This blog was written by Dr. Adriana Ruiz Alvarado.
Even in the wake of escalating racial tensions in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the nation, many still contend that we are living in a postracial era. Continuous racial incidents on college campuses, however, demonstrate that race is still very salient for many students. The salience of a social identity (e.g. race, gender, sexual orientation) refers to the frequency with which individuals think about their group membership. Because there is variability both between and within racial groups, it is important to explicitly show how racial identity salience is related to multiple dimensions of the climate for diverse campuses.
In Thinking about race: The salience of racial identity at two- and four-year colleges and the climate for diversity, Hurtado, Ruiz Alvarado, and Guillermo-Wann employ multiple regression analysis to examine differences in the salience of racial identity across racial groups and identify precollege socialization and college experiences associated with a heightened salience of racial identity for students. The study uses data from the pilot administration of the Diverse Learning Environments (DLE) survey, collected between December 2009 and May 2010. The sample includes 4,981 students from 14 two- and four-year institutions.
Results demonstrate that although there is a great deal of variability within each racial group, it is clear that specific groups who are often targets or face severe underrepresentation on campus spend more time thinking about their race than their White peers regardless of institution type. Moreover, Asian American and Multiracial students report relatively higher levels of discrimination and bias than other groups, demonstrating the importance of disaggregating data to understand how different racial groups experience the climate. In terms of college experiences, two new CIRP factors on the DLE reveal the importance of being exposed to issues of diversity and identity in and outside the classroom. Curriculum of Inclusion and Co-Curricular Diversity Activities are both positively associated with a heightened salience of racial identity for students at two- and four-year institutions, highlighting opportunities for faculty and staff to facilitate students’ identity development.
Understanding the salience of students’ various identities is an important first step in helping them work through different conflicts that may arise on campus. The DLE is now part of CIRP’s collection of student survey instruments, and items asking about the salience of nine different social identity groups are included in the Intergroup Relations module for institutions wishing to examine salience on their own campus. Registration is currently open, and the DLE can be administered until June 27, 2015.