The Supreme Court case, Fisher v. The University of Texas at Austin, now that it’s back in the news due to the numerous briefs filed last Monday in support of the university, resurrects the long-old debate about affirmative action policies and their role in college admissions.
We think the data speaks for itself: Underrepresented students (including African-American, Latino/a and Native American students) face more discrimination on campuses with less student diversity. According to data from our Diverse Learning Environments survey, 22.7 percent of African-American students at low-diversity institutions reported an incidence of discrimination compared to 12.5 percent of these students at high-diversity institutions.
Yes, discrimination still exists, even on campuses with higher diversity. But, it happens less on campuses with more diversity, and that is one of the main takeaways from our recent research brief on the topic, titled, “The Climate for Underrepresented Groups on Campus.”
Putting the affirmative action issue aside, this case highlights the importance of campus climate as it relates to student outcomes, which include improving students’ habits of mind for life-long learning, competencies and skills for
living in a diverse society and student retention and success.
Colleges and universities that understand students’ perception of their campus climate can work towards establishing a campus climate that gives all students the tools to succeed and the support they need.
Simply put, “College is an ideal environment for students to encounter racial/ethnic differences, build awareness and appreciation of difference, and learn how to treat each other as equal citizens. This is best accomplished in racially/ethnically diverse learning environments,” according to authors of the brief, Sylvia Hurtado and Adriana Ruiz.