- Looking Back and Moving Forward:Future Directions for Diversity Research in Student Affairs
Diversity, pluralism, equity, access, multiculturalism, regardless of how they have been named, have been on the agenda of colleges and universities for nearly 50 years. The oft-cited demographic transformations in the United States remain a primary fuel for this focus. More than 1 in 5 undergraduates are students of color which includes African American, Asian American, Latino/a American, and Native American (American Council on Education [ACE] & American Association of University Professors [AAUP], 2000; Chronicle of Higher Education Almanac, 2008), and those numbers are only expected to grow in the future (El-Khawas, 2003; Murdock & Hoque, 1999). Further, other populations at U.S. campuses, such as international students, returning adult students, and students with disabilities, have also increased significantly (Chronicle of Higher Education Almanac; Kennedy & Ishler, 2008). Other groups such as students of different faiths, veterans, or lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, may or may not have actually increased numerically; nonetheless, these and other diverse student groups are a clear presence on campus. Despite the sustained attention, multicultural issues continue to be one of the most hotly debated and unresolved conversations on campus today (Anderson, 2008; Levine & Cureton, 1998). The protracted focus on diversity is coupled with its pervasive territory. These conversations have included such areas as the curriculum, admission, attrition and retention, tenure, programs and services, personnel issues; truth be told, few areas of university life remain untouched by these issues.
Within higher education, student affairs professionals have always played an important role in addressing multicultural issues. Although the design and implementation of these responses have varied over the years, typical examples include: cultural centers, women's centers, diversity workshops, and multicultural fraternities and sororities. This involvement is consistent with the traditional and historical expectations and responsibility of student affairs practitioners to address the needs of students outside the classroom (Hood & Arceneaux, 1990). Despite the significant role that student affairs has assumed for multicultural issues, the literature supporting and guiding these efforts has been, arguably, rather scant. Initially the literature simply underscored the belief that increasing racial diversity was a noble and appropriate goal for higher education (as racial diversity was the primary focus in earlier times). Although, over time, the body of literature increased and became more inclusive, sophisticated, and complex, the degree to which it supports and guides student affairs practice, particularly around multicultural issues, remains unclear. Given the 50th anniversary of the Journal of College Student Development, the timing is ideal to reflect on the growth and development of [End Page 640] the multicultural literature.
The purpose of this article is to review the extant student affairs diversity literature to better understand the trends and development that have occurred over time. By assessing the trends, scope, and direction of the multicultural literature, perhaps student affairs professionals will be better able to capitalize deliberately on the important findings of research and address inadequacies and limitations in future scholarship. We also hope that the broader community of higher education scholars and practitioners can benefit from the insight and suggestions gained from this review.
Diversity in Higher Education: A Historical Context
Higher education, like many institutions in society, seeks to increase and cultivate diversity. However, higher education pursues an even more ambitious goal "by its mission, values and dedication to learning, to foster and nourish the habits of the heart and mind that Americans need to make diversity work in daily life" (Association of American Colleges and Universities [AACU], 1995b, p. ix). Multicultural scholarship produced by student affairs practitioners and scholars has contributed to the profession's understanding of the challenging and complex interactions between individuals, groups, history, campus environments, and culture. In this brief review of the history of higher education with respect to diversity and inclusion, we are setting a context for the trends and lessons of multicultural research in student affairs. Several seminal documents produced by the AACU (1995a, 1995b, 1999) provide a rich and detailed history of access, inclusion, and equity in the United States and are summarized below.
Though many events, individuals, acts of legislation, judicial...