In this report we will be discussing how diversity can impact student’s education outcomes in both a positive and negative matter. We will be looking at several studies from various scholars who have researched the topic and published their findings. While we review these studies, we will break down what it means for a student and how it can impact them. I will also use supporting evidence from first hand experiences from staff members of universities that face and see the issues surrounding diversity in higher education. First, we will look at history of higher education and diversity. Afterword’s we will move into how diversity can positively impact education, then we will move on to how it negatively impacts it.
- History of Diversity in Education
Diversity is an issue that America has faced for hundreds of years and it affects every aspect of our life. Higher education is one of those aspects and a very important subject when it comes to diversity. For many years, prior to the massive black rights movements, discrimination was in a grey spot when it came to the law. Discrimination was illegal, but many states Jim Crow laws which allowed for separation by color, race and ethnicity. There were many loop holes in these laws and it was often used as a basis for legal discrimination of minorities. This impacted students who were considered minorities very heavily. They would be denied access to schools because it was a “white only school”. In 1954 a decision was made in the landmark court case Brown vs. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 1954. The decision is as follows; Segregation of White and Negro students based on race in accordance to state laws are against the Fourteenth Amendment. Although this law was intended for public schools, many universities followed it as well. This did however create a smaller problem that was later challenged in court. Universities were holding a specific number of seats for minority students sometimes students who were not as qualified would be admitted over better qualified students. In 1978 this was challenged in the court case Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265. This case decided that “no applicant may be rejected because of his race, in favor of another who is less qualified, as measured by standards applied without regard to race.” Although this is not a full proof way to make it fair, these cases allowed for a better and less race focused acceptance process to universities. Applicants to universities are not accepted based on race or ethnicity but on qualifications.
- Positive Impacts of Diversity in Education
There is great benefit to having diversity in education, especially in higher education. This exposes students to new world views and helps them see the other side of arguments in a more logical way. The first study we will discuss was conducted at UCLA from 1987-1991. The study involved roughly 4,300 students and faculty members from 309 predominantly white universities. The outcome of the study showed that when faculty introduced a more diverse curriculum in their classes, students did better and said they felt they learned more. Students felt that they were more accepting of people and worked better with them when they were from different backgrounds. The study indicates that “opportunities for interaction with diverse peers foster civic development … and cultural knowledge and awareness” (Hurtado 198). The study also provides evidence that students who interacted with a more diverse group of peers, faculty and curriculum “has a substantial positive effect on skills needed to function in a diverse society” (Hurtado 199). The study also looks at faculty and how a diverse faculty helps student outcomes. According to the study, when a university has a more diverse faculty, it helps students experience a more diverse curriculum because the professors of different backgrounds would require readings and discussions on racial, ethnic, gender and social issues (see table 1).
Percentage of male and female professors who had specific curriculum requirements that exposed students to diversity.
Source: Linking Diversity and Educational Purpose: How Diversity Affects the Classroom Environment and Student Development” Diversity Challenged: Evidence on the Impact of Affirmative Action. 2001, Table 1.
- Negative Impacts of Diversity in Education
Now that we have covered the positive impacts of diversity in education outcomes, let’s look at the negative impacts in can have. Even with laws helping to prevent discrimination in applications and acceptance, there is still discrimination in many forms. The two we are going to cover are called “exclusionary practices” and racial prejudice. First, we are going to look at exclusionary practices. This is when someone is excluding, from an activity or group, because of their background. It is not always done knowingly, it can happen on a sub conscience level. In Ibrahim Mohamad Karkouti research article he proposes “that higher education institutions still fail to embrace diversity and multiculturalism due to their conservative nature” (405). This means that although on paper institutions say they embrace diversity, it is sewn into their nature that they ignore diversity. It is not something the staff knowingly does, but it is something that tends to happen especially in predominantly white institutions. An example of this would be that full-time faculty at universities are generally 17% minority while the remaining are white (Ibrahim 405). This leads to a less diverse curriculum; therefore, a student is exposed to other backgrounds and cultures less. This has the opposite effect of when a student is exposed to a more diverse curriculum, the student stays in their personal majority bubble and does not branch out into meeting students considered minority. The previous example shows how exclusionary practices work and why they are harmful. We will now talk about racial prejudice in universities. This is a subject that goes far beyond education, but in education is has a huge effect. In education the biggest type of racial prejudice is stereotyping. Students tend to stereotype anyone who is not from the same background as them. When choosing partners to work with or professors to take some students base it off race and how they stereotype the persons background. What the student does not realize is they are only hurting their own development (Osa 5). This way of thinking stops the student from being exposed to different world views. As we previously discussed, students who are exposed to different world views tend to have a better outlook on the world and themselves. This shows in their education, as it is easier for the student to learn things from new perspectives when they are open minded.
We have covered 3 main topics in diversity in education. The history, the good and the bad. Overall diversity plays a large role in student outcome. Whether that outcome is positive or negative is up to the faculty and the student’s personal thoughts. When the faculty can expose a student to new ways of thinking and seeing different backgrounds and cultures, it greatly improves a student’s education and will help them far into the future. It is a very diverse world we live in and when a student is more prepared for that, they will have a higher chance of success. On the contrary, when a university fails to expose a student to different cultures and backgrounds and the student chooses to remain ignorant of them, it hurts the student’s education. The student will not be as prepared for the diverse career field they are most likely going into. Thus, they will be hindered from the start and need to learn to be accepting of another person’s background.
Hurtado, Sylvia. “Linking Diversity and Educational Purpose: How Diversity Affects the Classroom Environment and Student Development” Diversity Challenged: Evidence
on the Impact of Affirmative Action. 2001, pp 187-203. ERIC Institute of Education Services, https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED456199
Karkouti, Ibrahim Mohamad. “Professional Leadership Practices and Diversity Issues in the U.S. Higher Education System: A Research Synthesis.” Education, vol. 136, no. 4, Jan. 2016, pp. 405–412. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ1104195&site=ehost-live.
Osa, Justina O. “The Pervasiveness of Racial Prejudice in Higher Education in the U.S.: Raising Awareness and Solution.” Forum on Public Policy Online, vol. 2007, no. 3, Jan. 2007. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ1099150&site=ehost-live.
Powell, Lewis F., Jr, and Supreme Court Of The United States. U.S. Reports: University of California Regents v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265. 1977. Periodical. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/item/usrep438265/.
Warren, Earl, and Supreme Court Of The United States. U.S. Reports: Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483. 1953. Periodical. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/item/usrep347483/.