Research Highlights from Diversity Digest
Since 1996, Diversity Digest has highlighted the latest research on campus diversity including overviews of research on diversifying faculty, the impact of curriculum transformation, and the nature and impact of the changing diversity on college campuses. To examine all the research articles featured in past issues of Diversity Digest, visit the Diversity Digest Archive on DiversityWeb (www.diversityweb.org).
Diversity and the Faculty
Debunking Myths on Diversifying Faculty
Daryl Smith, in an AAC&U report, Achieving Faculty Diversity: Debunking the Myths, found that claims that faculty of color are in great demand and the recipients of bidding wars are grossly exaggerated. This research study contradicts the notion that campuses are so focused on diversifying faculty that heterosexual white males have no chance. Smith's research documents a continued problem of uneven distribution of access between men and women and across different racial groups.
The Impact of Campus Culture on Underrepresented Faculty
Annie Gubitosi-White focused her research on assessing academic culture and its impact on underrepresented faculty. She examined social interactions and the reward process. In her study, Gubitosi-White found that majority faculty reported more satisfaction with their socialization experiences and the level of support they received in their departments than did underrepresented faculty. Underrepresented faculty members also reported that they had less time for the higher rewarded, individual-based activities including traditional publishing than did their white colleagues.
Barriers and Opportunities for Diversifying Faculty
The authors of Achieving Diversity in the Professoriate: Challenges and Opportunities identify barriers to diversifying faculty and offer strategies campuses can use to overcome them. From institutional data and interviews with top-level administrators, these researchers found the largest barrier to diversifying faculty was the perceived "pool problem." Many people still believe that there are not enough minority candidates even in fields where there are large pools of minority candidates. Other barriers identified included a lack of awareness about available resources, the nature of how faculty searches are conducted, and how job descriptions are developed. The key to success, according to the report, is the commitment and action of top-level leadership in recruiting a diverse faculty.
Diversity and the Curriculum
Diversity Requirements and Reducing Racial Prejudice
A study conducted by Mitchell Chang of the University of California, Los Angeles concludes that completing a diversity course requirement significantly reduced students' level of racial prejudice. The results indicate that diversity course requirements are good vehicles for shaping students' racial views and assumptions toward improved race relations even if the actual topics and the way they are addressed in courses may be broad and varied. Findings also suggest that learning about one significant difference in U.S. society (i.e. gender or class difference) might also transfer well to thinking about other differences and subsequently reduce multiple types of prejudice.
The Impact of Ethnic Studies Courses
The University of Vermont's ALANA (African, Latino, Asian, and Native American) Studies program undertook a self-study to assess the impact of its courses on students. The survey found that most students enrolled in ethnic studies courses due to personal interest and not merely to fulfill a requirement. At the end of the courses, students were highly satisfied with their experiences and many intended to take other ALANA courses. Most students stated that the courses gave them valuable frameworks to examine racial and cultural diversity in the United States.
Diversity Requirements and Student Learning and Attitude Outcomes
Betsy Palmer surveyed Penn State undergraduates to examine changes in students' attitudes and knowledge as a result of their participation in diversity courses. Across the full sample of students, racial and gender attitudes became more tolerant during the semester in which they completed their diversity course requirements. Students of color experienced greater gains in tolerance than did white students, and women as a group experienced greater gains than men. Across multiple attitude measures, courses which examined issues of power and oppression were more effective in producing more tolerant attitudes than courses which did not address these issues. Students also indicated that their experiences in diversity courses have some influence on their perspectives and behaviors outside the classroom.
The Impact of Diversity on Legal Education
Diversity and Legal Education: Student Experiences in Leading Law Schools reviews the impact of diversity on the educational experiences of law students at Harvard University and the University of Michigan. The study concludes that learning alongside students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds significantly enhances the educational experiences of law students. White students, in particular, are enriched through interactions with other races and ethnic groups.
The Long-Term Impact of Diversity Education on Civic Engagement and Activism
In a qualitative study of former students who had participated as facilitators in the University of Michigan's intergroup dialogue program, Carolyn Vasques-Scalera found that as a result of their participation in the program, these students developed awareness and a more complex understanding of their own and others' multiple identities and their roles as individuals and group members in systems of oppression. They described the skills they gained in conflict resolution and in building communities within and across difference. Data from this research suggest that these students were more likely to engage in social justice actions (rather than merely recognizing oppression), and to engage in actions that are initiating and preventive in nature (rather than merely responsive or reactive). The students surveyed also express frustration with finding opportunities to engage issues of diversity in their current work situations.
Diversity on Campus
Racial Diversity and Friendship Groups in College
Anthony Lising Antonio surveyed students at a relatively diverse university to measure the degree of intergroup contact among students. He investigated the extent to which students perceived racial division and whether such perceptions reflected actual friendship patterns. He also examined whether racial and ethnic diversity in friendship groups played a role in students' development of racial understanding and tolerance. His results indicated that racial and ethnic division is not a dominant, overall campus characteristic, but that students on the campus still perceive a level of segregation. The most common type of friendship group on campus, however, was racially and ethnically mixed with no majority of any one racial/ethnic group. Diversity on campus also appeared to contribute to additional socialization across race and to the development of racial understanding on campus.
Who Benefits from Racial Diversity on Campus?
In their study "Who Benefits from Racial Diversity in Higher Education?" Mitchell J. Chang and Alexander W. Astin addressed the question of whether a racially diverse student population enhanced white students' educational experiences. These authors' research revealed that "racial diversity has a direct positive impact on the individual white student" and that "socializing across racial lines and participating in discussions of race issues have both been shownÖto be associated with widespread beneficial effects on a student's academic and personal development, irrespective of race."
Student Attitudes Toward Gay and Lesbian Issues
Survey and interview data collected at the University of Michigan suggest that college campuses can provide a unique context in which students have the opportunity to confront and explore the meanings of their reactions to issues of sexual orientation. The study found that the majority of students became more accepting of lesbians, gay men, and bisexual people during their four years at college and that women entered college with more accepting attitudes than men. Students' attitudes toward homosexual people changed through getting to know them. The data also indicated that curricular and co-curricular programming helps to establish respect and promote thoughtful considerations of sexual orientation issues.
Student Expectations and Experiences of Campus Diversity
The Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives at the University of Michigan researched the impact of the University's diversity priorities on students over the course of their four years at Michigan. The study found large group differences in responses to questions about diversity and multiculturalism and to students' experiences as a minority or majority on campus. Students of color were more likely to feel that they were not respected by faculty members and that the university was not truly committed to diversity. Meanwhile, a majority of white students supported increasing racial/ethnic diversity on campus. Although unsupportive at first, white students' support of affirmative action policies increased over four years at the university. The research indicated that students have different definitions of diversity that influence their perceptions and experiences.back to top