Editorial: HSU is Not Retaining Cultural Centers’ Staff

In an effort to make these spaces inclusive and interconnected, the University brought the AACAE and the LCAE, along with the previously established MultiCultural Center (MCC), and the Indian Teacher and Educational Personnel Program (ITEPP) under the umbrella of the Cultural Centers for Academic Excellence. The unification of all centers also gave ITEPP a new name, the Native American Center for Academic Excellence, despite having been known as ITEPP since 1979 as well as having been established by local tribal members and faculty in 1969.

A year and a half later, the centers have seen low staff retention with all three new coordinators of the AACAE, LCAE, and the MCC having left to pursue other career opportunities. The three centers are currently being coordinated by 120-day emergency hires, with the LCAE seeing it’s second interim coordinator this academic year after multiple failed hiring searches since the exit of its first coordinator in the spring of 2016.

There is no room for a lack of transparency and investment in students and their success. Continuing to enroll more students of color to make campus more diverse and inclusive is not enough without actually supporting them and the staff who directly work with those countless students.  

It is probably safe to assume that anyone who works in higher education and student affairs, specifically in cultural centers and the empowerment of historically underrepresented students, is doing it because they love it. However, we cannot blame them when they choose to leave our institution because they are not earning a career salary or because they cannot provide meaningful support and services to the students they serve.

As laid out in the Office of Diversity & Inclusion’s Campus Diversity Plan, two of Humboldt State University’s goals are Inclusive Excellence through “Ensuring equity and diversity in the experience of all HSU students,” and Faculty & Staff Diversity by “Ensuring equity and inclusiveness in the workplace.” While there are many subcategories within the goals, as well as strategy plans to achieve such goals, the majority fall upon the Office of Diversity & Inclusion (ODI), and the Office of Retention & Inclusive Student Success (RISS) to successful execute, however many of the strategies have not been initiated and many of the goals have made little success.

The question then becomes whether Humboldt State University is making an institutional  effort, backed by the financial investment, in the coordinators of the Cultural Centers for Academic Excellence and the resources that are meant to support underrepresented students?  

With RISS being overseen by a new Associate Vice President with a salary range that is significantly higher than any of the coordinators, students must wonder why 3 out of the 4 cultural centers have left HSU and been replaced with temporary interim coordinators.

Furthermore, students should also be informed as to why ODI’s director position has yet to be filled, with two full time faculty serving as interim directors during another hiring search. There must be a reason why such valuable staff are parting ways with the University. While it may seem easy to turn to the two offices and look for answers, it could serve as a better expenditure of energy to ask the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs (who oversees both offices) why there is a deficit in staff and resources.

Organizational chart for diversity related services at HSU. | Infographic by Jazmine Mendoza

If Humboldt State University is serious about ensuring equity and diversity across campus, it needs to institutionalize the resources that are provided to students, which include everything from an appropriate space to hiring staff that will stick around by providing them with not only a career salary but a welcoming and cooperative relationship with administration. Moreover, if it is serious about increasing student retention rates, it must be serious in staff retention rates.