Taming the River: Negotiating the Academic, Financial, and Social Currents in Selective Colleges and Universities

Taming the River: Negotiating the Academic, Financial, and Social Currents in Selective Colleges and Universities

Taming the River: Negotiating the Academic, Financial, and Social Currents in Selective Colleges and Universities

Taming the River: Negotiating the Academic, Financial, and Social Currents in Selective Colleges and Universities

Synopsis

Building on their important findings in The Source of the River, the authors now probe even more deeply into minority underachievement at the college level. Taming the River examines the academic and social dynamics of different ethnic groups during the first two years of college. Focusing on racial differences in academic performance, the book identifies the causes of students' divergent grades and levels of personal satisfaction with their institutions.


Using survey data collected from twenty-eight selective colleges and universities, Taming the River considers all facets of student life, including who students date, what fields they major in, which sports they play, and how they perceive their own social and economic backgrounds. The book explores how black and Latino students experience pressures stemming from campus racial climate and "stereotype threat"--when students underperform because of anxieties tied to existing negative stereotypes. Describing the relationship between grade performance and stereotype threat, the book shows how this link is reinforced by institutional practices of affirmative action. The authors also indicate that when certain variables are controlled, minority students earn the same grades, express the same college satisfaction, and remain in school at the same rates as white students.


A powerful look at how educational policies unfold in America's universities, Taming the River sheds light on the social and racial factors influencing student success.

Excerpt

A contentious debate has raged over race-conscious admissions policies at selective U.S. colleges and universities since the end of the civil rights era. After decades of exclusion, the nation's elite colleges and universities, beginning in the 1970s, undertook a series of “affirmative actions” designed to ensure the inclusion of formerly underrepresented minorities within bastions of academic privilege. Overnight, college admissions officials sought to transform prestigious campuses from citadels of whiteness into diverse reflections of an increasingly multiracial society. Owing to their historical exclusion from selective institutions of higher education, minority group members generally lacked the family connections that would entitle them to special consideration as “legacy” students. At the same time, owing to the ongoing segregation and stratification of American education, Latinos and African Americans often lacked the academic preparation necessary to succeed in a very competitive admissions process. Paradoxically they also lacked athletic experience, not in football or basketball, but in elite sports such as swimming, tennis, golf, lacrosse, squash, fencing, and water polo that together account for a large share of athletic recruitments at selective institutions.

Inevitably, therefore, efforts by college administrators to incorporate underrepresented minorities somehow had to take race and ethnicity into account, quickly leading to charges of “reverse racism” and “affirmative discrimination” (see Lokos 1971; Glazer 1976). Over the ensuing decades the fight over race-sensitive admissions was enjoined on a variety of fronts—political, legal, administrative, and academic. As with many . . .

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