Cultural Diversity On College Campuses 

Abstract

On a college campus, “diversity” refers to the variation of people and experiences to which students will be exposed to. Although you may think of diversity mainly in the standing of race or ethnicity, there are actually several student characteristics which can contribute to a diverse campus, including religion, cultural background, geographic location, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, and ability. Diversity on college campuses has come along way since the year 1600. At one point in history, it was hard for people to obtain a college degree past your general high school diploma due to segregation. We now have thousands who are out to seek a degree of higher education not only for themselves but for the wellbeing of their families. As today’s economy rises, in order to survive you must have some type of college background to be able to afford the things you need to survive. In our current time period, we have more we have more cultural groups attending college now that ever.

Today, most institutions across the United States apply every effort to increase the cultural and ethnic variety of their student bodies. Women, African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, Latinas, Asian Americans, and other cultural groups have to change levels of access because some procedures have been created to include them. ‘Yet, without the fitting amount of resources, they continue to struggle in these often unwelcoming and in different environments.” (Brown) Because of the changes when it comes to cultural diversity on college campuses, students who come into universities now feel welcome which increases the graduation rates, as well as, the increase of cultural change on campuses worldwide.

We live in a world that celebrates unlimited cultures and cultural independence. Now more than ever, university campuses are better framing students for the challenges and opportunities that wait for them in our general society. Learning to live, study, and work in a mixed community these days is an important part of becoming a citizen. College-bound students’ experiences with diversity and multicultural issues range considerably. In some cases, heading off to college might be the first-time students may have the chance for real interaction with individuals from varied groups or backgrounds. Diversity itself has a wide-ranging definition and can patent in many ways across campus communities.

Diversity is important to the academic community. Different insights, opinions, and backgrounds enhance the academic and social experience and help students gain a broader perspective of themselves and the world. Most college teaching space is a combination of ethnicities, beliefs, lifestyles, and communication with an assorted group of people both students and faculty will open students’ eyes to diverse points of view. We all increase from the visions and thoughts shared in an assorted environment. Together, students acquire to find their voices, reflect on issues that are current today, and bring a enthusiasm into the lecture and classroom settings.

During the past 50 years, the U.S. has seen racial and ethnic disparities in higher education enrollment and attainment, as well as gaps in earnings, employment, and other related outcomes for communities of color. While the share of the population with a high school diploma has risen over time for Hispanic, black, white, and Asian adult U.S. residents, the gap in bachelor’s degree attainment has widened for both black and Hispanic adults compared to white adults. Specifically, the gap in bachelor’s degree attainment has doubled, from 9 to 20 percent for Hispanic residents since 1974 and from 6 to 13 percent for black residents since 1964. This has significant effects for students’ lives; among all races and ethnicities, there are significant gaps in post-college earnings and employment between those with only a high school diploma and those with a bachelor’s degree.

Gaps in college opportunity have contributed to diminished social mobility (e.g., the ability to jump to higher income levels across generations) within the United States, and gaps in college opportunity are in turn influenced by disparities in students’ experiences before graduating from high school. This is particularly true for people of color, who share many of the same childhood and educational experiences as low-income and first-generation college students. For instance, research shows that one of the factors most likely to negatively contribute to the racial 2 and ethnic gap in college completion is elementary and high school segregation. Studies have documented the impacts associated with racial and economic isolation in schools and neighborhoods, such as greater stress that interferes with learning and less familiarity with information and skills that are necessary for future success. Students of color also, on average, have less access to advanced high school coursework and counselors who are focused on preparing students for enrolling in postsecondary education.

Creating a campus where all students feel welcome and primed for success is another entirely. Colleges and universities have increased the diversity of their student bodies, but problems continue with campus climate. Ethnicity, Stereotypes, and Prejudice on Campus Many of us sincerely think that we are not prejudiced, but experts believe that every person harbors some prejudices. Stereotypes lead us to view others in limited and limiting ways. There is so more to people than the social roles they play, or the groups to which they belong. We tend to identify with others who are like us and fear people who are different from us. We tend to be ethnocentric—favoring groups we belong to and tend to think of them as superior. Some of us are also egocentric – thinking we are superior to everyone else. Students report less discrimination and bias at institutions where they perceive a stronger institutional commitment to diversity. Institutions are encouraged to develop and facilitate programming to increase the cultural competency of leadership, faculty, staff, and students. Institutions are also encouraged to perform an assessment of their campus climate related to diversity in order to identify areas for improvement. Many institutions include cultural competency training in new student orientation and require that students take coursework in diversity as freshmen.

While a college education benefits the student of all backgrounds, there are likely to be distinct economic benefits for students from traditionally underserved and underrepresented populations. In an era of increased wealth and income inequality, a college degree remains a powerful vehicle for upward economic and social mobility. Data continue to show that the 21st-century economy favors college graduates over those with only a high school diploma or GED.4, 5, 6 However, data also show that too many students of color and low-income students do not receive a higher education comparable to their white peers. Colleges and universities are the gateways to economic opportunity; they hold the key to supporting millions of students of color in accessing that mobility. Though, a school’s obligation to not discriminate is not enough. Any student should be made to feel at home on a college campus and encouraged towards their academic success journey. Staff who work in academic affairs or academic advising should not look as if to be judgmental when potential students and their families come tour and visit a college campus.

Key Findings

The U.S. population has steadily become more racially and ethnically diverse over time.

  • The percentage of Hispanic, black, white, and Asian adults who earned a high school diploma or higher has increased since the 1960s.
  • Gaps in degree achievement are more distinct at the postsecondary level. Bachelor’s degree achievement for Hispanic, black, white, and Asian adults has increased over time, yet the accomplishment gap has more than doubled among whites and blacks, as well as among whites and Hispanics.
  • Racial and ethnic differences in postsecondary degree fulfillment continue into the employed world. Salaries are strongly connected with both college completion and race and ethnicity. This is also an increased call for trained employees the only further disadvantage to adults without college degrees (King p.18)

In an added general sense, a diverse campus has the possibility to create a richer educational experience. In addition to meeting persons from all types of backgrounds, you will also be opened to new viewpoints. While diversity certainly applies to race, social/ economic background, and religion, it is more to it than that. In a larger sense, diversity also applies to the difference in opinions and ideas present on campus, including political associations, academic desires, and individual opinions. Being exposed to these changeable ideas and experiences can help you grow as a person and be more equipped for your entrance into the working world after graduation.

“Almost one in three black and one in three Hispanic students beginning their undergraduate studies who had at least one parent with a bachelor’s degree completed their own bachelor’s degree within six years, compared to only one in seven first-generation students of the same race and ethnicity” (Dept of Education.) Even at a college university, people often seek out people like them culturally. College is a great chance to meet people different than yourself. A good way to do so is to seek out student organizations or even volunteer opportunities that will help meet new people. “Studies often show that students benefit from positive relations with other students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds” (Allison.)

In recent years, a growing number of young adults have begun to openly identify as members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) community. Many of the country’s colleges and universities have taken measures to ensure that LGBTQ students feel safe and respected. According to the Consortium of Higher Education Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Professionals, more than 150 postsecondary institutions in the U.S. currently offer on-campus LGBTQ centers, and organizations like Campus Pride maintain up-to-date evaluations of different schools based on how ‘LGBTQ-friendly’ they are.

The University of TN has a pride center as well located in Melrose Hall F next to Hodges library. As a physical symbol of UT’s commitment to diversity, Pride Center provides support, resources, and a community space for UT’s LGBTQIA and ally students, faculty, and staff, as well as anyone who seeks to learn about topics related to sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or gender expression. Pride Center achieves this by sponsoring programs and events that raise awareness, increase visibility, and provide education regarding LGBTQIA issues. The mission of the pride center is to provide a safe and welcoming environment for UT’s diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, questioning, asexual and intersex communities and the allies.

Below I have listed some way you can help promote diversity on your college campus.

  • Listen

A lot of in site can be gained just from listening to the student who are apart of the minority group. Listen to their questions and concerns and follow through.

  • Participate

Participate in and groups or organizations that may be present on campus.

  • Learn

Learn as much as you can about the different groups that are apart of diversity such as; Women, Minority races, Disabled, LGBTQ, International students, low income, hearing impaired and even vision impaired. Learn what your campus has to offer for each.

  • Join

Join groups that have to do with ethnicity and higher education or diversity groups your campus may have to offer.

  • Aspire

Stay informed by seeking out information about what other colleges and universities are doing to advance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Share your institutions best practices on DEI.

All of these things can be found on your universities campuses, you just have to reach out and search your campuses website. There is so much information out there if you just look. The office of Equity and Diversity helps to investigate complaints of discrimination filed on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, pregnancy, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, physical or mental disability or covered veteran status. The mission and vision statement for the office located on UTK campus is to provide leadership in education and compliance in the development and enhancement of diversity and equity for the personal and institutional growth of the University community. The vision statement is to promote an environment for all individuals that ensure their opportunities to contribute within a global community.

In conclusion, researching this topic of cultural diversity has taught me a lot about college campuses and how important diversity is for growth. What does the future hold for us? If the existing rate of development continues, the groups that make up a minority of the existing population will make up 50% of the U.S. population by 2030 (Allison). If you live in or near an urban center, chances are that your community is already more diverse than you may think. In small communities, it may be less so. Cultural diversity is the key to growth in the world and I’m glad that I am able to be a witness to the changes that are taking place each an every day on campus. I think something we can do as the college student is to reach out and find ways to volunteer your time to help in areas of cultural diversity you will be surprised by what a little change and confidence will do for someone. Diversity does not have to be just a person race it could also be in reference to what they may identify as sexually. Overall I think raising awareness about diversity is a good thing and should be implemented on college campuses, as well as, apart of each colleges mission to make everyone feel welcome and safe on campuses.