Attitudes, Perceptions, and Preferences of Faculty at Hispanic Serving and Predominantly Black Institutions

Article excerpt

As populations in the U.S. continue to shift, we see concomitant shifts in the enrollments of students who make up our higher education institutions. Recent data show that while the populations at elite institutions tend to be stable, less selective institutions are increasingly more likely to enroll a more diverse population of students, including immigrants (Massey, Charles, Lundy, & Fischer, 2003). These population shifts have resulted in institutions that have become known as minority serving institutions (MSIs).

Lane and Brown (2003) maintained, however, that we can not assume that Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) nor Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs) provide either congenial or intimidating campus environments for students. For example, HSIs began serving the Latino population because of geographic location and demographic changes (Benitez, 1998). The institutional missions of many HSIs and some PBIs do not directly address the specific needs of students of color (Contreras & Bensimon, 2005; Lane & Brown, 2003). By contrast, the institutional missions of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) do directly address the needs of African American students (Redd, 1998). Hispanic Serving Institutions were not created under federal law nor with a historical purpose of serving Latino students. Predominantly Black Institutions typically have geographic circumstances that have resulted in their serving Black students. These types of institutions can be called minority serving institutions.

Along with circumstantial shifts, many minority serving institutions also face financial difficulties and report understaffed and underfunded campuses. These challenges may impact the ability of minority serving institutions to successfully benefit their student populations. As funding for higher education grows tighter, we see increased emphases on measurement and accountability (Brown & Lane, 2003). As institutions turn their focus to document value added and achievement of students, they produce studies that assess student views of their learning and their college experiences. Relatively few of these studies examine the attitudes, perceptions, and preferences of the instructors who work with those students.

Faculty attitudes toward students and teaching significantly influence the campus environment. Faculty beliefs, practices, and values can diminish or enhance outcomes for students of color (Bensimon, Pena, & Castillo, 2004). Possible differences between Predominantly White Institutions (PWI) and minority serving institutions raise several questions regarding whether discrepancies exist in the learning environment of undergraduates. Do faculty attitudes at PWIs differ from faculty attitudes at HSIs and PBIs? Do faculty perceptions and preferences about undergraduate students at PWIs differ from faculty at minority serving institutions? How do these characteristics affect the conditions of student learning?

By examining variations in faculty attitudes, opinions about students, and satisfaction with their profession, we explore differences in learning environments for students attending HSIs and PBIs. Results will be of interest to administrators and faculty who seek to optimize the learning environment for college students of color. This paper describes the attitudes, perceptions, and preferences of faculty at Hispanic Serving Institutions and Predominantly Black Institutions. Using the 1999 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF-99) data set, we compared instructors of these minority serving institutions with instructors from similar institutions that had high enrollments of Caucasian students. Highlighting dissimilarities allows us to understand how campus environments and faculty culture may differ between minority serving institutions and other PWI campuses with similar academic missions. These factors are examined under the framework of campus environments and institutional ethos. …