In summary, these examples and the educational research on contact with diverse peer groups suggest that campuses that have successfully attracted sufficient numbers of students from different racial/ethnic groups are producing graduates with more critical thinking skills, who are at ease in addressing complex and sometimes conflict-laden problems, and who are more prepared to participate in a diverse democracy by acknowledging and respecting group differences.
It is important to note that while much of this review is focused on the educational benefits of diversity to the individual, another body of work establishes how diversity is important to organizations and work environments as a whole (Cox, 1993). That is, tolerance for diversity is a characteristic of innovative organizations: "innovation is spurred by strong opinion -- and opinions often diverge. Thus, conflict management is crucial to ensuring that differences are handled constructively" in work environments (Morgan, 1989, p. 77). Most of this work derived from the business literature echoes the same conclusions evident in the educational literature: Both organizations and individuals stand to gain a great deal when diverse individuals and diverse perspectives are present, but effective management of cultural diversity is necessary to enhance its benefits to the organization and individuals. Higher education plays a central role in ensuring that graduates are prepared to become a part of the diversity that is inevitable in a society where one out of three Americans will be a member of a racial/ethnic minority group and most of the growth in new jobs will require a college degree (Justiz,
INSTITUTIONAL COMMITMENT TO DIVERSITY
If the mission of higher education is to prepare students with the skills necessary for functioning in a complex and increasingly diverse society, then an institutional commitment to structural diversity, classroom diversity and enhancing opportunities for informal interactional diversity all become central to this educational process. Several national studies have examined student perceptions of institutional commitment to diversity (perceptions that the institution is actively recruiting diverse individuals and promoting multicultural appreciation through campus activity). One study found that institutional commitment to diversity was associated with perceptions of relatively low racial tension among African American, Chicano, and to some extent, white students (Hurtado, 1992). Perhaps more importantly, subsequent studies revealed that students reported higher college grade point averages (Chang, 1996) and increases in personal goals to promote racial understanding (Astin, 1993) on campuses where they perceived a relatively strong institutional commitment to diversity.
Several campus studies suggest that individuals on campuses have actively worked towards creating a more diverse environment because they believe diversity is central to the educational process. Over 90% of faculty, staff, and students at two different campuses agreed with the statement that diversity is good for the institution and should be actively promoted by all campus constituents (Hurtado, et al. 1998; Dey, 1996); over 90% of faculty and staff believed that diversity of the student body is central to the educational process and two-thirds of all students stated they learned a great deal from listening to students from different racial/ethnic groups in class (Hurtado, et al., 1998); and over three quarters of white students and 85% of students of color stated that the numbers of underrepresented minorities should be increased at a selective, California campus (Loo & Rollison, 1986). One student eloquently stated in a study: "It's very difficult to teach people who come from unaccepting cultures to be accepting [of diversity] if they have no place to practice their acceptance," while an Asian American student pondered: "I mean, they can try to teach us diversity, but if there's not a diverse environment, how are you going to learn?" (Hurtado, et al., 1998). One multi-campus qualitative study of colleges that encourage student engagement showed that such "involving colleges" foster high expectations for student performance, minimize status distinctions among students, and demonstrate an unwavering commitment to multiculturalism (Kuh, et al., 1991). Many similar studies conducted on other campuses across the country confirm the educational value of diversity as part of the their mission.
The University of Michigan demonstrates its institutional commitment to diversity through classroom activity as well as providing informal opportunities for peer contact, and each educational activity depends on having a diverse student body. The University is a public research institution that places diversity as central to its mission and actively works to create the conditions for maximizing the learning benefits of a diverse study through several initiatives:
1. Its nationally recognized program on Intergroup Relations, Conflict, and Community, in which students are given opportunities to have deep discussions that allow them to compare experiences and discover differences and similarity of values in freshmen seminars, courses in academic departments, and activities in residence halls. The program depends on bringing together students from diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds and was recently chosen as a national exemplar by President Clinton's Race Relations Panel.
2. Public celebrations of diversity, including Hispanic Heritage Month, Native American POW WOW, and one of the largest celebrations of Martin Luther King Day in the country that attracts nationally known scholars and public officials to campus. Such events depend on the work of sufficient numbers of Latino, Native American, and African American students to remain successful because they are organized primarily by these students with the assistance of the administration.
3. Numerous ongoing curricular initiatives combine course content with contact with diverse peers, including the development of a multicultural course requirement for all students in the College of Literature, Science, and Arts; the development of new living-learning communities that focus on diversity and democracy; and the integration of content on diversity issues in many freshman seminars.
4. Typical teaching issues are addressed now through faculty development activities that incorporate considerations of a diverse student body and multicultural training to enhance classroom teaching techniques. These ongoing efforts are integrated into work of the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching on campus.
The research evidence on learning and democracy outcomes in this report supports many of these initiatives to create diverse classrooms and increase opportunities for positive, informal interactions with diverse peers. These initiatives are part of Michigan's educational process and would be seriously diminished if the student body were less diverse. These educational initiatives took years to bring to fruition and were successfully developed because Michigan began to educate a more diverse student body.
1 Deppe (1989) analyzed the 1986 longitudinal study of 1982 freshmen, collected by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP), UCLA; Chang (1996) analyzed a later CIRP cohort, the 1989 longitudinal study of 1985 freshmen (also used in this Report). All of these studies employed controls for student background, employing a conservative test of effects by statistically removing the possibility that students entered with strengths on these outcomes.
2 The study utilizes the federally-sponsored Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study of students who entered college in 1990 and were followed up in 1992 and 1994, with additional racial/ethnic enrollment data from the Integrated Postsecondary Educational Data System, administered by the National Center for Education Statistics.
3 These series of studies focused on Hispanics who were among the highest achievers based on high school grades and performance on the PSAT, a sample in the National Study of Hispanic College Students. They were followed up for several years to determine how Hispanic students experienced college.
4 Referring to Black/White relations, Blalock (1967) theorizes that as the number of minority of individuals increases, the greater the likelihood that there will be conflict and competition with members of the majority. He does not theorize, however, how conflict can be minimized under conditions where increased diversity is inevitable. Educational institutions have the potential to minimize conflict.
5 The National Study of Student Learning was sponsored by the Office of Educational Research Improvement, US Dept. of Education through a research grant to the National Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment. The sample population includes 23 participating institutions designed to approximate the Fall 1992 enrollment of college freshmen represented by ethnicity and gender.
6 The College Student Survey is collected by the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute as part of the Cooperative Institutional Research Program. The sample analyzed for this study involved 8,819 students attending 111 four-year, predominantly white institutions across the country.
7 All three studies utilized the 1989 CIRP followup of 1985 freshmen, the data described and utilized in empirical analyses of this report.
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