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How undergraduate students of color experience multicultural education

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Dissertation
Author: Jinna Lee
Abstract:
One of the stated purposes of multicultural and diversity classes is to provide students of color with positive educational experiences. Little is known, however, about how students of color experience multicultural education, particularly in the undergraduate diversity classes that are increasingly prevalent on college campuses. Using constructivist grounded theory and critical race theory, this study examined multicultural education as experienced by undergraduate students of color. Specifically, this study investigated what characterized positive and negative experiences in multicultural classes and how students of color felt about multicultural education through interviews, a focus group, and an online survey with 17 undergraduate students of color. Many themes emerged, including the importance placed by students of color on discussions about racial inequality and the role of the professor in creating a safe environment in which students felt their personal experiences and knowledge were valued. Students of color discussed both the harmful consequences of negative experiences of multicultural education and the potential for positive multicultural education experiences to uplift and transform. Students, despite criticisms of the ways in which multicultural education is currently implemented, voiced overwhelming support for the inclusion of multicultural and diversity classes in the curriculum. Included in the discussion are limitations of the study and implications for future research, practice, policy, and social justice.

CONTENTS ABSTRACT.......................................................................................................................iii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS................................................................................................vii Chapter I.INTRODUCTION AND LITERATURE REVIEW..................................................1 The College Experience for Students of Color........................................................2 Students of Color and the College Classroom.......................................................10 Multicultural Education in College........................................................................13 Effects of Multicultural Education.........................................................................21 Purpose of the Study and Research Questions.......................................................32 II.METHOD................................................................................................................35 ParadigmUnderpinning the Research...................................................................36 Research Design.....................................................................................................40 Participants.............................................................................................................46 Sources of Data......................................................................................................53 Data Analysis and Writing.....................................................................................58 Trustworthiness......................................................................................................61 Particular Ethical Considerations...........................................................................62 III.RESULTS..............................................................................................................67 Speaking the Unspoken..........................................................................................68 The Shortest Month of the Year:Experiencing Non-Multicultural Classes..........71 I Wanted Something Good:Desiring Multicultural Classes..................................73 Experiencing Multicultural Education...................................................................75 More of the Same:Negative Multicultural Experiences........................................76 It’s Just Survival:Managing Multicultural Education...........................................79 Something Finally Makes Sense:Positive Multicultural Experiences..................92 What It’s All About:Learning Multicultural Education......................................106 Just Another Class:Experiencing Neutral Multicultural Education....................130 How Other Students Affect Multicultural Education..........................................132 Wanting More:Criticisms and Suggestions........................................................146 A Good First Step:Supporting Multicultural Education.....................................150

vi How Students of Color Experience Multicultural Education: A Theoretical Model............................................................................................152 Conclusion...........................................................................................................157 IV.DISCUSSION......................................................................................................158 The Experience of Multicultural Education.........................................................159 Positive and Negative Experiences......................................................................162 The Impact of Multicultural Education................................................................169 Feedback on Multicultural Education..................................................................171 Limitations and Implications for Future Research...............................................177 Implications for Practice......................................................................................179 Implications for Policy.........................................................................................180 Implications for Social Justice.............................................................................181 Conclusion...........................................................................................................182 Appendix A.RECRUITMENT MATERIALS................................................................................183 B.INTERVIEWMATERIALS.......................................................................................187 C.FEEDBACK MATERIALS........................................................................................196 D.RESEARCH ACTIVITY RECORDS........................................................................202 REFERENCES................................................................................................................212

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank all the students who participated in this study.Their enthusiasmand insights were inspiring.I hope I have done justice to their voices. Thanks also to my husband Nathan Thomas.Perhaps the only thing harder to find than a good man is a good editor.He is both. Finally,thank you to my advisor,Sue Morrow,for creating the safe space I needed to embark upon and complete this project.

CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION AND LITERATURE REVIEW The United States is changing:Barack Obama is the first African American 1 president and Sonia Sotomayor the first Latina justice on the Supreme Court.One experience that Obama and Sotomayor share is that both attended historically and predominantly White colleges.Both have described their years at college as pivotal times in their lives,and their undeniable successes at these institutions and beyond are a testament to the power of opening the doors of higher education to students of color.At the same time,both Obama and Sotomayor have spoken of their struggles at colleges that were overwhelmingly White. 2 In the decades since Obama and Sotomayor attended college,educators have realized that students of color at predominantly White institutions (PWIs) face unique challenges,and conversely that colleges face unique challenges in serving this population.The rise in multicultural education has been one of the responses to these challenges. 1 Throughout this paper,I have chosen to employ descriptors of race/ethnicity preferred by the persons described. 2 I capitalize both Black and White in this paper.As Crenshaw (1998) noted, capitalization reflects a belief that the people described comprise “a specific cultural group and,as such,require denotation as a proper noun” (p.1132).I chose not to capitalize"people/students of color"because of my uncertainty about the utility of characterizing people of color as specific cultural group.

2 Though multicultural education has achieved a degree of acceptance in U.S. colleges and universities,there is still much that is unknown about it.In this chapter,I will present an overview of the status of undergraduate students of color,touching upon how they experience college and the college classroom.I will introduce the theoretical foundations of multicultural education and examine the evidence on how colleges are implementing multicultural educational ideals.Finally,I will review the research on the effects of multicultural education on students,in order to argue that more work needs to be done to understand how undergraduate students of color experience multicultural education at PWIs. The College Experience for Students of Color Since the mid-twentieth century,the number of students of color in higher education has increased,with the most significant leap occurring in the 1970s (Anderson, 2002).As of 2008,students of color comprised 29%of the college population,and the rate of growth of the enrollment of students of color over the last decade outpaced that of White students (Ryu,2008).Though this rate of growth has slowed in recent decades,it is estimated that by the middle of this century around half of college age adults in the United States will be people of color (Anderson,2002).As the demographic of the country shifts,so does the demographic of PWIs.The issues surrounding the education of students of color will only increase in importance as this shift occurs. In addition,there is a critical need to examine the education of students of color at PWIs because they tend to underperformcompared to their White peers on measures such as retention,achievement,and engagement with the college campus (Zirkel,2008).

3 For example,the percentage of first-time freshmen who were either still in college or had completed degrees 3 years after their enrollment is 73%for African American students versus 83%for White students (Ryu,2008).In addition,White students earn more degrees per students enrolled (14 degrees per 100 students) than students of color (Asian Americans:13 per 100,African Americans:11 per 100).Though difficult to estimate due to lack of research and poor record-keeping,Native American students are estimated to have the lowest retention rates of all (Guillory &Wolverton,2008).Though part of this underperformance can be accounted for by differences in the availability of resources and in preparation before college,these factors alone do not fully explain why many students of color do not succeed to the same extent as their White peers (Fischer,2007;Hurtado, 2002).African Americans at predominantly Black institutions,for example,graduate at higher rates than African American students nationwide (Anonymous,2010).There seems to be something about PWIs that is leading many students of color to performat lower levels and to drop out at higher rates than White students.This recognition lends urgency to the need to implement and successfully carry out education that deals with diversity on campuses. The Unwelcoming Campus Unfortunately,many studies paint a grimpicture of college life in PWIs as experienced by students of color.A qualitative study of undergraduates at feeder schools for the University of Michigan Law School reveals that many students of color are quickly disillusioned by the difference between how universities present themselves and the reality these students face upon arrival (Allen &Solorzano,2001).A number of

4 students in this study noted that their colleges presented themselves as multiculturally oriented in their literature,as well as on campus tours.Students noted that this multiculturalismseems little more than an institutional facade due to lack of support for students of color after being recruited.This study is supported by evidence that the discrepancy between the projection of a multicultural campus and the actual actions of the college creates a sense of disappointment and a lack of trust on the part of students of color (Lee,Jeanett,&Darnell,2002;Harper &Hurtado,2007;Watson,2002).This discrepancy may result fromdiversity policies that are enacted with good intentions but without a clear sense of how to implement an overarching vision of diversity (Chang, Chang,&Ledesma,2005;Helm,Sedlacek,&Prieto,1998). What students of color face,instead of the promised multicultural experience,is a campus climate that can feel cold and hostile (Ancis,Sedlacek,&Morh,2000;Powell, 1998).As Smith (1997) described,“The literature on campus climate and its negative effects on minority student populations centers on nearly universal reports of feelings of alienation,hostility,and difficulties fitting in to prevailing institutional cultures” (p.23). Isolation,alienation,and stereotyping appear to be prevalent for students of color in PWIs (Fries-Britt,2002;Gurin,Hurtado,&Gurin,2004;Harper &Hurtado,2007;Lee, Jeanett,& Darnell,2002).Qualitative interviews with students of color reveal,again, isolation,distrust,and feelings of inadequacy as they adjust to college,with many of themnoting that they believe they must deal with challenges that White students do not have to face at PWIs (Watson,2002).A review of the literature revealed that students of color indeed face additional obstacles at PWIs,such as lacking faculty mentors and facing culturally homogenous pedagogy (Quaye,2009).

5 Racial Climate on Campus The campus climate for students of color is hostile in part due to racial tensions and divisions.A survey of overall campus beliefs found that deep racial tensions and division exist on campuses nationwide (Altbach,Lomotey,&Rivers,2002).In fact, college students cited diversity issues as the main cause of conflict on their campuses on three out of the five campuses surveyed (Levine &Cureton,1998b).Many studies have shown that,in accordance with people of color in general,students of color perceive more racismthan White peers and have a more negative view of the campus racial climate (Harper &Hurtado,2007;Pewewardy &Frey,2002;Quaye,2009).Specifically, African American students reported more racial campus conflict than White students, with most African American students reporting high levels of racial tension and conflict (Ancis,Sedlacek,&Mohr,2000;Gurin,Matlock,Wade-Golden,&Gurin,2004). Though overt racismwas described as rare,targeted racial hate incidents appeared to be on the rise in the 1990s (Altbach et al.,2002;Levine &Cureton,1998b).A study by Smith,Allen,and Danley (2007) found that African American males on campus faced an atmosphere characterized by “hypersurveillance and control” (p.573),where frequent negative encounters with campus and community police led to these students being defined as outsiders instead of as capable members of the college community.Given the level of racial tension described by students,it is perhaps not surprising that many students noted that campuses are largely self-segregated (Altbach et al.,2002;Harper & Hurtado,2007;Watson,2002). Whether overt or subtle,the negative campus climate for students of color has effects both psychological and academic.When racial tension on a college campus is

6 high,students are unlikely to believe that the institution cares about diversity,regardless of its stated commitments (Harper &Hurtado,2007).Though both Black and White students perceived racial inequalities on campus,those inequities impact Black students’ commitments to college significantly more than White students (Cabrera &Nora,1993; Helm,Sedlacek,&Prieto,1998).Black students have reported the lowest levels of satisfaction with college compared to their peers (Harper &Hurtado,2007).In addition, Smith et al.(2007) described how continual microaggressions,in addition to the more overt stresses associated with being an African American male at a PWI,can lead students to experience racial battle fatigue,the result of dealing with constant feelings of “disbelief,rage,alienation,fear,invisibility,pain,and disappointment” (p.573).Racial battle fatigue refers to the cumulative toll of living in an environment fraught with racism and racial oppression.Pierce (1995) provides another way to characterize the struggles of students of color on campus by describing racial oppression as the control of a victim’s space,time,energy and motion (STEM).In a college setting,students of color experience racismthrough their lack of control over their classroomexperiences and the amount of energy they expend dealing with racial issues on campus. These findings are particularly damaging because,for students of color,a sense of welcome and caring on campus has been shown to be one of the keys for student retention (Fischer,2007;Powell,1998;Solorzano,2005).For example,studies have found that perceptions of a poor racial climate and discrimination on campus negatively affected integration into campus life for Latina/o students (Hurtado &Carter,1997; Levin,Van Laar,&Foote,2006).Perhaps most tellingly,successfully dealing with racismis positively related to academic achievement for African American,Hispanic,

7 and Asian American students,suggesting that racismis a factor in academic underachievement as well (Fuertes & Sedlacek,1994). Despite,or maybe because of,the racial tensions on campus,a few studies have found that race is a taboo issue on college campuses.Students of color have noted that race seemed to be a forbidden topic,except in ethnic studies classes (Harper &Hurtado, 2007;Levine &Cureton,1998a).One surveyor observed that students in general were more comfortable divulging details about their sexual lives than discussing multicultural issues (Levine &Cureton,1998b).Students appeared to wish that they could have a dialogue about race but felt that they lacked the resources to do so,and students of color and White students alike noted that they felt that their college did not do enough to help facilitate cross-cultural dialogue (Bruch,Higbee,&Siaka,2007;Harper & Hurtado, 2007).Given the high levels of racial tension described by students,as well as the negative effect of that tension on students of color,the need to facilitate productive cross- cultural dialogue appears critical. Marginalization and Stereotypes Another theme that appeared across studies is the experiences of students of color of being marginalized,invisible,and stereotyped in comparison to White peers.Many students of color felt overlooked in general in PWIs (Harper &Hurtado,2007;Powell, 1998;Smith,Allen,&Danley,2007;Watson,2002).Others noted that campuses normalized Whiteness and made others feel marginal and unwelcome (Allen & Solorzano,2001;Harper &Hurtado,2007;Smith,Yosso,&Solorzano,2007).Many expressed a sense of frustration that White students appeared not to be interested in issues

8 of concern to students of color,such as racism,and instead displayed a sense of entitlement.Students of color have complained that they are often mistaken for others of the same ethnicity (Levine &Cureton,1998a) and are seen as members of a group instead of as individuals (Watson,2002).Some expressed dismay at the tendency of PWIs to group students of color into uniformcategories. Adding to the sense of marginalization,students of color often reported concerns that they are viewed as “special admissions” due to affirmative action,and thus not as capable and deserving as White students (Allen &Solorzano,2001;Chang & Witt- Sandis,1999;Harper &Hurtado,2007;Watson,2002).This tendency to view students of color as under-qualified seems pervasive despite the fact that the vast majority of students of color are admitted under the same admissions standards as White students (Allen & Solorzano,2001).Many students of color noted that they feel the need to prove themselves as competent in the face of doubt on the part of faculty,other students,and also because of internalized self-doubt (Fries-Britt,2000).The need to prove that they belong in college is one of the most common obstacles faced by students of color as a result of stereotyping and marginalization on campus. Satisfaction with College Given the racial tensions,marginalization,and negative attitudes faced by students of color at PWIs,it is not surprising that students of color tend to report lower levels of satisfaction with college.A survey by Ancis et al.(2000) showed that White students reported more satisfaction with college than either Asian or Black students.A survey by Harper and Hurtado (2007) showed that White and Asian students were the

9 most satisfied with college and Black students the least satisfied,with Native American and Latina/o students in between.Harper and Hurtado also noted that many PWIs are negatively viewed by the Black community.Interestingly,Harper and Hurtado found that White students erroneously assume that students of color are as satisfied with college as they are,perhaps reflecting a lack of communication and awareness on campus. Despite the problems that have been identified,there is good news about the experience of students of color at PWIs.Students of color reported that they learned from roommates with different racial/ethnic backgrounds and were able to make connections with diverse friends (Gurin,Nagda,& Lopez,2004;Harper &Hurtado,2007).They also noted that interpersonal relationships with other groups were positive overall.Students of color have also reported positive benefits fromassociating with peers of the same racial/ethnic background while at college (Villalpando,2003).Despite their feelings of discouragement and discomfort,students of color still believed in diversity and in multicultural education and reported that attending PWIs had improved their views on race,which suggests that they benefit from multiculturalismin ways that may not be well-defined (Allen &Solorzano,2001).As many have noted,the margin can be a place of strength,discovery,and resistance as well as of challenge and struggle (Allen & Solorzano,2001;Collins,2000;Riesman,1963). As students of color become more numerous (though still under-represented) in colleges in the U.S.,they continue to face unique pressures and challenges at PWIs that indicate that the efforts of these institutions to welcome diverse students may not be translating into a lived experience of multiculturalism.Racial tensions,divisions, marginalization,stereotyping,and other assaults contribute to racial battle fatigue and

10 lower satisfaction for students of color in college.These experiences indicate that the project of creating optimal conditions for students of color is still a work in progress for many institutions of higher education as they become increasingly diverse. Students of Color and the College Classroom Diversity on campuses can exist in a number of forms (Gurin,Dey,Hurtado,& Gurin,2002).Gurin et al.note that campuses can have structural diversity (diversity in the people,generally students,who are merely present on campus),informal interactional diversity (diversity in how frequently and well diverse people interact on campus),and classroomdiversity (diversity in how people learn and interact in the classroomsetting). Structural diversity is necessary but not sufficient for creating informal interactional and classroomdiversity.Though informal interactional diversity and classroomdiversity are both important,classroomdiversity perhaps best reflects how colleges as institutions are handling multicultural concerns.How students of color experience the college classroom is therefore a central concern in multicultural education. ClassroomPressures The general themes of alienation,isolation,and marginalization that students of color experience on the college campus are also reflected in the college classroom (Watson,2002).Within the environment of the classroom,instructors as well as other students contribute to these feelings.Some students reported blatant instances of racism by instructors and,more commonly,by students in the classroomwho express racist statements that go unchallenged (Allen &Solorzano,2001;Hurtado,2002;Jones, Castellanos,&Cole,2002).More often,however,students of color experience more

11 subtle challenges in college classrooms at PWIs.Their general feelings of invisibility are amplified by exclusion in the classroom,whether by lack of material addressing their concerns or by nonverbal microaggressions by faculty and other students (Allen & Solorzano,2001;D.Solorzano,Ceja,&Yosso,2000;Sue et al.,2007).Some report feeling isolated and excluded fromrelationships between White students and between White professors and White students (Allen &Solorzano,2001).Fears of being seen as incompetent are sometimes underscored by accusations of cheating (Allen &Solorzano, 2001) or by a general sense that the institution views students of color as substandard in terms of academic achievement (Watson,2002).This can lead high achieving students of color to feel isolation or even that they must camouflage their abilities (Fries-Britt,2002). In addition,students of color face additional pressures in the classroom,such as the expectation that they put aside their identities and assimilate into predominantly White classrooms (Quaye,2009).Classroomstereotypes lead Latina/o and Black students to feel that if they performwell,they are exceptions to the rule,and that if they do not performwell,they are confirming stereotypes (Allen &Solorzano,2001).Steele (1998; 1995) has described how the threat of being stereotyped leads to underperformance. Specifically,Steele’s experiments indicated that African American males perform significantly worse on standardized tests if their test results could seemingly contribute to negative stereotypes.Students of color reported worrying that their actions will be generalized to the groups in which they are members (Tatum,2003),likely because of a tendency of majority culture members to view ethnic and racial groups as monolithic rather than as diverse (Watson,2002).African American and Asian students were more

12 likely to report being stereotyped and unfairly treated by faculty than White students (Ancis et al.,2000;Jones,Castellanos,&Cole,2002). The pressure of dealing with stereotypes is likely exacerbated by the “only one” syndrome experienced by students who find themselves as the sole member of their racial or ethnic group in a class (Quaye,2009).The “only one” syndrome is the flip side of invisibility:Students reported feeling “always under the microscope” (p.158) or “on trial” (Watson,2002,p.70) due to standing out as a non-White person in an overwhelmingly White environment.Students reported feeling that they have to represent their ethnic or racial groups (Allen & Solorzano,2001) or that others in the class, instructors as well as White students,may pressure the student to act as a spokesperson or “native informant” (Chesler,Lewis,&Crowfoot,2005).Students often greet these pressures with a feeling of dismay (Watson,2002).Some students of color “complained about continually being asked to educate Whites about minority issues,” noting that their purpose in coming to college was not to educate White people (Watson,2002,p.108). Unfortunately,students may be trapped by a feeling that if they do not educate White students,they will be viewed as aloof or resistant (Chesler et al.,2005).These findings illustrate that students of color face challenges in the college classroombecause of factors such as racismand being of minority status. Discomfort in Discussing Race and Diversity Students of color may have many reasons to avoid discussions of racial and diversity issues.Many have noted that they tend to avoid discussing race in class due to fears that they will become too emotional,because they are unable to separate themselves

13 fromissues that White students may approach as abstractions (Quaye,2009;Watson, 2002).Tatum(2003) noted that people of color may fear speaking of their experiences due to fear of losing control,or fear of “our own anger and frustration” (p.198).A consequence of remaining silent,however,may be that students of color internalize blame and self-doubt.Students of color may be caught in a bind when faced with discussions about race in class,with the cost of speaking out and the cost of silence both high.On the other hand,students of color also noted that discussions about race can be superficial in nature (Watson,2002).This in itself can be distressing,as the caution of White students and faculty in discussing race can appear to be unwillingness or lack of caring about racial issues to students of color (Chesler et al.,2005). The classroomappears to be a place of stress and struggle for students of color in college.In addition to the invisibility,marginalization,and stereotypes they experience on campus in general,students of color in the classroomencounter heightened visibility that is based not on their individual abilities but on their membership in a group.They can feel singled out and stymied by expectations that they serve as educators in their own classes,expectations that are made even more challenging because of the difficulties of speaking of race and ethnicity in general.While PWIs have been making strides over the years in structural diversity,classroomdiversity is an area which colleges must examine and improve in order to serve students of color on campus. Multicultural Education in College Concurrent with the rise in number of students in color in higher education is the rise in multicultural education.Early battles in multiculturalismdealt primarily with

14 securing access for students of color,such as ensuring that students of color had the opportunity to take the same classes and receive presumably the same education as White students (Altbach et al.,2002;Hurtado,2005).Though issues of access remain salient, new multicultural concerns emphasize not only providing access but also providing optimal conditions for students of color.The aimof multicultural education is for students of color not only to be present in colleges and universities but also to thrive and succeed in institutions that were not originally designed with their needs in mind.More and more institutions of higher education are recognizing the need to respond to an increasingly diverse campus (Altbach et al.,2002;Chang,Chang,& Ledesma,2005; Chesler;Kitano,1997;Lewis,&Crowfoot,2005;Hurtado,2002).A survey of campuses across the country revealed that 62%either have in place a formal requirement that their students study content related to cultural diversity or are currently developing such a requirement (Schneider,2001).The American Association of Colleges and Universities has encouraged such requirements,in recognition of the growing need to respond to and recognize campus diversity. As college campuses increasingly develop and implement multicultural education, the need to understand multicultural education and its effect upon students becomes more pressing.Currently,an empirical understanding of how multicultural education takes place and of its impact upon students is in the early stages of development.A better understanding of multicultural education and its effects on students of color can lay the foundation for its continued growth and success in serving college students and,through college students,society at large.

15 Models of Multicultural Education The basis of multicultural education,as described by Banks (1995),consists of the beliefs that all students should be able to learn,that educational reformis needed to give all students the opportunity to learn,and that these goals must be reached through a continual process of reformand change.Banks’ (1994) influential model presents five dimensions of multicultural education.First,multicultural education supports content integration,or requiring that material in the curriculumbe diverse.Second,multicultural education involves examining knowledge construction,to reveal how perspective informs knowledge and the conclusions that people reach.Third,multicultural education attempts to reduce prejudice,such as by providing positive images of different groups.Fourth, multicultural education works towards equitable pedagogy by using different approaches to learning and teaching.Finally,school cultures and structures are empowered through multicultural education to include students and to create,among other things,a positive school climate. Significantly,Banks (1994) noted that most educators approach the first dimension,content integration,by recognizing contributions of diverse people (such as by adding facts to preexisting units) or by the addition of special sections that deal with diversity.He argued that both of these common approaches keep the content related to diversity marginal.Instead,Banks (1995) advocated for a transformative approach to content integration,in which subject matter is viewed froma multitude of different perspectives and approaches,so that students can see how different viewpoints, traditions,values,and ideals all informthe way people understand and act in the world.

16 Kitano (1997) built upon these ideas to describe three types of courses:exclusive, inclusive,and transformed.An exclusive course is traditional and mainstreamin its presentation of history and knowledge,and other perspectives,when they are included, are depicted in a stereotyped manner.An inclusive course presents the mainstreamand traditional viewpoints but then adds other perspectives.A transformed course actively challenges traditions,creates new conceptions and ways of thinking,and shares power among instructor and students alike.In a transformed course,the content is changed along with instructional strategies,class activities,assessments,and classroomdynamics. With their descriptions of transformative multicultural education,both Banks (1994, 1995) and Kitano argue that multicultural education must progress beyond a merely additive approach in order to be successful. Reasons for Multicultural Education One of the justifications for multicultural education has been to improve the experience of students of color in college in general and in the college classroomin particular.This is only one of the reasons,however,for the rise in multicultural education.In the landmark Supreme Court case Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978),Justice Powell presented one of the foundational arguments for diversity in education by arguing for the value of having a variety of viewpoints on a campus.Since that time,researchers such as Chang (2005),Gurin (2004),and Hurtado (2005) have argued that,although diversity of the student body (structural diversity) is important,it alone is insufficient for bringing about the variety of viewpoints and subsequent enriched dialogues thought to be essential to modern education.Multicultural education has been

17 posited as way to translate campus diversity into positive learning experiences and outcomes.To elaborate,Gurin,Nagda et al.(2004) have argued that diverse viewpoints interrupt automatic thinking and support critical thinking,which is especially important during college because it is during their college years that many students develop their identities and learn to see different intellectual and moral perspectives.Hurtado (2005) has noted the importance of encouraging students to extend their knowledge beyond what is already familiar. Though these arguments could apply equally to both students of color and White students,it seems likely that many students of color do not require exposure to difference in the same manner as White students;they are more likely to have experienced different cultures prior to college due to their minority status in American society (Banks,1991). Multicultural education,however,is also theorized to help students of color by presenting themwith representations that reflect their own experiences,leading themto be more engaged in college (Quaye,2009).Multicultural education is therefore thought to help students of color by recognizing their unique cultures while at the same time helping White students understand difference.In both of these aims,multicultural education strives to break the myth that knowledge as well as society is homogenous and monolithic. Specifically,many educators have argued that change to curricular content to include material related to different racial and ethnic groups is necessary to create positive educational experiences for students of color (Banks,1991;Kiang &Emura, 1997;Quaye,2009;Solorzano et al.,2000).The demand for curricular change heightened in the 1990s,leading to the creation of ethnic studies programs as well as to the

18 expansion of the existing curriculumto include additional material (Smith,2006).Many students of color have themselves advocated for a more inclusive curriculum,sometimes agitating by means of protest when that change did not occur,and students of color have supported diversity in the curriculumat higher rates than White students (Altbach et al., 2002;Smith,2006;Stephens,1999).Advocating for multicultural education in general, and curricular reformin particular,have been part of the battle to increase the visibility and,subsequently,the power of students of color on campus (Chesler et al.,2005; Solorzano et al.,2000). Implementation of Multicultural Education As Chesler et al.(2005) described in an overview of multicultural education on college campuses,curricular reformis the most common aspect of multicultural education that has been focused upon and implemented.Generally,Chesler et al. observed that content dealing with diversity is added to syllabi if there is extra time, without an overarching view of racial,cultural,or other diversity issues as related to the curriculum.On another level,colleges have attempted to diversify the whole curricula by taking a “menu” approach,in which students have a choice of several courses that meet some criterion for multiculturalism.Often,however,the lack of clarity in the criterion leads to inconsistency in the menu of courses.This additive approach has been the most popular in multicultural education (Brown &Ratcliff,1998).As Zirkel (2008) noted, additive content integration is the simplest method of attempting multicultural education; however,truly adequate multicultural education includes not only changing the content of

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Abstract: One of the stated purposes of multicultural and diversity classes is to provide students of color with positive educational experiences. Little is known, however, about how students of color experience multicultural education, particularly in the undergraduate diversity classes that are increasingly prevalent on college campuses. Using constructivist grounded theory and critical race theory, this study examined multicultural education as experienced by undergraduate students of color. Specifically, this study investigated what characterized positive and negative experiences in multicultural classes and how students of color felt about multicultural education through interviews, a focus group, and an online survey with 17 undergraduate students of color. Many themes emerged, including the importance placed by students of color on discussions about racial inequality and the role of the professor in creating a safe environment in which students felt their personal experiences and knowledge were valued. Students of color discussed both the harmful consequences of negative experiences of multicultural education and the potential for positive multicultural education experiences to uplift and transform. Students, despite criticisms of the ways in which multicultural education is currently implemented, voiced overwhelming support for the inclusion of multicultural and diversity classes in the curriculum. Included in the discussion are limitations of the study and implications for future research, practice, policy, and social justice.