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AAC&U Releases New Report on Trends in Campus Diversity Initiatives

To Form a More Perfect UnionAAC&U has just released To Form a More Perfect Union: Campus Diversity Initiatives, the first of three monographs to be produced by a project called "Understanding the Difference Diversity Makes: Assessing Campus Diversity Initiatives." Drawing on current research, this project is charting the efforts of colleges and universities to expand and deepen the impact of diversity initiatives. This first report places these developments in the context of a much longer democratic tradition in higher education. Authors document ways in which colleges and universities are moving beyond simply eliminating clear instances of racial or sexual discrimination to a much more complex understanding of how diversity is integral to educational excellence.

To Form a More Perfect Union describes an array of diversity initiatives put in place on campuses all over the country, and highlights, through institutional examples, a collective pattern of national trends. In addition, it makes a strong argument for the value and significance of assessing diversity work to maintain quality and accountability and to build public support for diversity initiatives. All those interested in developing or strengthening diversity initiatives and those interested in national trends should read this report.

The monograph identifies several key trends in how colleges and universities are now organizing their diversity efforts. First, many campuses are moving toward creating comprehensive plans to coordinate diversity efforts (see Diversity Digest, Fall, 1999). Institutions have also begun to create new structures to coordinate some or all of their diversity initiatives.

Another key area of transformation concerns shifts in how race and other aspects of identity are understood. The role of racial identity in higher education is becoming more complex. While African Americans continue to be the largest racial minority (12.7 percent), other racial/ethnic groups have grown considerably and now total together 15.8 percent of the population. As a result, the traditional black/white paradigm for understanding racial issues is insufficient and misleading on many campuses. The color lines are also being complicated by the increasing numbers of bi-racial and multi-racial students and by tensions between and within communities of color.

In addition to the increasing complexity of our understanding of race, the trend nationally is also toward recognizing the broad array of different cultural, religious, sexual, racial, national, and economic identities found on any given campus. Differentiations between identity groups are also now understood in far more complex ways today as people reject simplistic notions of membership in a single, undifferentiated category. Multiple and overlapping differences are now recognized as characterizing the lived experience of most individuals.

Finally, more and more campus leaders are seeing diversity as a valuable educational resource and a catalyst for institutional improvement. This new report reveals the variety of ways in which diversity initiatives are having significant intended and unexpected educational benefits for entire campus communities.

To order, contact Association of American Colleges and Universities, Publications Desk, 1818 R Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009; tel: 202/387-3760; e-mail: pub_desk@aacu.nw.dc.us.

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AAC&U Develops Web Site on Democratic Engagement and Civic Responsibility

AAC&U places all its diversity work in the context of its larger mission of extending the advantages of a contemporary liberal education to all students and transforming liberal education to serve the needs of a diverse democracy. Encouraging civic engagement and social responsibility are key to these efforts. AAC&U has created a Web site on various aspects of civic commitment and college student learning and located it within AAC&U's Knowledge Network, an electronic resource center for promising practices in undergraduate education.

Developed in cooperation with a group of educational associations committed to democratic engagement and civic responsibility, the civic education section features resources that address fundamental questions about higher education in a diverse democracy and assist colleges and universities in engaging these questions at all levels.

Sections of the site include: Civic Goals for Higher Education; Engaging Diversity as a Societal Commitment; Campus Missions and Models; Teaching and Learning; Scholarship and Faculty Work; Research on Higher Education and Civic Engagement; and Related Organizations. Within these categories, resources focus on higher education's role within society; connections between post-secondary and K-12 education; student capacities; faculty and staff development and leadership; and curricular, co-curricular, and institutional models and collaborations.