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Journal of College Student Development 46.1 (2005) 88-98

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The Multicultural Myth:

A Study of Multicultural Program Organizations at Three Public Research Universities

The large volume of research on organization development lends theoretical background to the work of assessing higher education organizations. Schein (1984) viewed organizational culture as a pattern of assumptions that groups have invented to adapt to changes in both the external and the internal environment. Schein (1985) identified three levels of organizational culture: Artifacts, values, and basic underlying assumptions—the most fundamental level at which organizations develop and express values. In order to understand organizations, Schein (1984) argued that analyses should go beyond values and artifacts levels, and explore the basic underlying assumptions of these complex systems. Researchers uncover assumptions by examining discrepancies between espoused values and organizational practices (Schein, 1984). For example, an organization may espouse the value of the importance of equality in staff reward distribution yet provide more developmental experiences for some employees than for others. This research project assessed the underlying assumptions of multicultural program organizations in order to lend support to improving their organizational climate.

Higher Education Organizational Development

Organization development within higher education has been studied primarily from the perspective of campus climate. Higher education institutional climate has been defined as the historical, structural, behavioral, and psychological elements that constitute a campus community (Hurtado, Milem, Clayton-Pedersen, & Allen, 1999). These elements, which together make up the campus climate, have imbedded within them underlying assumptions and values. Researchers studying organizational climate are assessing these assumptions and values.

Focusing on climate studies of the differential experiences of faculty, administrators, and support staff, Mattice (1995) found that 63% of support staff had no experience of diversity activity (defined as diversity training or diversity discussions), whereas 54% of faculty and 17% of administrators had no such experiences of diversity activity. In general, support staff felt ignored (their word) in their work environments and reported the need to receive more training and development opportunities—specifically regarding diversity (Mattice). [End Page 88]

Bauer (2000) concluded that for support staff, satisfaction with the climate could be organized into four themes: (a) rewards and recognition (both intrinsic and extrinsic; e.g., purpose and recognition by others, and benefits and pay); (b) work-life balance (e.g., provisions for child and elder care, and the recognition of the interrelationship between job and life satisfaction); (c) development opportunities (e.g., opportunities to continue to learn in the context of the work); and (d) perceptions of the working environment (i.e., nature of professional relationships).

In a separate study, Somers et al. (1998) found that faculty and support staff satisfaction were similar but had some unique features. Faculty were most often influenced by the level of collegiality, the workload, and the opportunity for autonomy, whereas support staff were more likely to cite aspects that faculty took for granted, such as the ability to link with the core mission, the opportunity to develop through mentoring, and workplace equality; that is, having administrative policies apply equally to all employees (Somers et al.). On another campus, a secretary who participated in a campus book-reading program was heartened that she got a copy of the book, and was able to participate in discussion groups on the book topic. It was the first time she felt included in the central mission of her higher education organization (Sedlacek, 2004).

Overall, there is minimal research on the organizational climate of higher education organizations. However, there is even less research on the climate of multicultural program organizations (MPOs) within higher education.

Multicultural Program Organizational Development in Higher Education

Multicultural program organizational development has emerged as a separate area of study from traditional organizational development. For the purposes of this study, MPOs are units on campuses that have as their primary responsibility to engage differing constituencies of the campus community in services and educational interventions that, broadly defined, work to...


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