Black Experience

Diversity More Likely Supported When Benefiting White Students: Study

The rationale for greater diversity in higher education often reflects the views of whites but not necessarily those of Blacks, according to a recent study.

The psychological study, conducted at Princeton University in New Jersey, found that while diversity is seen as providing educational benefits for predominantly white student bodies at these schools, it has also been used by the Supreme Court to defend the use of affirmative action in admissions decisions, the Journal of Higher Education for Blacks reported.

“Though there has been active debate about whether, how, and why to value diversity in institutions of higher education in this country for several decades, as far as we know our study is the first to quantify how different reasons for valuing diversity might differentially impact Black and white students,” said lead author Jordan Starck, who is pursuing his doctorate in psychology and social policy at Princeton.

In addition, with “moral rationale,” often invoking a legacy of racial inequality, argues that people from all backgrounds deserve access to a quality education, researchers found that both university admissions staff and parents of Black students expected Black students to be less happy and healthy and — ­to fare worse academically — at universities that used an instrumental approach to diversity. As a result, graduation rates for Black students were lower than universities that took such an approach.

“Diversity and inclusion efforts seem to gain traction when they serve to advance majority group interests,” said Stacey Sinclair, professor of psychology and public affairs at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs and co-author of the study.

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