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Reclaiming Diversity: Advancing the Next Generation of Diversity Research Toward Racial Equity

Part of the Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research book series (HATR,volume 33)

Abstract

In this chapter, the authors connect the evolution of diversity research to the outcomes of key U.S. Supreme Court cases over the last four decades. They discuss how constraints in early understandings of diversity have allowed for the concept to be co-opted and diluted, thereby limiting diversity as a tool for addressing racial inequality and advocacy today. Employing a critical race praxis for educational research (CRP-Ed) lens, which draws from Derrick Bell’s thesis of interest convergence, the authors explain the contradictions of engaging in the debate about how race can be considered in higher education, and assert the need for a new critical reframing of diversity in order to advance research, policy, and discourse. The authors conclude the chapter by highlighting recent empirical and theoretical work that can inform a new agenda for diversity research toward advancing racial equity in postsecondary education. This chapter will be of interest to higher education scholars and practitioners who have a strategic critical orientation toward diversity research, as well as those who are interested in developing a critical consciousness.

Keywords

  • Diversity
  • Inclusion
  • Racial equity
  • College access
  • Affirmative action
  • Postsecondary admissions practices
  • Meritocracy
  • Higher education policy
  • Diversity rationale
  • Research advocacy
  • Critical race praxis for educational research
  • Institutional diversity
  • Campus climate
  • Cross-racial interaction
  • Critical mass
  • Microaggressions
  • Safe spaces
  • Interest convergence
  • Colorblindness
  • White fragility

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In this manuscript we capitalize “White” and “Black” in reference to racial groups, per current APA guidelines.

  2. 2.

    The vote in Bakke was 4-1-4. Powell agreed with one four-Justice block on some aspects of the case and with the other four-Justice block on others. Thus, his rationale constituted the controlling opinion, as it resulted in a majority vote on the various legal issues. For a detailed analysis of Powell’s rationale, see Garces (2014a).

  3. 3.

    Even when a policy is “race neutral” under this legal definition, the strict scrutiny standard may apply if the court finds that the policy was motivated by racial or ethnic factors (see, e.g., Hunter v. Underwood, 1985). Under a legal definition, a policy is race-neutral when the language of the policy does not explicitly confer a benefit to an individual (such as an offer of admission) based on that individual’s race or ethnicity.

  4. 4.

    Six additional states currently ban the consideration of race as a factor in postsecondary admissions decisions as a result of similar voter initiatives, legislative efforts, or other avenues: Florida (One Florida Initiative), Michigan (Proposal 2), Nebraska (Initiative 424), Arizona (Proposition 107), New Hampshire (House Bill 623), and Oklahoma (Oklahoma Affirmative Action Ban Amendment).

  5. 5.

    The students included 41 Black, Latina/o, Asian Pacific American, Arab American, and White individuals who were prospective or current law students at the time of the litigation (Massie, 2001). The organizations included BAMN, which spearheaded the intervention, joined by Law Students for Affirmative Action and United for Equality and Affirmative Action.

  6. 6.

    Although the Court emphasized that the practice needed to be limited in time or subject to periodic review, in what has become an oft-quoted sentence, the Court also stated that it “expects that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today” (Grutter, 2003, p. 343).

  7. 7.

    We recognize that equating students of color to numbers contributes to a dehumanizing discourse. Shifting the conversation necessitates utilizing the problematic terminology, however. Therein lies a major tension for scholars and lawyers working within the legal system to undo unjust practices, particularly in the context of a politically conservative Court (Jayakumar & Adamian, 2015b).

  8. 8.

    We use “traditionally White institution,” instead of “predominantly White institution.” The increase in student of color populations can mean that institutions with previously majority-White student populations are no longer predominantly White. However, these institutions (unless transformed) maintain a legacy of exclusionary structures and oftentimes continue to uphold exclusionary traditions and cultures. Notably, TWIs would include those newly designated as minority- or Hispanic-Serving Institutions if their origins were rooted in traditional White (male) populations and culture. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Tribal Colleges and Universties (TCUs) fall outside the TWI category because they were never segregationist institutions, but were founded with the goal of providing access to education for people who were excluded from traditional colleges.

  9. 9.

    The importance of equal status contact in determing the quality and value of intergroup contact —particularly with respect to reducing stereotypes and prejudice—was first outlined in Allport’s (1954) classic work. Today, we can think of it as interactions that take place under conditions that account for privileged and marginalized social statuses and the accompanying power dynamics.

  10. 10.

    From the 1970s to the present day, Asian Americans may be considered eligible for race-conscious programs and admissions depending on the context of the institution. For instance, the University of Wisconsin system gathers data not just on students’ racial identification, but also on their ethnic identification, allowing the institution to be aware of the unique issues affecting educational opportunity for students from Southeast Asian American populations.

  11. 11.

    Post-positivism is the implicit paradigm guiding the majority of quantitative research. Unlike its predecessor, positivism, it rejects the complete detachment and conviction that absolute truth can be found. Post-positivism generally adheres to the idea that researchers can identify cause-and-effect relationships, that truth is more objective and standardized (versus subject to interpretation), and that objectivity and detachment are ideal stances for approaching research (Creswell, 2013).

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Acknowledgements

We thank Anne-Marie Núñez for the invitation and opportunity to reflect on the needs of future diversity research. This piece greatly benefited from Anne-Marie’s and Karen Jarsky’s thoughtful comments and editing of prior drafts. Uma Jayakumar thanks the Spencer Foundation for supporting this work, particularly through the 2016–2017 Midcareer Grant. The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of the Spencer Foundation or of anyone other than the authors.

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Jayakumar, U.M., Garces, L.M., Park, J.J. (2018). Reclaiming Diversity: Advancing the Next Generation of Diversity Research Toward Racial Equity. In: Paulsen, M. (eds) Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research. Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research, vol 33. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-72490-4_2

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