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Multiculturalism on Campus: Theory, Models, and Practices for Understanding Diversity and Creating Inclusion, 2nd Edition
Date Reviewed: September 15, 2017
The Introduction to the second edition of Multiculturalism on Campus states that the book’s purpose is to provide “a comprehensive resource for students, faculty, and higher education administrators about multiculturalism and diverse populations on college campuses”(1). In addition to that goal, the second edition sets out, successfully, to give “greater voice to students who are not part of the dominant cultures” (1). The format includes clear and succinct case studies that assist in revealing the experiences of each group of these students on college campuses. Authors include discussion questions at the end of their essays to assist in processing the material and to move the conversation forward.
Arranged into three perspectival parts with substantive essays addressing “Awareness of Cultural Issues,” “Information on Cultural Populations,” and “Critical Consciousness of Cultural Competence,” the book itself is a model of diversity and inclusion insofar as each essay can be understood as a roadmap for those who are just beginning to engage with the topic of multiculturalism on college campuses or it can serve to enrich and affirm the understandings of those who have been working in the area of student development and multiculturalism.
The essays in the section on “Awareness of Cultural Issues” address foundational questions through the application of sociological, psychological, and student development theories. The discussions related to describing multiculturalism and understanding the effects of oppression on student development (Chapters 1 and 2) are filled with insights that can be related to the foundational concepts which have helped to shape curriculum in social justice and Catholic social teaching.
In Part Two, descriptions of the various cultural populations that enrich our college campuses accurately reflect the diverse picture that exists today. Chapters on gender – “Men and Women” (Ch. 12) and “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Students” (Ch. 13) – as well as the “Adult Student” (Ch. 14), “Students with Disabilities” and “Religious and Spiritual Diversity among College Students” (Ch. 15 and 16) are extremely helpful in presenting a dynamic picture of the reality that is the American college campus today. The information in these chapters is supported with data and cultural insights. Studies cited in each of the essays in this second section serve as significant entry points for further research while at the same time enlightening the newcomer to the diverse cultural context that shapes the lives of today’s college students. The abundance of information contained in the essays may seem overwhelming at times. However, each essay concludes with recommendations and discussion questions that provide support for the development of action plans that focus on inclusion. The questions assist students, faculty, and administrators with engaging in constructive critical discourse that leads to effective strategizing.
Part Three addresses the ways in which the development of “Critical Consciousness of Cultural Competence” can occur. In this section, we come to understand that an intersectional framework is necessary for successful progress in developing the critical consciousness needed to engage in the work of inclusion and diversity. The work of social justice education is noted as holding the key to effecting change or progress in this area (384). The concept of an intersectional framework as presented here can be of assistance to those of us who are teaching courses in Catholic social teaching or peace and justice, as it demands the same competencies as those expected from the application of Catholic Social Teaching. The mastery of content along with the recognition of intersection of the various cultural contexts that inform the lives of students is something that needs to reverberate throughout the curriculum in higher education if we are to move forward as a society. The creation of inclusive campuses is the first step in bringing about real societal change and Multiculturalism on Campus is a valuable tool in making that happen.
Transforming the Academy: Faculty Perspectives on Diversity and Pedagogy
Date Reviewed: September 15, 2017
As diversity initiatives become more prominent in higher education, this volume features the perspectives of faculty on the progress and challenges of a diverse academy. The first-hand accounts shared through these autoethnographies manage to be simultaneously thought-provoking, memory-inducing, and pedagogy inspiring.
Rather than a superficial treatment on numerical diversity when whiteness and its privileges are normative, this collection focuses on difference, but difference in this sense is not presented one-dimensionally. The editor offers, “When we focus on difference, rather than race, class, gender, disability, or sexuality only, we come to understand how each of these characteristics fits into the oppression/privilege paradigm much more clearly” (4).
The book is organized by two overarching themes. In Part One, “Challenging Classrooms,” the authors describe the multiple ways and meanings of having their credibility or classroom authority challenged or accepted. For example, as the first and only professor, your very presence may be triggering for students, resulting in recognition, awkward expression, and then resistance. Student evaluations may indicate “pleasant surprise” that a Black professor “so smart and articulate” (51), and that the student didn’t really listen at first because expectations of a Black person went unmet.
The chapters in Part Two, “Witnessing Protest,” acknowledge that college professors often teach life lessons in addition to the subject matter and that we may undergo transformations ourselves as we guide and mentor students through life situations, and as we bear witness to the experiences of students and colleagues. The contributors not only share their experiences as teachers, they also recall memories of being students themselves, including the impacts of shifting individual and collective identities. They describe resilience in the face of presumed incompetence, unwelcoming classroom environments, and unfavorable course evaluations.
Challenged by their own recognitions, authors allowed their heightened awareness and sensitivity to inform self-reflection. For example, a student’s persistent inquiry about a contributor’s background and the kinds of schools that she attended resulted in the importance of recognizing her own “class privilege.” However, with that recognition came the worry that she “unconsciously wielded” that “privilege in order to combat racial stereotypes.”
Another contributor raised the issue of the reluctance of embracing disability as diversity in the academy, offering that as “abject other,” disability is “viewed through frameworks of pathology and abnormalcy rather than those of identity and human diversity” (115). An accommodation as seemingly simple as making sure that the classroom community angled their bodies so that a student could read their lips created a richer learning environment for everyone.
Throughout the narratives, there are pedagogical recognitions that lead to suggestions and models of small adjustments making meaningful impact. Students come with their own perspectives and should be encouraged to see themselves as “co-creators” of their educational experience (58). In a demonstration of the power and subtleties of language, one contributor instituted the “ouch” rule, whereby an offended person can say “ouch” and then pause for analysis of the offense (61).
Some pedagogical insights arose from the students’ interpretation of and engagement with assignments. For example, in a photography self-portrait assignment, one student proactively cast herself in three stereotypes of Black women that she had often confronted, prompting visible discussions in effort to “redirect misperceptions” (78).
The audience that may be reached by this book is wide-ranging, from graduate students to administrators and board members. All may benefit from the profoundly vulnerable, yet honest viewpoints offered.
Remember the composition of religion departments back during the 1960s? They predominately and unapologetically consisted of white males – especially the so-called Ivies. Now imagine if one of these schools, realizing the need for different perspectives, decided that they wanted to have a feminist viewpoint taught in their department. A search ...
Transforming Understandings of Diversity in Higher Education: Demography, Democracy, and Discourse
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
The National Center for Institutional Diversity at the University of Michigan invited contributors to this volume to share work that “pushes the edge of [the] latest conceptualizations of diversity” (xiv). Scholars of education, sociology, organizational leadership, policy studies, communication and speech, and social work contribute to the book’s study of “diversity issues in higher education,” offering a range of disciplinary vantage points (xvi). Diversity, the volume argues, is a natural state, not a problem to be eliminated. The book invites readers to consider multiple diversities in order to avoid generalizations that hide the complexities of difference. An introduction and conclusion outline how higher education has approached diversity over the past century (for example, as a variable to be controlled, a goal to be achieved) and point toward avenues of continued research. The book’s subtitle points to the volume’s claim that attention to the details of demography and democracy (“the arrangement of the distribution of power”) is “central to…public and political discourse” (226).
Chapters appear in pairs, with the first in each set written by accomplished scholars who have “entered their professional careers after the twentieth-century framings of race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, nationality, and ability have lost their authority” (223). These primary chapters address: diversity at historically black colleges and universities; college access for low-income students; inclusion of LGBTQ students; pathways to college for Latin@ students; the experience of space on campuses for students of color; disability; media influences; and Black male student athletes, African American female faculty at community colleges, and the mandate rhetoric of historically black colleges and universities.
Reflections by graduate students form the accompanying chapters and develop from interviews with each author. These secondary chapters highlight each author’s “research and career trajectory” and attend to topics including social agency and the power of resistance, the value of uncertainty and the need for nuance, visibility, the value of alternate vantage points, racial battle fatigue, and safe spaces (13). Together, the paired chapters provide engaging research and unique insight into scholarly agendas and motivations.
Religion appears in a handful of unexpected places in the volume. Biblical notions of the diversity of creation as a gift provide the editors’ first example of diversity as a productive good, not a problem to be solved (1). Reference to the Black church as a positive influence on educational attainment appears in an interview with one of the book’s contributors and another interview includes note of a Bible verse that summarizes the scholar’s sense that divine help supplements human effort in working toward the creation of safe spaces (119, 204). A primary chapter investigating religious diversity in higher education would have enriched the volume.
Though undergraduate classrooms and campuses are the main focus of the book, for those who teach in graduate programs (whether secular or religiously-affiliated) the volume offers insight about the prior educational landscapes that shape students who pursue advanced study. In addition, the text draws attention to the complexity of diversity alongside the need for students to understand potentially negative implications and for instructors, researchers, and institutions to recognize blind spots.
Race, Equity, and the Learning Environment The Global Relevance of Critical and Inclusive Pedagogies in Higher Education
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
The recognition that students’ identities play a significant factor in learning has begun to impact university and college classrooms over the past few decades. In particular, there is recognition that racial identities of minority students and students of color shape their experience in the educational process. What has become increasingly apparent, and therefore in need of redress, is the lack of racial equity in pedagogical frameworks and practices. Race, Equity, and the Learning Environment: The Global Relevance of Critical and Inclusive Pedagogies in Higher Education brings these matters to the fore and argues that critical and inclusive pedagogies (CIPs) can, when employed effectively, offer a way forward. Such approaches are not new, but offer the promise of creating rich learning environments by “(a) prioritizing the intellectual and social development of students, (b) fostering classroom climates that challenge each student to achieve academically at high levels, (c) recognizing and cultivating the cultural and global differences that learners bring to the educational experience, and (d) engaging the ‘whole’ student (e.g., intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally) in the teaching and learning process” (2).
The volume contains an introduction and conclusion, and in between are eleven essays reflectioning on CIPs at the intersection of race and higher education. The essays are divided into three sections covering theoretical dimensions (three essays), practical implications (four essays), and assessment (four essays). I have chosen to highlight one essay from each section that is particularly valuable for the religious studies classroom.
In part one, “Pursuing Equity Through Diversity” (Bolitzer et al.) presents a series of valuable reflections on how student diversity can be used to encourage and achieve classroom equity. Using a multidisciplinary approach, the authors highlight three perspectives on diversity: as the intersection of identities and power, as fostering individual and collective growth, and within subject-matter learning. On this basis, they see diversity as a collective resource in the classroom that advances learning.
In part two, Koshino’s article explores the racial climate and experience of a small midwestern college through interviews with students of color. The results enable her to hone in on some glaring deficiencies in the campus culture for minority students and suggest strategies for improvement in these areas. Finally, in part three Ghabra et al. critique the white, heterosexual, male norm of university classrooms through a framework informed by CIPs and intersectional sexuality. They highlight their use of performance writing to evaluate classroom interactions marked by an ethic of responsibility, love, and care. The result reveals how students and professors can work together to create inclusive spaces.
Does the volume have value for the religious studies or theology classroom? Given the personal nature of religious exploration and study, the answer is a qualified “Yes!” I suspect teachers of religion will find the essays focused on theoretical issues of more value because of their broad application. However, the essays on practice and assessment also contain material that can be adapted to the religious studies classroom. At any rate, since race and religion intersect so dramatically (especially in the U.S.), CIPs offer a way for students to think critically not only about religion generally, but to do so in a manner that also affirms and values the perspectives of their fellow students. To the degree that these essays prompt deeper reflection on how teachers can engage students in these ways, they will prove a valuable addition to the religious studies toolbox of resources.