Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

"Everybody Seems to Get along . . .": An Institutional Case Study about Campus Race Relations

Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

"Everybody Seems to Get along . . .": An Institutional Case Study about Campus Race Relations

Article excerpt

There has been an increase in racial and ethnic diversity in the United States over the past 25 years (Frey, 2011). Colleges and universities have implemented recruitment strategies and programs to increase the population of Students of Color on their campus in recognition of this increasing racial and ethnic diversity (Fischer, 2008). However, college and university administrators cannot rely on an increase in racial and ethnic student diversity alone to build community across racial and ethnic groups, increase multicultural competence, and develop a more positive campus climate. Research has shown that higher education institutions continue to have a strong presence of overt and subtle racism (Solórzano, Ceja, & Yosso, 2000; Williams, 2004). Furthermore, college and university campuses are at times hostile environments for campus race relations, especially hostile environments for Students of Color (Davis et al., 2004; Williams, 2004).

Student affairs administrators have often held the responsibility of addressing multicultural issues on college and university campuses (Pope, Mueller, & Reynolds, 2009). However, according to Pope and colleagues (2004), "The increasingly complex cultural dynamics on college and university campuses across the country are making the work of student affairs professionals more challenging than ever" (p. 4). These dynamic and complex changes include increasingly diverse college and university campuses and higher education policy changes (e.g., affirmative action; Pope et al., 2004). In addition, the #BlackLivesMatter Movement and the continuation of overt and subtle racism on college and university campuses have taken center stage in the U.S. society but also on college and university campuses. According to Pope and colleagues (2004), "Many student affairs practitioners, faculty, and graduate students are striving to create a campus that is welcoming for all students yet they are often perplexed and frustrated with the results" (p. 4). The purpose of this study was to provide strategies for continuing to enhance campus racial climate. Given that the responsibility of multicultural affairs, campus race relations, and diversity must go beyond a student affairs department or division to the entire institution in order to create a more welcoming campus, this study takes perspectives from students, student affairs professionals, faculty members, and administrators for improving campus racial climate at one institution. These perspectives are valuable sources of information for guiding diversity initiatives in higher education and student affairs. There were two research questions for this study: (a) How do students, faculty, staff, and administrators at one university describe campus race relations? and (b) How do students, faculty, staff, and administrators at one university suggest improving campus race relations?

Review of the Literature

Campus Racial Climate

Higher education and student affairs researchers have given considerable attention to campus racial climate at predominantly White institutions (PWIs) and its impact on college and university campuses and students (Cabrera, Nora, Terenzini, Pascarella, & Hagedorn, 1999; Chavous, 2005; Johnson, 2012; Harper & Hurtado, 2007; Museus, Nichols, & Lambert, 2008; Reid & Radhakrishnan, 2003; Solórzano et al., 2000). Reid and Radhakrishnan (2003) described campus racial climate as being "everything from students' experiences with racism to the belief that the university is not doing enough to support diversity" (pp. 264-265).

Students of Color often had a more negative perception of campus racial climate than White students at PWIs (Chavous, 2005; Harper & Hurtado, 2007; Museus et al., 2008; Reid & Radhakrishnan, 2003). For example, Lee (2010) found that Students of Color are less satisfied with faculty diversity than White students and Students of Color perceived faculty to care less about student diversity than White students. …

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