Gratz, et al. v. Bollinger, et al., No. 97-75321 (E.D. Mich.)
Grutter, et al. v. Bollinger, et al., No. 97-75928 (E.D. Mich.)


The impact of diversity operates through what this Report calls structural diversity, classroom diversity, and informal interactional diversity. To demonstrate its effects, I analyzed national multi-institutional CIRP data, data from the Michigan Student Study, and classroom data from Michigan's Intergroup Relations, Conflict, and Community Program.

The structural diversity of an institution refers primarily to the racial and ethnic composition of the student body. Increasing the numerical representation of various racial/ethnic and gender groups is the first essential step in the process of creating a diverse learning environment (Hurtado, Milem, Clayton-Pederson & Allen, 1998). Structural diversity alone will present discontinuity for the vast proportion of college students who come from racially segregated pre-college environments -- students of color as well as white students. Historically, dramatic changes in higher education followed the enrollment of women and racially/ethnically diverse students. The increases in diverse student enrollments that have occurred as a result of affirmative action and other factors have resulted in pressures for institutional transformation of the academic and social life at colleges across the country.

One dimension of this institutional transformation is classroom diversity, or the incorporation of knowledge about diverse groups into the curriculum that colleges and universities present to this more diverse array of students. This has largely been the result of the recruitment of more faculty who include content and research on different groups in college coursework (Chang, 1996). Other examples of curricular change are the development of ethnic studies and women’s studies programs, co-curricular academic support programs, and multicultural programming (Trevino, 1992; Munoz, 1989; Peterson et al, 1978). The positive learning and democracy outcomes empirically linked to these rich curricular offerings and multicultural occur in the context of structural diversity.

Equally important is informal interactional diversity, the opportunity to interact with students from diverse backgrounds in the broad, campus environment. College often provides the first opportunity for students to get to know others from varied racial and ethnic backgrounds. It is interaction with a student's peer group that becomes one of the most influential aspects of the college experience (Astin, 1993), and most college alumni agree that their affiliations with peers made their education memorable.

The impact of structural diversity depends greatly on classroom and informal interactional diversity. Structural diversity is essential but, by itself, usually not sufficient to produce substantial benefits; in addition to being together on the same campus, students from diverse backgrounds must also learn about each other in the courses that they take and in informal interaction outside of the classroom. For new learning to occur, institutions of higher education have to make appropriate use of structural diversity. They have to make college campuses authentic public places, where students from different backgrounds can take part in conversations and share experiences that help them develop an understanding of the perspectives of other people. Formal classroom activities and interaction with diverse peers in the informal college environment must prompt students to think in pluralistic and complex ways, and to encourage them to become committed to life-long civic action. In order to capitalize amply on such opportunities for cognitive growth, institutions of higher education must bring diverse students together, provide stimulating courses covering historical, cultural, and social bases of diversity and community, and create opportunities and expectations for students to interact across racial and other divides. Otherwise, many students will retreat from the opportunities offered by a diverse campus to find settings within their institutions that are familiar and that replicate their home environments.

This conclusion from recent research literature on diversity in higher education conforms to a richly supported conclusion from many years of social psychological research on social contact. Contact between groups is most likely to have positive effects when contact takes place under particular intergroup conditions: equal group status within the situation where the contact takes place, common goals, intergroup cooperation, support of authorities for group equality, and opportunities for group members to know each other as individuals (Allport, 1954; Amir, 1976; Cook, 1984; Pettigrew, 1991). Not surprisingly, we have now learned that the greatest positive effects of diversity in higher education occur in institutions that have created opportunities for students to have these kinds of contact. The University of Michigan is one of those institutions that has created opportunities in classes and in the informal student environment for structural diversity to affect student learning and preparation for participation in a democratic society.

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