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When Diversity Drops

When Diversity Drops: Race, Religion, and Affirmative Action in Higher Education

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 214
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  • Book Info
    When Diversity Drops
    Book Description:

    Julie J. Park examines how losing racial diversity in a university affects the everyday lives of its students. She uses a student organization, the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) at "California University," as a case study to show how reductions in racial diversity impact the ability of students to sustain multiethnic communities.The story documents IVCF's evolution from a predominantly white group that rarely addressed race to the most racially diverse campus fellowship at the university. However, its ability to maintain its multiethnic membership was severely hampered by the drop in black enrollment at California University following the passage of Proposition 209, a statewide affirmative action ban.Park demonstrates how the friendships that students have-or do not have-across racial lines are not just a matter of personal preference or choice; they take place in the contexts that are inevitably shaped by the demographic conditions of the university. She contends that a strong organizational commitment to diversity, while essential, cannot sustain racially diverse student subcultures. Her work makes a critical contribution to our understanding of race and inequality in collegiate life and is a valuable resource for educators and researchers interested in the influence of racial politics on students' lives.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-6170-7
    Subjects: Education, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    It was a warm spring afternoon at what I am calling, for reasons of anonymity, California University (CU), a large public institution on the West Coast. A gaggle of students lined both sides of CU Walk, a pathway where students often gathered during lunchtime to pass out fliers and socialize. There were the usual staples—a table covered with pamphlets from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a cluster of Latino/a students wearing Greek letters, a bake sale for a community service group. The students represented a variety of races and ethnicities. With more than 60 percent of the undergraduate population being students...

  5. 1 The Cultural and Organizational Contexts of Race, Religion, and Higher Education
    (pp. 13-27)

    Several scholarly examinations of campus fellowships focus on how these groups function as oppositional subcultures that shield evangelical Christian students from the ungodly influence of the secular university (see, for example, Bramadat 2000; Bryant 2004; Magolda and Ebben Gross 2009). In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, issues of race and diversity have been among the most hotly contested topics within the university, but they scarcely register in the lives of the mostly white students depicted in these narratives. In such accounts, evangelical college students inhabit a university where race is more or less a non-issue. In this book,...

  6. 2 Changing a Culture: IVCF Decides to Make Race Matter
    (pp. 28-48)

    Jake grew up in Torrance, California. The son of a Vietnamese mother and a white father, he was accustomed to being in environments that were either almost all white, all Asian, or, on rare occasions, mixed between the two groups. He started college in 1996 and quickly found a group of friends in IVCF. If he had started college just five years earlier, however, he probably would not have described IVCF as “the most diverse place” he had ever encountered. In this chapter, I consider how and why the staff team leader of IVCF made the highly intentional decision to...

  7. 3 Pursuing Common Goals: Building Congruence between Race and Faith
    (pp. 49-68)

    In the public’s mind, evangelical Christians are known more for their aggressive advocacy on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage than for their commitment to racial justice. Sandy explained how she struggled to justify IVCF’s emphasis on race to fellow Christians:

    I think [racial reconciliation is] just a harder issue for people to swallow. I don’t think that even evangelism, as hard and challenging as it is, no one’s going to argue about it being a biblical value, right? No one’s going to argue. Now they might argue whether or not they’re responsible for it because “I’m not gifted...

  8. 4 “Man, This Is Hard”: The Possibilities and Perils of Interracial Friendship
    (pp. 69-80)

    Friendships such as the ones that Darren described are atypical on college campuses, not just because of the spiritual component but also because of the interracial dynamic. On campus, interracial contact is much more likely to happen via casual socializing rather than close friendship (Espenshade and Walton Radford 2009). By remodeling organizational culture and pursuing common goals of faith and racial reconciliation, IVCF nurtured an environment that encouraged friendships such as Darren’s. Nonetheless, being united in faith did not mean that IVCF was free from race-related tensions and conflicts. Moreover, the advent of Prop. 209 affected both CU and the...

  9. 5 Shifting Strategies: Going Ethnic-Specific
    (pp. 81-90)

    After the passage of Prop. 209, black and Latino/a students were an extreme minority at CU and experienced much isolation, especially in the classroom. Numerous studies describe the constant tensions that such students experience on campuses where they are a minority and how “racial battle fatigue” wears them down over time (Feagin, Vera, and Imani 1996; Smith, Allen, and Danley 2007). At CU they understandably often wanted to spend their out-of-class time in environments in which they constituted the majority, such as ethnic student organizations or social clubs, rather than in groups that reinforced their minority status. As Lisa, a...

  10. 6 When Race Goes on the Backburner: IVCF Loses Diversity
    (pp. 91-111)

    Racial reconciliation was IVCF’s lead value from 1999 to 2004, but in 2005 the chapter adapted evangelism as its core focus for the year.¹ The shift reflected the group’s desire to focus on other core values while still emphasizing racial reconciliation. When I conducted student interviews in 2005 and 2006, I heard murmurs that IVCF was not focusing on race as much as it had in previous years, although the chapter continued to hold Race Matters, sponsor several large group discussions about racial reconciliation, and arrange campus-wide outreach events for black and Latino/a students. I did not conduct sustained fieldwork...

  11. 7 When a Minority Is the Majority: Asian Americans in IVCF
    (pp. 112-128)

    Numerous works provide insight into what it is like for students of color to be a minority group at traditionally white colleges and universities (see, for example, Feagin, Vera, and Imani 1996; Fries-Britt and Turner 2001; Winkle-Wagner 2009). However, we rarely hear students of color reflect on what it is like to be part of the numerical majority in a traditionally white institution. This issue is particularly complex for Asian Americans, who have a majority/minority status at a growing number of institutions. They may make up a substantial percentage of the student body at some campuses, but they are persistently...

  12. 8 Renewing a Commitment: Realigning Values, Structures, and Practice
    (pp. 129-142)

    On the first Thursday of the new term, we piled into the auditorium for the weekly IVCF meeting. The new worship team was visibly more diverse than it had been in the past, with a mixture of black, white, and Asian American students. The worship leader led the singing: “You alone are worthy. . . . You alone are righteous. . . .” Then we sang the same song in Spanish: “Solo tu eres digno. . . . Solo tu eres justo. . . .” A group of students moved to the front of the room—a Latino male, two...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 143-152)

    In February 2010 the University of California, San Diego, received substantial national media attention, not because one of its renowned faculty members had won another Nobel Prize but because a group of students had thrown a seriously offensive ghetto-themed party. The hosts of “the Compton Cookout” invited women to dress in a manner emulating “ghetto chicks,” who, in the words of the invitation, “usually have gold teeth, start fights and drama, and wear cheap clothes.” In so-called honor of Black History Month, the menu for the night was “40’s, Kegs of Natty, dat Purple Drank—which consists of sugar, water,...

    (pp. 153-164)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 165-178)
    (pp. 179-192)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 193-198)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 199-200)