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GRCC Board of Trustees share their concerns after reviewing annual Treatment of People report 

(Blace Carpenter/The Collegiate)

Grand Rapids Community College has conducted its research on the annual Treatment of People report, and the results show the college is losing more employees of color than it is hiring. 

Christine Coon, the executive director of Human resources, presented the report and shared statistical data with the GRCC Board of Trustees this past Monday, Sept. 18. 

This report is updated annually as a way to reflect on the college’s policy of “recruitment and employment, advancement, and upgrading, based on the qualifications and which accommodates diversity,” according to the slideshow Coon showed during the meeting. 

As of June 30, 2023, the workforce at GRCC is represented by 660 employees, not including students, contingency, or adjunct employees. Of those employees, 149 are people of color, making up 22.6% of the workforce. This number is slightly lower than the 22.9% which was recorded at the beginning of the fiscal year. 

“…faculty and meet and confer positions continue to be an area that we focus on to ensure that we’re reaching underrepresented groups in our recruitment effort,” Coon said during the meeting. “We acknowledge that we’re competing with others who have similar goals as well and need to be proactive in outreach for our recruitment.”

Through the 2022-2023 year, the hire rate of employees of color has been 22.4%, and the separation rate of employees of color is 25.3%. This includes anyone who leaves the college through resignation, retirement, or termination. 

“This is something we continue to watch as we see increases in separation rates,” Coon said.

Vice Chairperson Kenyatta Brame wondered why GRCC is facing this issue and how they could combat it as an institution. GRCC President Charles Lepper stated that it is a national problem, not a GRCC problem.

The Chronicle of Higher Education just published some new data looking nationally,” Lepper stated in response to Brame’s concerns. 

“They surveyed nearly 4,800 across 529 institutions and 50% of those individuals said that they were somewhat likely looking for a new job and 35% of that group said very likely…What they found is employees under the age of 45 -men and women- and people of color were the populations most likely to consider a new job. Particularly outside of higher education where there is increased salary and increased opportunities…I don’t know that our position is unique compared to the challenges of many other institutions.” 

While national data does show that retention is high, the board feels like GRCC should be different from other institutions and get ahead of this issue.

“I would just challenge (that) promotional opportunities is the reason people are leaving,” said Brame. “What is it about us that we don’t provide this particular group opportunities to move ahead in our organization?”

Out of 64 promotions in the fiscal year, 15 or 23.5% of those were people of color. 

Kathleen Bruinsma, secretary of the board also shared her concerns, saying, “I understand national trends and national trends do not spare this institution, but I’d like to know a little more detail.”

Lepper plans on having a pay study for the meet and confer department, which had around 40 employees leave, in hopes of reviewing the salary and compensation. The last pay study was conducted back in the 2010-11 fiscal year. 

This process is reviewed by union groups annually for contract negotiations but hasn’t received a full review for almost 13 years.

“It’s been a number of years since we’ve looked at the compensation of that group,” Lepper said. “We’re in the process of doing that now…Some of the things that I’m just reading from The Chronicle (were) talking about people wanting more flexibility. We revisited our remote work policy and implemented that.”

Coon stated a lot of the movement between jobs is also generational, stating that most millennials and Gen Z employees are more likely to move jobs than previous generations and she anticipates this trend to continue. 

Through a variety of studies and feedback, Coon said the human resources department hopes to combat this retention by implementing more active recruiting through LinkedIn, updating their candidate assessments, and partnering with more community agencies.

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