Orange County's two public universities, Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine, share in the national shortage of black and Latino professors.
"We've been working on this problem for some time," UCI Chancellor Jack Peltason said. Producing more black and Latino teachers "is one of the major priorities of higher education," he said.
Jewel Plummer Cobb, president of Cal State Fullerton, said recruitment of black and Latino faculty "is something that is near and dear to my heart. It's been a national problem for a long time."
The problem is the small number of blacks and Latinos with doctorate degrees required by four-year universities.
"It's very expensive to get a Ph.D.," Cobb said. "It takes a person out of the work force for four to six years, and, of course, with minority groups, those are the ones most in need of income."
Rosamaria Gomez-Amaro, director of affirmative action at Cal State Fullerton, said: "We're just like everyone else in higher education. We're all in the same boat."
UC Irvine last year had 593 tenured faculty, of which nine, or 1.5%, were black; 24, or 4%, were Latino; 31, or 5.2%, were Asian, and two, or 0.3%, were American Indians.
Cal State Fullerton in 1985 had 616 tenured faculty members, of which 15, or 2.4%, were black; 17, or 2.8%, were Latino; 50, or 8.1%, were Asian, and 1, or 0.2%, were American Indians.
Officials at UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton said that Asian faculty members are not in short supply nationally, and are adequately represented on the Orange County campuses.
But, they said, not enough black and Latino students are going on to graduate school and into teaching to meet the national demand.
"One of the things that we're facing is the issue of the pipeline," Gomez-Amaro said. "Not enough are coming into the (higher education) pipeline, let alone finishing."
County Poses Special Problems
Both universities in Orange County have been trying to add blacks and Latinos to their faculties for many years, the officials said. But, they said, Orange County itself presents some special problems: housing costs and a perception of the county as hostile to minorities.
Carla Espinoza, assistant vice chancellor for affirmative action and equal opportunity at UC Irvine, said she often investigates when a black or Latino professor declines a job offer at the university.
"I'll call these people. Sometimes I'll hear them say, 'I'm concerned about Orange County's racist reputation,' " she said.
But that is changing somewhat, she said. "I was finding more of that perception six years ago," she said. "Six years ago, people thought the county was a very hostile environment to minorities. Now the perception is more that the county would not be welcoming to minorities, but not hostile."
Espinoza and Gomez-Amaro agreed that Latino professors find Orange County more attractive than do black teachers, because the county has a large Latino community and a small black one.
"You think about Los Angeles, and you realize that it has a large community of urban blacks," Espinoza said. "We don't have that here in Orange County."
Housing Cheaper Elsewhere
Housing costs in Orange County are among the highest in the nation. Officials at both universities said that factor hurts recruitment of faculty, regardless of ethnic background. But they said it obviously hurts when other universities, in areas of the nation where housing is cheaper, are competing for the same small pool of minority professors.
Gomez-Amaro contended that Cal State Fullerton's recruiting efforts are more handicapped than UC Irvine's, because Irvine has some on-campus housing for faculty and Fullerton doesn't.
Also, she said, "the salaries of UC professors are higher and their teaching loads are less than for faculty in the (California State University) system."
But, Gomez-Amaro said, Cal State Fullerton's minority hiring effort benefits from the positive image of Cobb, who is black.
Peltason, UCI's chancellor, said he thinks the University of California system is a national leader in its efforts to diversify its faculty.
"It's something that was already in place when I came here two years ago," Peltason said. "From a national standpoint, I think UCI is dealing with this problem in an effective way."
But, he added, "this is a national problem, and it's not going to be quickly solved. It's going to take many years."