Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

Experiences of Differential Treatment among College Students of Color

Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

Experiences of Differential Treatment among College Students of Color

Article excerpt

Incidents of ethnic and racial discrimination are still prevalent in American universities (Chang, 2000; Pettigrew, 1998). Many campuses are struggling with racial tensions among students from diverse race groups. African American students, in particular, are more likely than Caucasians to be the target of some form of direct, personal racism (Ancis, Sedlacek, & Mohr, 2000; Fisher & Hartmann, 1995; Gossett, Cuyjet, & Cockriel, 1998). These types of incidents include differential treatment and stereotyping by fellow students, faculty members, campus police, teaching assistants, administrators, and staff. African American students have perceived more interracial tensions on campus, have reported significantly less satisfaction with the institution, and have also reported that faculty members often assess their academic performance more negatively than they do for Caucasian students (Ancis, et al., 2000; Coleman, Jussim, & Isaac, 1991).

Relevant to this study is the assessment of specific situations in which college students experience differential treatment. Because students' perceptions and attributions may also account for experiencing differential treatment, general appraisals of degree of discrimination and offensiveness involved in situations of such nature were additionally explored. The importance of studying racial and ethnic discrimination incidents in college campuses becomes crucial to understand the interplay of psychological and socio-environmental factors associated with experiences of differential treatment among college students, especially those from minority groups.

In an attempt to assess the trend in racial discrimination, McCormack (1995) reported an increase in racial discrimination over a four-year period against both African American and Hispanic students. McCormack compared data from 1988 and 1992 on the number of incidents and type of discrimination, detecting a shift in the nature of racism from subtle forms (e.g., ostracism) in the 1988 data to forms of blatant attacks (e.g., verbal harassment and differential treatment) in the 1992 data. The most common form of discrimination was verbal harassment in the form of racial slurs, exclusion from activities, and physical violence. In a followup study, the same author (McCormack, 1998) found that incidents of discrimination in universities had increased, and she confirmed that acts of discrimination became more overtly expressed. Results showed that African Americans and Hispanics were more likely to experience incidents of discrimination than Asian students. However, Asian students were more likely to be victims of discrimination in 1996 than in 1988. Gossett et al. (1998) studied African American perceptions of marginality in primarily white campuses and found that non-African American students were not aware of the perceived discrimination experienced by their African American peers.

Regarding intergroup perceptions, Jackson (1995) and her colleagues (see Jackson, Hodge, Gerard, Ingram, Ervin, & Sheppard, 1996) argue that many Anglo university students hold negative stereotypes and attitudes toward minority students, more specifically towards African American and Hispanic students. For example, Jackson (1995), found that Anglo students perceive Hispanics as uneducated, and less intelligent and productive than Anglo individuals. Jackson et al. (1996) found evidence that "Anglo-Americans associated less positive affect and more fear with African Americans than with Anglo-Americans" (p. 310). Additionally, Anglo students valued to a lesser degree reducing discrimination than their African American counterparts. Asian American students, on the other hand, were more likely than Caucasian students to report pressure to conform to racial stereotypes regarding academic performance (e.g., being a good student) and social behavior (e.g., being shy and quiet) in order to be accepted by others (Ancis , et al., 2000). …

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