About the Racial Diversity Question Set

While college campuses are more diverse than they were twenty years ago, concerns of “chilly” racial climates continue to exist and institutional leaders must remain engaged in a concerted effort to ensure that faculty, staff, administrators, and students of all races and ethnicities are comfortable on campus (Smith & Wolf-Wendel, 2006). Much of the literature about campus racial climates employs Hurtado’s (1992) framework; however, scholars have typically focused on the experiences of students (Nora & Cabrera, 1996). When assessing the campus climate, acknowledging the experiences of campus employees is equally important (Hurtado & Dey, 1997; Smith & Wolf-Wendel, 2006).

The Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research (The Belk Center) recognizes the need to address the campus racial and ethnic climate for administrators, faculty, and staff, and provides a tool that institutional leaders can use to better understand racial and ethnic diversity on their campuses. Using Hurtado’s (1992) model as a framework, Belk Center researchers created a racial diversity subscale to assist campus leaders in their efforts to improve the climate on their campuses.

Much of what is observed and experienced on college campuses is influenced by both social and institutional contexts (Hurtado, 1992). Racial conflicts, specifically overt encounters, are not isolated cases. Rather, these encounters are the result of “unresolved racial issues in college environments and in society at large” (p. 540). The Belk Center recognizes the need to better equip colleges to understand and address their particular campus racial climates within both the social and institutional contexts, and our diversity subscale provides an opportunity to effectively address the latter.

Various factors influence the racial climate of a campus including its structural make-up, psychological climate, and behavioral climate (Hurtado et al., 1998; Umbach & Kuh, 2006). It is important to note that these dimensions are not mutually exclusive (Umbach & Kuh, 2006). A high level of exposure to these dimensions has been found to positively impact one’s racial and ethnic views, while limited exposure can have the opposite effect (Hurtado et al., 1998; Hurtado et al., 1999; Milem & Hakuta, 2000).

Structural diversity refers to the racial and ethnic makeup of the campus population (Hurtado et al., 1998, 1999). Structural diversity plays a pivotal role in improving campus climate by increasing racial and ethnic diversity (Hurtado et al., 1998). A racially and ethnically diverse campus environment provides more opportunity for cross-racial interactions (Hurtado et al., 1998, 1999).

While Hurtado and associates (1998) recommend that campus leaders examine institutional policies and practices to increase the number of racial and ethnic minority students, similar steps could be taken to increase underrepresented minority employees (American Psychological Association [APA], 1996; Evans & Chun, 2007). For example, the American Association of Community Colleges (2012) reports that White, non-Hispanic employees make up nearly 80 percent of both full- and part-time community college personnel (NCES, 2004). When examining institutional hiring practices and policies, it is beneficial for campus leaders to consider applicants that may not have followed traditional career paths (APA, 1996; Evans & Chun, 2007). This allows more underrepresented minorities to be included in the hiring pool and increases the probability of a campus employing individuals who have diverse, yet valuable, backgrounds and experiences (APA, 1996). At the same time, when recruiting and hiring more racial and ethnic minority employees, it is important that these employees are not tokenized. Rather, they should be afforded opportunities to contribute to the institution in areas beyond diversity (Park & Denson, 2009).

The psychological dimension of diversity refers to one’s attitude toward other racial and ethnic groups, perception of the racial climate on campus, and views on the manner in which the institution responds to diversity (Hurtado et al., 1998). As stated by Hurtado et al., “racially and ethnically diverse administrators, students, and faculty tend to view the campus climate differently” (p. 289). Campus leaders should develop educational initiatives to identify and address concerns that create a chilly campus climate (Hurtado et al., 1998). Such initiatives should be aimed at recognizing and addressing stereotypes and preconceived beliefs people may have about racial and ethnic groups. When individuals are involved in educational diversity-related activities, they are more likely to support an institution’s diversity efforts and have a more positive attitude toward other racial and ethnic groups on campus (Hurtado et al., 1998; Park & Denson, 2009).

The behavioral dimension refers to within- and between-group interactions, as well as the quantity and nature of diversity-related activities an institution provides. These may include diversity workshops, cultural centers, and required diversity courses (Hurtado et al., 1998; Umbach & Kuh, 2006). Increased interactions with members of different racial and ethnic groups can lead to increased exposure to diverse experiences and opinions (Umbach & Kuh, 2006). Such interactions enhance active thinking processes (Gurin, 1999) and create a climate that supports constructive challenges and thoughtful responses (Umbach & Kuh). Campuses that lack structural diversity could use diversity-related activities to provide opportunities for the campus community to be engaged and learn more about racial and diverse groups (Kuh et al., 2005). When an institution makes a commitment to racial and ethnic diversity by sponsoring structured activities, it sends a positive message to all members of the campus community that cross-racial interactions are valued (Hurtado, 1992; Hurtado et al., 1998).

Note: Beginning fall 2021, the Racial Diversity Subscale will utilize an agreement response scale rather than a satisfaction response scale. Though this change does impact the ability to provide a direct comparison to previous data, responses from your previous administration are likely similar to your current administration’s data (i.e. high satisfaction correlates to high agreement). Please note this change as you are making comparisons of Racial Diversity Subscale data over time.


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Hurtado, S., & Dey, E. L. (1997). Achieving the goals of multiculturalism and diversity. In M. Peterson, D. Dill, L. Mets, & Associates (Eds.), Planning and management for a changing environment (pp. 405-431). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Hurtado, S., Milem, J. F., Clayton-Pedersen, A., & Allen, W. R. (1998). Enhancing campus climates for racial/ethnic diversity: Educational policy and practice. Review of Higher Education, 21(3), 279-302.

Milem, J. F., & Hakuta, K. (2000). The benefits of racial and ethnic diversity in higher education. In D. Wilds (Ed.), Minorities in higher education: Seventeenth annual status report (pp. 39-67). Washington, DC: American.

Kuh, G. D., Kinzie, J., Schuh, J. H., Whitt, E. J., & Associates. (2005). Student success in college: Creating conditions that matter. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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Nora, A., & Cabrera, A. F. (1996). The role of perceptions of prejudice and discrimination on the adjustment of minority students to college. Journal of Higher Education, 67(2), 119-148.

Park, J. J., & Denson, N. (2009). Attitudes and advocacy: Understanding faculty views on racial/ethnic diversity. Journal of Higher Education, 80(4), 415-438.

Smith, D., & Wolf-Wendel, L. (2005). The challenge of diversity: Involvement or alienation in the academy? Jossey-Bass.

Umbach, P. D., & Kuh, G. D. (2006). Student experiences with diversity at liberal arts colleges: Another claim for distinctiveness. Journal of Higher Education, 77(1), 169-192.