Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Surveying the Landscape: Perceptions of Multicultural Support Services and Racial Climate at a Predominantly White University

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Surveying the Landscape: Perceptions of Multicultural Support Services and Racial Climate at a Predominantly White University

Article excerpt

This study examines how students of color and White students at a predominantly White state university responded to a survey that addressed race relations on their campus. Four hundred twelve undergraduate students responded to a 33-item survey that included questions about their own demographic characteristics and their perceptions of the racial climate, student support services, multicultural education courses, and attitudes about cultural diversity on their campus. The analyses help to gauge the progress that higher education institutions have made toward achieving access and equal opportunity for all Americans. Results reveal that there are areas in the interaction between students of color and White students in which institutional leadership can be effectively exercised to ensure a campus climate that values diversity.

Actualizing an educational vision of equality in higher education in the new millennium requires understanding the sociopolitical forces that preclude and promote equal opportunity and academic success. Higher education dropout rates, lower levels of academic preparation in high school, lower socioeconomic status, and greater alienation or isolation in the White college environment have been cited as problems facing ethnic minority college students (Loo & Rolison, 1986; Magner, 1988). While concern for the continuing underrepresentation of certain groups of students remains high on the research and institutional agenda, the analysis of campus diversity now also includes new developments related to racial climate, curriculum, scholarship, institutional practice, and mission. As fundamental changes resulting from societal diversity are felt throughout an institution and by its constituencies, multifaceted and ongoing evaluations of the impact of these changes becomes essential (Smith, 1997). Students' perceptions provide an important stakeholder perspective from which to examine the racial climate of colleges and universities.

This study examines how White students and students of color attending a predominantly White state university responded to questions regarding racial climate, student support services, multicultural courses, and perceptions and attitudes about cultural diversity on their campus. The article discusses the implications of these findings and offers recommendations to educators, administrators, program planners, and policymakers interested in positively influencing racial dynamics in their higher education programs.

Review of the Literature

Although the United States is traditionally represented as a democratic society, with equal opportunity for all, a brief review of American history indicates that this has only been a dream for many citizens, especially in higher education. Slavery of African Americans,1 extermination and confinement of Native Americans,2 and exploitation of Hispanic and Asian immigrants reflect a social system of profound inequalities that continue to permeate most aspects of our society (Walker & Jones, 1998). Therefore, it is not surprising that there is ongoing dissension around important issues that impact cultural diversity in higher education.

To resolve and respond to such tensions requires reevaluating structures of knowledge, cultural patterns of relationships, and organizing principles of institutional life. The enterprise is exhilarating to some but deeply threatening to others. Still, a cultural transformation is well under way in colleges and universities. For the most part, academic communities are environments for productive dialogue about how to build more inclusive institutions, how new scholarship is redefining fields and opening up exciting new areas of investigation, and how students can better understand their ethnic differences and negotiate the boundaries of those differences (Musil, Garcia, Moses, & Smith, 1995). However, despite civil rights legislation in the last half century, the national goal of providing ethnic minority populations with equal access to quality institutions of higher education and opportunities for academic success has yet to be realized. …

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.