New Ranks for Elite Universities to Recognize the Underracks of Diversity
As colleges and universities expand their reach through global exchange programs and a growing trend towards diversity and inclusion, the need for expert support and staffing on elite college campuses has become a major issue. From emergency services to support personnel for students with disabilities, and officers to provide increased security, how much can any school rely on a network of faculty and staff working to offer the best of educational facilities?
Yet there is a persistent bias towards privilege that is indicative of elite universities, according to a study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science by Shumeet Banerjee and Jesse Mooney, University of Chicago and University of Virginia researchers respectively. For instance, whites with a command of English were more likely to be recruited as dorm staff than their black peers, and more likely to volunteer as school and library attendants. The researchers noted that hiring based on privilege is not new but has gone mainly unnoticed until recent decades.
Yet it was by no means confined to these findings. The three study results paint a picture of educational institutions averse to taking any measure to lessen the bias against disadvantaged students. The results showed that in contrast to accessibility and diversity efforts of elite institutions, the majority of elite institutions still have fairly fixed “with or without” racial segregation. In this regard, the bias against the disenfranchised has existed for many years. In fact, most of the categories were noted to be “slightly more severe” than almost every other minority group.
From this perspective, Banerjee and Mooney maintain that as colleges and universities transform, the racial underpinnings of inequality will continue to persist.
Consequently, with regard to certain minority groups, such as blacks and Latinos, minority students are no longer the focus of segregated college campuses, but they are the main target. What’s more, the recruitment and recruitment drives are less strict, and many groups are not acknowledged as experiencing discrimination at all. The alternative, reflected in more elite institutions, has been to create mechanisms through which minority groups can integrate into the campus community on an equal basis.
These institutions tend to do so through multi-disciplinary activities with a focus on lifelong and lifelong improvement. They are clearly defined as institutions of “equity and inclusion” that focus on how best to impact disadvantaged student populations to help them succeed.
If institutions committed to helping minority groups become the focus of their educational efforts and consequently, the significant efforts they are making in this area, would be opened up to the prospective students, job prospects would dramatically improve.
Nevertheless, the study has received mixed reactions.
“Often the term privilege can be used to support harassment of minorities,” observed Ronald Simon, Deputy Director of Institutional Research and Administration for the American Council on Education (ACE), citing the use of the term as a form of “identity politics”.
“There’s nothing good about it,” argued the second co-author, Mooney. “If you label it and label it and label it, then it doesn’t matter,” he added.
Yet for some, the results confirm that minority students are not being given the full attention they require.
“These studies help to affirm the failure of our college admissions policies that ignore socioeconomic discrimination and still place undue privilege in the hands of the affluent,” say Joseph Winston, Director of Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania.
“The ‘post-racial’ story that is being sold to the public today was carried out not only on the backs of the few, but on the backs of the many,” adds J. Jose De Jesus, Fellow at the National Latino and Puerto Rican Heritage Institute.
As schools try to grow and scale, diversity and inequality are two conflicting issues that will likely continue to be present. Educational environments that are supposed to be accessible, inclusive, and positive will continue to be skewed towards the marginalized. Will institutionalized bias be truly eradicated when elite colleges expand? Only time will tell.