Black Ohio College Students Face Discrimination on Campus: Report

More than half of Black Ohio college students surveyed said they were discriminated against during college because of their race.
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Bennett Leckrone is a news writer for BestColleges. Before joining BestColleges, Leckrone reported on state politics with the nonprofit news outlet Maryland Matters as a Report for America fellow. He previously interned for The Chronicle of Higher Ed...
Published on September 5, 2023
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  • Black college students in Ohio reported facing discrimination on campus in a new report from the Ohio Student Association.
  • Just 42% of respondents said they believed their institution’s administration valued Black students.
  • Students at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) reported less discrimination based on both race and sexuality.
  • The report recommends improving access to higher education, reforming campus police, and stopping anti-diversity legislation to support Black college students.

Black college students in Ohio face discrimination and don’t feel valued by their universities, a new survey found.

More than half of students surveyed by the Ohio Student Association as part of its first-ever Ohio Black Student Equity Report said they were discriminated against at some point during their college experience because of their race. Just 42% said they believed that their college administration valued Black students.

Across the country, Black college students face racist attacks and threats, thwarted on-campus diversity efforts in more than 20 states, and the end of race-conscious admission practices.

“As this report shows, we’re nowhere near being able to treat racial equity as an optional concern,” the report reads. “Structural barriers in higher education can’t simply be waved away. In fact, in the George Floyd era, in the midst of a global uptick in racialized violence, the experiences, anxieties, and needs of Black students demand greater attention than ever.”

Black Students Feel More Welcome at HBCUs

The report surveyed 361 students, including 108 attending a historically Black college or university (HBCU) and 253 attending a predominantly white institution (PWI). Students reported a stronger sense of belonging at HBCUs: 51% of respondents at PWIs reported feeling like they belonged at their schools compared to 74% at HBCUs.

“While 76% of HBCU respondents said they would recommend their school to a Black high school senior, only 59% of PWI respondents said they would do the same,” the report reads.

Almost half of respondents at PWIs — 46% — agreed that their racial identity led to added stress, and only 26% disagreed.

HBCU students also reported less discrimination because of their sexuality. While 24% of respondents at PWIs reported feeling discriminated against because of their sexuality at some point in college, that figure was 16% for respondents from HBCUs.

The findings reflect a nationwide problem. A Gallup report earlier this year in partnership with the Lumina Foundation found that 21% of Black college students reported they frequently or occasionally felt discriminated against at their postsecondary institution.

The report also asked Black students about their experiences with campus police, and 17% said they experienced a negative interaction with campus police, 32% of respondents said they didn’t feel safer with police on campus, and 21% said campus police made them feel unsafe.

Mixed Views on Anti-Diversity Legislation

On-campus diversity efforts have also come under attack in Ohio: A bill that passed the Senate earlier this year would limit diversity training requirements and prevent universities from taking public positions on “controversial” policies and beliefs. That bill also initially included a total ban on university faculty and staff striking but has since been amended to target only faculty.

The majority of students, 72%, were confident that their university wouldn’t be affected by legislation that targets diversity and critical race theory (CRT), although 74% indicated that they didn’t understand the context and purpose of an “Anti-CRT” bill, according to the report.

Also, 65% of students indicated that they weren’t sure whether that legislation could negatively impact their college experience, and almost 63% of students said they learned about or discussed race and racial identity in some capacity in more than one of their courses.

As to the recent Supreme Court decision to ban race-conscious admissions, 36% of Black students attending a PWI agreed or strongly agreed that racial identity should play a factor in admissions decisions, with another 30% undecided, according to the report.

Students largely agreed with student loan forgiveness, with 63% strongly agreeing that student loan debt should be canceled. The Supreme Court threw out President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan in June.

Ohio Can Still Course-Correct, According to the Report

The report includes four recommendations for campus leaders and policymakers to ensure that Black students feel that they belong on campus, including:

  • Developing a statewide collaborative of community and advocacy organizations, as well as colleges, to support Black college students.
  • Stepping up accountability in campus policing. The report notes that “campus statements without action are often empty gestures toward racial justice,” and that past Ohio Student Association reports found that most students felt that campus police budgets should be affected by student input.
  • Boosting higher education access. The report notes that Black college attainment rates in Ohio lag behind the nationwide average and that many students surveyed said they were concerned about being able to afford college. The report recommends higher funding for education and increasing funding to grants to help students pay for their college.
  • Stopping anti-DEI legislation. The report notes that proposed Ohio legislation would largely ban mandatory programs on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) curricula at colleges. The report reads that defunding diversity efforts “is a way to defund initiatives, programs, and staff that directly support Black students.”

Who Are the Students?

Of students surveyed:

  • 49.7% were first-generation college students
  • 55% of students surveyed were women
  • 39.5% were men
  • 4.5% were non-binary
  • 1% preferred not to state their gender

The survey included responses from students at:

  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Central State University
  • Cleveland State University
  • Kent State University
  • Ohio State University
  • University of Akron
  • University of Cincinnati
  • University of Dayton
  • University of Toledo
  • Wilberforce University
  • Wright State University