Furthering intercultural competence in higher education requires colleges and universities to establish an intentional, mission driven strategic plan that embeds intercultural understanding and practice across the institution’s work. To secure broad-based buy-in and support, this plan needs to consider the various ways that different units within the academy define, interpret, and view intercultural work. For large, complex and multi-faceted colleges and universities, building this plan can prove daunting as different parts of the institution will ascribe different meanings, purposes, and intentions to intercultural advancement.
How does racism persist and even worsen on college campuses amidst pro-diversity university efforts? From interviewing college students and interrogating university materials, this article argues that public universities’ heightened revenue-generating functions inspire them to sell diversity as an attractive quality, divorced from its association with race and social justice. Because diversity has
become a strong discourse, its uncritical university marketing turns it into a commodity at the cutting-edge of cultural capitalism: a consumerist diversity. White students eagerly embrace this university-sponsored version, seeing it everywhere and in everyone. This is a highly individualistic, disposable, and inherently positive diversity that enables students an easy authentic experience of celebrating humanity. Issues of inequality clash against this feel-good understanding, enabling diversity loving white students to regard calls for racial justice as unjust anti-humanist racial attacks. Diversity efforts by the profit-minded university therein empower white students’ colorblind and even color conscious racism.
Colleges and universities have long recognized the need to address inequities affecting students from underrepresented or underserved groups. Despite efforts undertaken by dedicated individuals, large-scale, national change in this area has not been realized. In this article, we address two major factors underlying this disappointing result—the structures of isolation common in our institutions of higher learning, and the inadequate addressing of our own implicit biases—and offer a model of systemic collaboration aimed at ameliorating these problems so that colleges and universities throughout the nation can achieve the equity goals that have proved so elusive for so many of them.
A Vision for Equity is a critical new resource for higher education professionals working to identify and address disparities in student outcomes. Building on America’s Unmet Promise, which makes the case for the urgent need to expand access to and success in high-quality educational programs for students traditionally underserved in higher education, A Vision for Equity includes case studies from thirteen institutions that participated in the Committing to Equity and Inclusive Excellence project.