College of DuPage looking to close racial achievement gap


Gabriella Gallardo, Special to the Courier

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Bigot. Racist. Idiot. These are common words used when someone expresses an opinion in opposition to theirs. Nowadays people expect everyone to get along regardless of their political views, religion and overall beliefs. The need for Equity and Diversity is clear. Getting a consensus on what that means, what that looks like, and how to achieve it at the College of DuPage is one of the main tasks for faculty, staff and administrators this semester.

Back in October 2020, COD President Brian Caputo called for a “Hot Topic” meeting with faculty and staff. Hot Topics meetings consist of a controversial topic of discussion about certain problems and long term solutions.The meeting was to discuss a plan for the year 2021 regarding how can students feel socially safe and know that there are programs to help them succeed academically. No students were directly involved during the meeting.

Alec Espinoza, a second year student at COD, expresses his opinion on the lack of involvement “I wish actual students like me were present during the meeting.I am speaking for most latino students when I say it is hard for most of latino students to join clubs because we are focused on getting the money to even afford school. It would be nice to listen how COD will act capitalizing our needs in regards to diversity and equity eventually reaching for equality.”

Jill Salas, who is an English professor at College of DuPage and chair of the Pathways Equity and Access Team said in an interview that “COD needs to take action because we are not satisfied knowing that some of our students face significant barriers to success that are not entirely academic.”

The College Board of Trustees already implemented departments and faculty positions to help students with financial aid, counseling, accommodations for mental health and more. With those needs already addressed, the Equity Plan was created to close the gaps in completion rates between Black, Latinx, and Pell-Eligible students, as compared to their peers, by 2025.

Fall 2019 College of DuPage Institutional Profile
23,903 Undergraduates
7% Black| 27% Latinx| 50% White
42% freshman Pell recipients

Completion and Equity
10% Black graduation rate (19% Gap)
22% Latinx graduation rate (7% Gap)
29% White graduation rate
22% Pell Recipients (5% Gap)
27% Non-Pell Recipients
Source: College of DuPage institutional profile

There is a difference between equality and equity.

“The challenge though, is equality imagines an equal world where everyone has the same opportunities,” Salas said. “What it means to be equity minded and have a focus of equity at higher ed institutions is to provide resources of support for those students who face barriers.”

Both equality and equity promote fairness, however equality achieves fairness by treating everyone the same regardless of need. Equity achieves this through treating people differently depending on need.

Salas said there are misconceptions about what support and being equitable really look like. It doesn’t mean making the curriculum easier, but it does mean additional instruction and support.

After a stable equity for students is achieved, College of DuPage will start fixing how they recruit and hire faculty with an eye toward equity. Anthony Rogers, who is an interim dean of Arts, Communication and Hospitality, starts with comparing demographics and “greater awareness of population differences between students versus employees, bias training” and requiring applicants to submit diversity statements.

A 2017 report by the Student Leadership Council showed there needs to be a space at College of DuPage that supports diversity access, belonging and unity. Tara Leszczewicz, an associate professor, said, “It’s time to do the work of finding a space to embrace multicultural programming of the Latino Outreach Center and Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion by Spring 2021.”

Moving forward from 2020’s drastic events, COD’s Pathways Equity and Access Team wants to reach a higher level of diversity on campus and online. The team will continue to promote events like “Uncomfortable Conversations” back in December 2020.

David Swope, the manager of Student Diversity and Inclusion, said there is a lot involved, and a lot at stake, in the equity and equality efforts.
“College of DuPage will take a step further to support diversity access, belonging and unity,” he said. “Diversity is the change, not just talking about ethnicity and race, but even interests, values, perspectives, beliefs and positions.”