Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

Maintaining Credibility and Authority as an Instructor of Color in Diversity-Education Classrooms: A Qualitative Inquiry

Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

Maintaining Credibility and Authority as an Instructor of Color in Diversity-Education Classrooms: A Qualitative Inquiry

Article excerpt

The movement for multicultural or diversity-centered education has resulted in changes to the academic demography of the United States (Banks, 1991; Butler & Walter, 1991; Goodstein, 1994; Morey & Kitano, 1997). Institutions of higher education have integrated the voices, knowledge, and lived experiences of various under-represented cultures and excluded groups into their formal academic curriculum. A recent survey by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU) shows that 63% of colleges and universities report that they have in place, or are in the process of developing, a diversity education component in their undergraduate curriculum (AACU, 2003). Of those that have implemented dimensions of diversity into their curriculum, the majority of campuses (68%) require their students to take at least one course from among a list of approved diversity-education courses.

The success of many colleges and universities at integrating this level of multicultural or diversity education into the academic curriculum marks a significant higher education milestone. However, an organized and entrenched resistance to this movement has emerged at both individual and organizational levels (Butler & Walter, 1991; Jayne, 1991). The diversity-education classroom, in particular, is a site wherein this conflict takes on particular meaning for instructors of color at all academic ranks including graduate teaching assistants and full professors (Perry, Moore, Acosta, Edwards, & Frey, 2006; Turner, 2002). Much of the existing scholarship on higher education and multicultural classrooms has focused on the impact of backlash and resistance in the general academic workplace (Yang, Barrayo, & Timpsin, 2003; Timpsin, 2003).

Our current study is part of a larger investigation into the professional, emotional, and physical labor associated with teaching diversity-education courses in higher education. Nationally, a disproportionate number of instructors of color (that is, faculty members or graduate student instructors who identify or are identified as "non-white") are engaged in teaching diversity courses in higher education (Brayboy 2003; McKay 1997; Perry et al. 2006). These diversity courses are often touted in campus publications as explicitly intended "To increase students' understanding of individual and group differences (e.g., race, gender, class) and their knowledge of the traditions and values of various groups in the United States" (Bemidji State University Catalogue 2006). Schneider (2001) as President of the AACU noted that "diversity requirements signal the academy's conviction that citizens now need to acquire significant knowledge both of cultures other than their own and of disparate cultures' struggles for recognition and equity, in order to be adequately prepared for the world around them." She further states that "diversity courses, especially those that deal with racism and other forms of systemic bias, implicitly appeal to democratic values such as justice, dignity, freedom, and equality."

We do not assume that all instructors or all diversity courses on all campuses meet resistance from students or colleagues. However, some instructors and some departments or programs do report political and/or individual backlash at predominately white campuses (Gonzales, Rios, Maldonado, & Clark 1995; McKay, 1997; Brayboy, 2003; Castaneda, 2004). We argue that the experiences of instructors of color intertwine with campus efforts to recruit and retain minority instructors in higher education and should raise questions about the role of the required diversity course, its structure, process, and outcomes. In this paper, we explore key themes from in-depth interviews with 20 instructors of color who teach required diversity courses at a predominately white college or university (PWCU) in the Midwest. From these responses, we identify central challenges for instructors of color. We are interested in how they engage their own agency in the face of student resistance, and the coun-termeasures they craft to maintain their credibility and intellectual authority in the diversity classroom. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.