Amazing News: Continuing Racial Inequality in Higher Education

In this land of systemic racism and widespread discrimination in major institutional areas, a recent article in Inside Higher Educations asks, once again, “Does race matter?” Michelle Asha Coooper, president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, and David A. Longanecker, president of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, ask this question, and then use somewhat tame “disparities” language to describe continuing discrimination in higher education:

# There are racial disparities in fields of study and graduate education. Fewer racial/ethnic minority students graduate in fields like science and engineering; fewer receive post-baccalaureate training and attain master’s, doctorate, and professional degrees.

# There are racial disparities in perceptions of campus climate. Racial/ethnic minority students are less likely to express satisfaction with their overall undergraduate experience. They also are less likely to feel a sense of belonging, interact with faculty/staff, and hold leadership positions in clubs/organizations.

# There are racial disparities in hiring, tenure, and compensation policies. Post graduation, racial/ethnic minorities earn less, with the same credentials, as their White counterparts. Even within the ranks of our liberal-minded institutions, Blacks and Hispanics are grossly underrepresented in our faculties. And where people of color do find positions within our institutions, it is too often in adjunct faculty positions, bereft of the pay and benefits appreciated by regular faculty, and in our service departments, perpetuating the inequalities that we so often condemn in society in general.

Good points, albeit very tame language which dances around identifying the powerful whites in positions of authority who are responsible for much of this disparate reality. And they do not deal even briefly with the realities of racist campus climates (much more than “perceptions”) or with how racial discrimination works on campuses.

The comments after their IHE post are quite revealing of how far we have to go on these matters. Each generation of (especially white) Americans has to be retaught our racist history and contemporary racist reality. The white racial frame is quite effective, for most whites, in covering up and hiding the racist reality. As one of my grad students put it yesterday, people of color and antiracist whites must spend much time in each generation in trying to get the society to “recover” for themselves and the society the concealed racist realities of our history and racist institutions.