleges, California State University and the University of California.

Some hopeful findings emerged from the report. The four-year graduation rate for Black women who started in the CSU system as freshmen more than doubled from 2011 to 2016, from 10 percent to 24 percent, and more than half of Black women who enrolled as freshmen graduated within six years. However, more Black women transferred to for-profit colleges than the CSU and UC systems combined, which is a worrisome trend given the low graduation and high student debt rates of people who attend for-profit institutions.

The four-year graduation rate also doubled for Black men who entered the CSU system as freshmen, from 7 percent to 14 percent, over the same period. About 73 percent of Black men and 81 percent of Black women who started in the UC system as freshmen finished their degrees within six years. More than two-thirds of Black transfer students to the CSU system and more than 80 percent of Black transfer students to the UC system graduated within four years.

The report also found worrisome racial and gender disparities. Only 8 percent of Black men and 10 percent of Black women who started at California Community Colleges in the 2016-17 academic year completed their studies within four years.

Only 39 percent of Black women who transferred into the CSU system graduated within two years -- relative to 30 percent of Black men -- but that rate is 13 percentage points lower than that of white women. The four-year graduation rate for Black men in the UC system, 50 percent, was 20 percentage points below their white counterparts, while the graduation rate for Black women, 65 percent, was 14 percentage points lower than white women’s.

“While we celebrate the improvements in high school graduation and college preparation occurring statewide, we know much more needs to be done to ensure equity in opportunity and success in our public colleges and universities for Black undergraduates,” the report states.

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