When Diversity Drops: Race, Religion, and Affirmative Action in Higher Education

When Diversity Drops: Race, Religion, and Affirmative Action in Higher Education

When Diversity Drops: Race, Religion, and Affirmative Action in Higher Education

When Diversity Drops: Race, Religion, and Affirmative Action in Higher Education


Julie J. Park examines how losing racial diversity in a university affects the everyday lives of its students. She uses a student organization, the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) at "California University," as a case study to show how reductions in racial diversity impact the ability of students to sustain multiethnic communities.

The story documents IVCF's evolution from a predominantly white group that rarely addressed race to the most racially diverse campus fellowship at the university. However, its ability to maintain its multiethnic membership was severely hampered by the drop in black enrollment at California University following the passage of Proposition 209, a statewide affirmative action ban.

Park demonstrates how the friendships that students have--or do not have--across racial lines are not just a matter of personal preference or choice; they take place in the contexts that are inevitably shaped by the demographic conditions of the university. She contends that a strong organizational commitment to diversity, while essential, cannot sustain racially diverse student subcultures. Her work makes a critical contribution to our understanding of race and inequality in collegiate life and is a valuable resource for educators and researchers interested in the influence of racial politics on students' lives.


It was a warm spring afternoon at what I am calling, for reasons of anonymity, California University (CU), a large public institution on the West Coast. a gaggle of students lined both sides of cu Walk, a pathway where students often gathered during lunchtime to pass out fliers and socialize. There were the usual staples— a table covered with pamphlets from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a cluster of Latino/a students wearing Greek letters, a bake sale for a community service group. the students represented a variety of races and ethnicities. With more than 60 percent of the undergraduate population being students of color, whites were technically a minority in the student body. the campus was often lauded as one of the most diverse in America.

Today one group of students seemed to be disagreeing with this assessment. Standing in the grass was a cluster of students holding posterboard signs with large lettering. Two Asian Americans held signs that read, “Why are there so many of me at CU?” a tall black male held a different sign: “Why are there so few of me at CU?” Given the campus climate over the past year, the signs were not too surprising. in recent months, there had been a number of protests, demonstrations, and letters to the editor on the subject of diversity, or lack thereof, at cu. the school, a member of the prestigious University of California (UC) system, was in the midst of a nationally publicized admissions crisis. Even though more than 60 percent of cu students were people of color, very few were black. Only ninetysix black students were slated to enter in the fall, less than 2 percent of . . .

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