Students Are Eager to Get Involved in College Diversity Efforts

Students Are Eager to Get Involved in College Diversity Efforts
portrait of Jessica Bryant
By Jessica Bryant

Reviewed by Cobretti D. Williams, Ph.D.

Published on September 2, 2021

Share on Social


Students are letting their voices be heard in big ways on their college campuses. In a new BestColleges survey of 750 currently enrolled undergraduate students, just 39% were asked to provide input before decisions were made concerning diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts by their school. Out of those given the opportunity, 76% did so.

Much like with social justice efforts, students are eager to be included in campus conversations surrounding DEI and have ideas about ways their institutions can better support underrepresented and historically excluded student populations.

Despite students' desire to be involved in changes on campus, 62% report that they were either not given the opportunity (43%) or were unsure if there had been an opportunity (19%) to provide input prior to their institution announcing DEI commitments.

Nearly half of surveyed respondents (45%) report that they have been able to provide feedback to their institutions on DEI efforts after they were announced. Out of those who have had the opportunity to provide feedback, 72% already have or plan to do so in the near future.

Though students are enthusiastic about getting involved in campus DEI efforts, many are uncertain about how to get involved and what their institutions are doing to address these issues.

Almost a quarter of students (22%) were unsure if their school allows them to provide ongoing feedback on DEI efforts. And just over a third (35%) neither agree nor disagree that their school is doing enough in terms of these efforts.

Schools Have Promised More Resources to Address DEI Issues

Amid increased calls for colleges and universities to put more effort into addressing DEI concerns, students report that their schools are making commitments to address campus DEI issues.

Though students report celebrations (43%) and expanded resources (39%) as the most common commitments institutions have made toward DEI efforts, respondents overwhelmingly believe that the recruitment and retention of diverse staff is what's most likely to actually influence change on campus (73%).

About a quarter of students (26%) believe their schools still need to develop a strategic plan in regards to DEI on campus. But more than a third (38%) report that their schools have made progress on carrying out celebrations that were promised.

Students Want Increased Access to On-Campus Resources

Just under half of students (49%) believe that the best way they can support each other and influence change on campus is through expanding access to resources for underrepresented and historically excluded student groups. Students additionally report that facilitating and attending celebrations that promote DEI (42%) and developing strategic plans with governing bodies on campus (39%) will also help.

Asian students were most likely to report that the recruitment and retention of diverse members within student organizations is a way students can support each other and influence change (49%). They were also most likely to select developing a strategic plan with governing bodies on campus as a way to influence change (47%).

Students Credit Lack of Awareness As Biggest Barrier to Change on Campus

Students report that a lack of awareness and an inability to access proper institutional resources is halting them from participating in on-campus DEI efforts.

Nearly half of surveyed students (48%) believe that their school should require all students, faculty, and staff to participate in DEI training. An additional 46% of respondents believe that their schools should require all students to participate in a semester-long course on the history and root causes of the unequal distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges in society.

Asian students were most likely of any racial/ethnic group to report difficulty balancing DEI efforts with academic coursework as a barrier ​​to supporting other students and/or influencing change (48%). They were additionally most likely to report lack of access to institutional resources as a barrier (48%).

Despite the many barriers preventing students from getting as involved in DEI efforts as they'd like to, more than half of students (53%) report that they can and will participate in their schools' DEI initiatives. Just under half (46%) report that their peers are also committed to DEI efforts on campus, and 44% agree that their peers are just as committed to these efforts off campus as they are on campus.

Definitions

Diversity

The presence of differences that may include race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, language, (dis)ability, age, religious commitment, or political perspective. Populations that have been-and remain- underrepresented among practitioners in the field and marginalized in the broader society.

Equity

Promoting justice, impartiality and fairness within the procedures, processes, and distribution of resources by institutions or systems. Tackling equity issues requires an understanding of the root causes of outcome disparities within our society.

Inclusion

An outcome to ensure those that are diverse actually feel and/or are welcomed. Inclusion outcomes are met when an entity is truly inviting to all. To the degree to which diverse individuals are able to participate fully in the decision-making processes and development opportunities within an organization or group.

These definitions were provided to survey participants.


Methodology

The survey was conducted from July 1 through 7 of 2021. Student respondents were fielded by Lucid LLC. Survey participants included 750 currently enrolled undergraduate students nationwide. Respondents were 18-25 years of age, enrolled at a community college, college, or university and pursuing an associate or bachelor's degree. The respondents for the survey were screened by various quality checks, including systems like Relevant ID, and responses were manually reviewed to ensure consistency and accuracy.


Reviewed by:

Cobretti D. Williams, Ph.D., is the senior editor for diversity, equity, and inclusion at BestColleges. He is a scholar, writer, and editor working at the intersection of education, culture, and politics. Cobretti's research focuses on the experiences of minoritized student and faculty populations in higher education. His work has been published in the Journal of Negro Education, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, Black Youth Project, and the National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs. Cobretti received his Ph.D. in higher education from Loyola University Chicago.


Feature Image: Klaus Vedfelt / DigitalVision / Getty Images

After a year of increased activism, students are more aware of social justice issues and those issues are influencing their college choices. A recent BestColleges survey found that a majority of Americans value affordability over prestige in their college choice. More than two-thirds of Americans are in favor of free community college, but opinions differ according to age group.