Much Discussion, Not Much Change: Perceptions of Campus Climate Continue to Differ Along Racial Lines: Opportunities for Diversity and Inclusion

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In this chapter, Telles and Mitchell provide a brief historical overview of campus climate issues beginning with the 1980s, provide information about the 2017 Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) survey, and present racial campus climate data. The issue of negative campus climates for students of color in higher education institutions across the United States has been well documented and many resources have been dedicated to programming and initiatives to address these negative environments. As the SERU data used for this descriptive article show, however, perceptions of and experiences with a negative campus climate continue to be an issue. The authors discuss the disconnection between programming meant to change campus climate and the actual outcome of this type of programming, as well as other possibilities that may begin to truly address campus climate issues for students of color in higher education.

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... Black college students may demonstrate academic resilience or success in school despite navigating a challenging racial campus climate (Lee, 2016) or an adverse sense of belonging (Hargrove, 2014) that can make it challenging for them to excel academically. Campus climates may present risks to Black students, and contribute to academic and social disparities, inequities, or injustices if they do not support access to diverse curricula, and access for and inclusion of diverse, students, staff, and faculty (Lewis & Shah, 2019;Telles & Mitchell, 2018). Among Black college students, negative perceptions of campus climate have been associated with lower motivation , persistence (Cabrera et al., 1999;Strayhorn, 2013), achievement (Fischer, 2010;Martin et al., 2017), and graduation rates Fischer, 2010). ...
The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationships between general, academic, and racial campus climates and academic resilience among Black college students. This study also investigated the moderating role of civic engagement on the relationships between campus climates and academic resilience. Participants were 388 Black undergraduate students (76.8% women; 58.8% social, behavioral, and economic sciences majors; 87.4% enrolled full-time) attending a predominantly White university who completed an online survey. Results from moderated regression analyses indicated more positive perceptions of general and academic campus climates significantly predicted higher levels of academic resilience, but more positive perceptions of racial campus climate significantly predicted lower levels of academic resilience. Civic engagement moderated the relationship between general campus climate and academic resilience only. These findings can be used to inform coordinated efforts by university constituents to advance academic resilience among Black college students by improving general and academic campus climates, promoting more positive perceptions of general and academic campus climates, and promoting student civic engagement.
... For example, BIPOC students' experiences in higher education differ significantly from white students, particularly at predominantly white institutions. Significant bodies of research point to vastly different experiences that affect BIPOC student success, including: campus climate [22][23][24], sense of belonging [25][26][27][28], and microaggressions [29,30], resulting in racial battle fatigue [31], and requiring students to adopt a variety of strategies for survival on campus [32][33][34][35]. Yet, other research provides hopeful pathways forward: BIPOC students at historically black colleges and universities show significantly fewer challenges with respect to these issues than BIPOC students at predominantly white institutions [36], as do those students who share a common background with faculty, staff, and peers [5,33]. ...
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This qualitative study aims to explore the limitations of using a cultural assessment tool in higher education with the goal of preparing students to thrive in a highly demanding, diverse, and global community. Colleges and universities are potentially important sites of cross-cultural and cross-racial engagement and socialization, and cultural competence is arguably one of the critical skills that many higher education institutions are embracing to prepare students for our diverse, but increasingly polarized, global society. In particular, this study discusses the use of the intercultural development inventory (IDI), a cultural assessment tool that has not been validated in the U.S. for racial, ethnic, or social class differences, and which leaves out the role of structural inequalities in intercultural relationships. Findings reveal that interview data from black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) did not align with their IDI results and that the tool dismisses the complex experiences of BIPOC students. These findings jeopardize the tool’s purpose and validity. Finally, this study reveals the importance of educating students about structural competence to improve empathy and understanding of a diverse student body.
In this paper, we examine the academy as a specific case of the racialization of space, arguing that most colleges and universities in the United States are in fact historically white colleges and universities (HWCUs). To uncover this reality, we first describe the dual relationship between space and race and racism. Using this theoretical framing, we demonstrate how seemingly “race neutral” components of most American universities (i.e., the history, demography, curriculum, climate, and sets of symbols and traditions) embody, signify, and reproduce whiteness and white supremacy. After examining the racial reality of HWCUs, we offer several suggestions for making HWCUs into truly universalistic, multicultural spaces.
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The term campus climate has become commonplace within higher education. However, there is little consensus on how best to define and measure it. Our study is a qualitative content analysis of 118 campus climate studies. Guided by the conceptual understanding of campus climate put forth by Peterson and Spencer (1990), we explore the nature of campus climate research based upon studies found in a clearinghouse database of faculty campus climate studies. We found that those conducting studies are most often institutional employees. There was no standardization of design or instrumentation in these studies. Studies did not rely on a single definition of campus climate or on any set of best practices for assessing campus climate. Additionally, studies explored various aspects and constituents of the campus--both in and out of the classroom, and for the working environment for faculty and students and occasionally staff and administrators. Implications and specific recommendations for conducting campus climate research based upon extant literature and on findings from the study are included. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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The authors synthesize existing climate research and climate instruments, as well as introduce several frameworks to help educators understand how institutions and researchers have assessed diversity in the college environment. Over 90 instruments were reviewed and examined for their attention to multiple dimensions of the campus climate, diversity initiatives, and outcomes measures that capture students' values, skills, and knowledge for participation in a diverse society. Frameworks presented include a broad definition of the campus climate, a typology of campus initiatives based on an inventory of campus practice, and a typology of representative outcomes that capture cognitive, socio-cognitive, values/attitudes, and preparation for a multicultural society. Campuses that strive to become functional multicultural learning environments can now rely on a body of empirical information to guide practice and critical self-assessment to deepen their commitment to diversity. The authors recommend that campuses integrate their assessment of the climate with the evaluation of student outcomes and campus practice. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
First published in 1985, this book explores the 'lived culture' of urban black students in a community college located in a large northeastern city in the United States. The author immersed herself in the institution she was studying for a full academic year, exploring both the direct experiences of education, and the way these experiences were worked over and through the praxis of cultural discourse. She examines in detail the messages of the school, including the 'hidden curriculum' and faculty perspectives, as well as the way these messages are transformed at a cultural level. The resulting work provides a major contribution to a number of debates on education and cultural and economic reproduction, as well as a leap forward in our understanding of the role schooling plays in the re-creation of race and class antagonisms. This work will be of great interest to anyone working with minorities, particularly in the context of education.
A qualitative case study with 18 Women of Color at a predominantly White women’s college yielded counter-narratives about racial microaggressions that challenged dominant ideologies of colorblindness, meritocracy, and equal opportunity in education. Their experiences with racial microaggressions also contrast with majoritarian narratives (i.e., oppressive narratives constructed and “normalized” by individuals with power) found in the higher education literature and college marketing materials that suggest women’s colleges are welcoming and empowering spaces for all students.
While there is a need for continuing research on the ways in which the environments of predominantly white universities influence minority student achievement, there is sufficient convergence from available research to identify the actions necessary to improve achievement levels. Pre-college programs and services, programs addressing preparation problems and the academic environment, programs and services promoting student involvement in campus life, and close attention to the campus racial climate are key strategies in improving the campus environment for minority degree achievement. Abstract
This article reports findings from a constructionist grounded theory study with 51 first-year college students. We explored student definitions and development of a sense of belonging during their first year of college. Belonging for all participants was shaped by 3 themes: environmental perceptions, involvement, and relationships. Yet, there were vast differences in the ways students from privileged and minoritized social identity groups defined belonging and made meaning of the 3 emergent themes. A model of belonging for privileged and minoritized college students is presented.
Racial identity salience is an important component of identity development that is associated with a number of educational outcomes. Using the Diverse Learning Environments Survey, this study identifies precollege and college experiences that contribute to a heightened salience of racial identity, and its relationship to perceptions of campus climate.
An overview of racial climate issues at four-year institutions indicates that one in four students perceived considerable racial conflict on campuses in 1989. Black, Chicano, and white students' perceptions reveal common and distinct views in the types of environments that are associated with racial tension. Developing efforts that create an environment of support for all students is an emerging principle for improving the campus racial climate.
To clarify the conceptual underpinnings of Tinto's theoretical model of students' departure, the study presented here tested a conceptual model of the antecedents of sense of belonging to examine the extent to which Latino students' background characteristics and college experiences in the first and second years contribute to their sense of belonging in the third year. The study found that discussions of course content with other students outside class and membership in religious and social-community organizations are strongly associated with students' sense of belonging. First-year experiences have positive effects, while perceptions of a hostile racial climate have direct negative effects on students' sense of belonging in the third year. The results suggest that greater attention needs to be paid to minority students' subjective sense of integration in campus life, temporal sequencing of college experiences, and new avenues for understanding students' adjustment to college.
This article presents qualitative results from a campus climate study at one predominately white university. Data analysis uncovered “what lies beneath” a seemingly positive campus climate. Gender differences in survey responses suggest that men and women experienced the climate in vastly different ways. Additionally, lack of deep diversity dialogue, hostility toward diversity efforts, symbolic racism, resentment of liberal bias, and larger issues of institutional sexism emerged as prominent and interrelated themes.
This chapter addresses the importance of assessing the campus climate for diversity and the methodological issues associated with this assessment effort.
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