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  • Writer's picturegina garcia

Dear Faculty at HSIs…Servingness is your job, too!

I have the honor of visiting HSIs across the United States and spending time with the folx on campus who are doing servingness. I regularly meet with staff who are thinking about HSI as an identity, implementing servingness in practice, working with Latine/x students, and trying to transform the campus. Yet there seems to be fewer faculty and professors doing servingness. When using the terms, “faculty” and “professors” I am referring to educators on campus whose primary role is to teach in the formal classroom and/or conduct research for the advancement of knowledge.

Not to say that I never meet faculty who are implementing servingness in their professor roles, but I’m often surrounded by HSI teams, advisory boards, and task forces that are predominantly made up of staff and administrators whose primary role on campus is outside of the classroom or research space. Although staff and administration must show up and do servingness, faculty must do servingness too. HSIs need Latine/x focused tutoring programs and support services, cultural centers, Latine/x speakers, bilingual outreach coordinators and financial aid advisors, family orientations, culturally relevant advising and counseling, and Latine/x graduation ceremonies (to name a few), but servingness doesn’t only happen outside of the classroom. HSIs must have Latine/x-focused courses and Latine/x-focused research too.

Faculty member teaching in college

Faculty at HSIs must do servingness in the classroom and in all their roles on campus. That means white faculty too, which remain the largest population of faculty working at HSIs. Let me say it louder for the people in the back: Latine/x faculty are not the only professors responsible for doing servingness at HSIs! Postsecondary faculty have many roles on campus, yet our work generally falls into a few broad categories: teaching, curriculum development, research, admissions, and hiring other faculty. In the book Transforming Hispanic-Serving Institutions for Equity & Justice I talk extensively about ways that faculty can transform their curriculum and pedagogy at HSIs and provide insights on a decolonial approach to faculty governance. Here I offer additional suggestions for faculty and professors working at HSIs:

  1. Faculty at HSIs must adopt a new curriculum that centers the predominantly Latine/x identified students on campus, but also considers Black, AANHPI, and Indigenous students. These populations have been forced to assimilate to the dominant narrative in this country that only values English and Eurocentric foundations. HSIs must offer curricula that allows students of color to see themselves in their courses (maybe for the first time in their educational careers). This includes the readings and other forms of knowledge offered, the overall course content and purpose, and the assignments given. I specifically advocate for a curriculum that has a social justice focus, which requires students to learn about systems of oppression, increase their critical consciousness, and take action to disrupt injustices.

  2. Faculty at HSIs must use pedagogies that are culturally relevant, anti-racist, and socially just. The approach to teaching students at HSIs who are predominantly racially and ethnically minoritized, first generation to college, low income, and often multilingual must acknowledge their lived experiences and their learning styles in the classroom. Traditional approaches to delivering content in a college classroom are outdated and were not normed with the types of students who attend HSIs. Offering a liberatory educational experience to students at HSIs requires faculty to build relationships with students, get to know their socio-political histories, and learn about the needs of their families and communities. Faculty must also allow students to critique power structures and domination in the classroom and critically examine the disciplines and fields they are situated within.

  3. Faculty at HSIs should critically examine dominant practices on campuses such as general education (GE) requirements, first-year experience (FYE) courses, and high-impact practices (HIPs) such as learning communities and undergraduate research programs. Questions to ask include: (a) Do the general education requirements center liberatory educational experiences and support the development of liberatory outcomes? (b) Do FYE courses include social justice practices and center Latine/x experiences? (3) Do high impact practices allow students to explore their racial/ethnic identity and contribute back to their families and communities? In other words, do tried and tested curricular practices on campus advance a liberatory educational experience for students? Faculty at HSIs should focus their servingness efforts on GE, FYE, and HIPs as these programs have far reaching impact on all students on campus.

  4. Research faculty at HSIs have a responsibility to generate scholarship that centers people of color and advances knowledge about communities of color. This can happen within their research agenda, with a focus on community engaged research with and for Latine/x communities. But research faculty can also engage Latine/x students in research within their courses. There are many examples for doing this including participatory action research, photo voice or photo elicitation, and ethnographic research as part of the course requirements. Engaging students in research is a good way to advance an agenda that centers the needs of Latine/x and other people of color.

  5. Faculty at HSIs should participate in faculty governance opportunities that allow them to make substantial changes to aspects of campus that faculty are most involved in including admissions, advising, and curriculum. This may include faculty senate, where decisions about things most germane to faculty are made. Faculty senates have the power to lead HSIs towards transformation, but we need HSI-minded faculty in those decision-making spaces. Faculty governance spaces also include faculty unions, where decisions about faculty time and workloads are made. Faculty unions at HSIs must be committed to servingness which means unions must consider the identities, needs, and experiences of Latine/x students when making decisions about faculty. 

  6. Faculty must make changes to faculty hiring processes. We know from research that faculty at HSIs are not as diverse as the students at HSIs, which has major implications for HSIs since faculty of color are also more likely to use culturally relevant practices, mentor and advise large loads of students of color, and conduct community engaged research with Latine/x people. Yet the diversity of faculty is not changing fast enough for us to see true transformation in the classroom at HSIs. As such, faculty at HSIs must critically examine the approaches used to recruit, hire, and retain faculty. Questions to ask include: (a) Does the job announcement mention HSI and invite applicants who are committed to teaching and mentoring students of color, using anti-racist and socially just teaching practices, and conducting research with communities of color? (b) Do the rubric and other forms of assessing candidates evaluate these commitments? (c) Have we implemented practices such a cluster hiring or growing our own programs? (d) Have we trained our current faculty to be equity advocates during the hiring process? There are many approaches that faculty can use in their quest to hire faculty of color and faculty committed to HSI.

The purpose of this post is to call faculty and professors into HSI and servingness work. Becoming an HSI is everyone’s job! Please share this this post with your colleagues who need a nudge or reminder that servingness is their job too. 


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