Predominantly white universities aren’t doing enough to make students of color feel like they belong, the Education Trust said in a recent report. The research and advocacy organization, which is focused on closing educational equity gaps, based its report on interviews with 32 Black, Latino and Asian American students at institutions in 15 states.
The respondents reported that students and faculty members of color were underrepresented on campuses, that minority students lacked comprehensive supports, including campus mental health counselors of color, and that they often didn’t know the campus policies and procedures for reporting discrimination incidents.
“I usually am the only Black person, or there’s one more if I’m lucky, in the class,” Alina, a Black student identified only by her first name, told researchers. “And I think that’s the case with faculty as well. It’s just overwhelmingly a white population at this university.”
One Black student described campus police shutting down parties by Black students earlier than those thrown by white students. Another said when she made comments about Black identity in class, they were largely ignored by her professors. Some students described racist incidents and microaggressions, including peers showing up to a student gathering on Halloween dressed as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, alarming undocumented students.
Students offered recommendations to universities on how to improve their campus climates, such as having regular meetings between minority student groups and governing boards, increasing the percentage of faculty members of color, conducting frequent campus climate assessments, and ensuring that campuses have well-resourced cultural centers.
“University leadership must act to address poor campus racial culture, as research consistently shows that students of color’s experiences on college campuses significantly affect their sense of belonging, perseverance and graduation rates,” Jessie Hernandez-Reyes, an author of the report and senior policy analyst at EdTrust, said in a press release.