Experts: female, minority students face 'microaggressions' on campus

Education experts collaborated on a diversity study to measure how minority and female students have integrated into “predominantly white institutions.”

The authors claim these students are victims of microaggresions and that universities have a racist and sexist environment.

The authors sent a report to each of the schools involved in the study, requesting improvements be made in welcoming these students.

A recent diversity project reportedly reveals the microaggression-filled environments females and students of color consistently face on college campuses.

The Voices of Diversity project—conducted by Paula Caplan, an associate at Harvard's DuBois Institute, Henry Louis Gates Jr., an Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, and Michael Nettles, Senior Vice President for Educational Testing Service—claims to investigate the “experiences of students of color and women students on campuses of predominantly white institutions.” In their findings, the professors say these students feel anything but welcome, according to Inside Higher Ed.

“People who are [the targets of microaggression] spend a great deal of time in internal dialogue, asking themselves whether they imagined or misinterpreted what the other person said or did and, given the less blatant form of mistreatment,” the authors told Inside Higher Ed. “[The] feeling apprehension and anguish [sic] about whether, if they try to name and object to what was done to them, they will only be told that they are overly sensitive or even that they are imagining it.”

The report is based on online surveys and interview responses from more than 200 students at four higher education institutions: Missouri State University, two anonymous schools in the South and Midwest, and a private, elite school in the Northeast.

“Although the authors of recent studies and of decisions in court cases have reported that diversity is an important and beneficial part of the educational process, a disproportionate amount of the focus has been on diversity's benefits to white students,” wrote Caplan, the director of the project.

The authors noted the increase in minority enrollment in college but says it is not a coincidence that these students tend to graduate at lower rates than other students.

“On all four campuses, racist and sexist treatment often take the form of micro-aggression, causing their targets confusion, sadness, self-doubt, anxiety, and frustration and constituting drains on their energy and attention,” reads the report.

According to Inside Higher Ed, the report describes the alleged microaggressions and blatant acts of racism minority students constantly endure. One Latino student assured authors that she was mistaken for a custodian when hanging up posters in a dormitory. Several black students said campus police would often suspect they were trouble makers trying to cause problems when they were in the library studying.

“I go nuts, I do,” Gladys, a Latina senior is quoted saying the report. “It hurts so much, so much. It’s indescribable the way it makes you feel. Your whole body becomes hot and your eyes automatically become glassy, because you just feel so inferior.”

The report also claims that although women account for 57-percent on the student body at the institutions surveyed, they are trapped in a demeaning and sexist environment. Some women claimed the lack of female instructors and course material featuring women often made them feel unwelcome. They also claimed groping on campus was rampant.

“Because of the nature of students’ experiences of sexism and racism on campus, it is essential for university administrators to pay close and intense attention to the suffering that results from mistreatment and to take steps to change the chilliness of the climate for women and students of color," wrote the authors.

The authors claim an individualized report of the investigation’s finding has been sent to each university involved. One school is reportedly making changes already while the others are developing “comprehensive action plans.”

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