Telephone interviews about use of diversity workshops were conducted with 281 administrators from a random sample of 356 U.S. 4-year colleges and universities (79% return rate). Results indicate that diversity workshops have been tried by 81% of U.S. colleges and universities, and that 70% were using diversity workshops in 1996-1997. Workshops are slightly more likely at more selective institutions, and substantially less likely at institutions where minority students predominate. Diversity workshops employ a wide range of activities; most common are group activities in which participants share stories of bias and discrimination, and group exercises exploring ethnic differences. The great majority of administrators report that the workshops are positively received by students, but, surprisingly, no institution has undertaken an evaluation of the impact of diversity workshops on the beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors of participants.
The growing importance of ethnic minorities in American life (Johnston & Packer, 1987) has led to concerns about improving communication and understanding between minority and majority groups. One response to this concern has been the introduction of diversity training workshops at many U. S. colleges and universities. B'nai B'rith's "A World of Difference" has been offered on more than 300 college campuses (Anti-Defamation League, 1996), while the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI) model has been offered on over 80 campuses in the United States, Canada, Europe and the Middle East (Oliver & Slavin, 1989). The growth of diversity training in higher education has parallels in primary and secondary education (Schwartz & Elcik, 1994; Pate, 1995) and in the business sector (Armitage, 1993; Noe & Ford, 1992). Although use of diversity training in corporate settings has already attracted some research attention (Rynes & Rosen, 1995), little is known about the use of diversity workshops on campus.
Diversity workshops (DW)--sometimes called prejudice reduction workshops, multicultural workshops, pluralism workshops or anti-bias workshops--differ from typical academic instruction in a number of ways. DW is usually shorter (duration of hours rather than weeks), more interactive (based on small-group exercises and discussion), and emphasizes affective rather than only cognitive experience. Specifically, DW participants engage in exploration and sharing of attitudes towards various groups, air negative and positive feelings, share personal experiences of injury or discrimination, roleplay, and practice managing intergroup conflict (Brown & Mazza, undated; Brown & Mazza, 1991). Some workshops are preceded by films or skits meant to spark discussion (Anti-Defamation League, 1996; Ponterotto & Pedersen, 1993). DW may be offered to incoming freshmen during orientation and/or to students, faculty, administrative and support staff during the school year (Berg-Cross, Starr & Sloan, 1993).
Although use of diversity workshops on campus appears to be growing quickly, little is known about DW prevalence, the models and methods employed, the training of DW leaders, or the impact of DW on participants. The present study was designed to provide information about the adoption of this educational innovation by U.S. colleges and universities. In particular, the present survey was designed to provide information that would be helpful both to college and university administrators considering whether or how to introduce DW, and to scholars interested in educational and organizational innovation.
The closest parallel to the present study is a survey of diversity training in the workplace conducted by Rynes and Rosen (1995). Surveys were mailed to 6000 members of the Society for Human Resource Management (excluding consultants and self-employed), and 785 completed surveys were received. Results indicated that DW was already widely accepted in the workplace; one third (32%) of respondents reported some form of diversity training going on at their firm. Results also indicated generally favorable reactions to DW; only 18% of those reporting rated training at their firm as "extremely" or "largely" unsuccessful.
The return rate of 13% obtained by Rynes and Rosen (1995) was relatively high for a mailed survey with no follow-up, but leaves considerable uncertainty in generalizing results to U.S. firms in general. In order to assure a return rate for the present study that could support more confident projection of survey results, our survey was conducted by telephone rather than by mail. In addition, our survey was targeted to a random sample of U.S. colleges and universities.
Our sample was obtained from the Princeton Review Student Advantage Guide, The Complete Book of Colleges (Custard, 1997). This book offers information about 1205 colleges and universities in both Canada and the United States. For purposes of our study, we eliminated Canadian schools, military schools, culinary schools, art schools, music schools, architecture schools, pharmacy schools, and two-year colleges. We judged that these schools were likely to differ in important ways from traditional four-year U.S. colleges and universities. We did include all-male, all-female, all-minority, and technical/engineering schools.
The Complete Book of Colleges categorizes colleges into four groups based on selectivity; after eliminating schools as above, there were 56 "Megaselective", 150 "Highly Selective", 455 "Selective", and 497 "Not Selective" institutions in our sampling frame (total 1158). Because we hypothesized that the more selective colleges would be more likely to have diversity workshops, we oversampled from the population of "Megaselective" schools. We included all 56 of the Megaselective schools, and took a random sample of 100 schools from each of the remaining three categories (total sample 356).
The Complete Book of Colleges also categorizes colleges by region (New England, Middle States, Midwest, South, Southwest, West), by cost (in-state tuition [is less than] $10,000, $10-15,000, [is greater than] $15,000), by size ([is greater than] 10,000 undergraduates, 4000-10,000, [is less than] 4000), and by environment (rural, sub-urban, urban). These categorizations, together with percentage of minority students reported for each institution (100%-% reported as Caucasion), were used in analysis of our results below.,
Interviewers introduced themselves by saying that they were working on a study of diversity training at colleges and universities across the U.S.. They described what a diversity workshop is--a small group situation in which a number of students and a …