- Occupying the Academy: Just How Important is Diversity Work in Higher Education? ed. by Christine Clark, Kenneth James Fasching-Varner, Mark Brimhall-Vargas
In the free speech and Vietnam era, higher education experienced a form of occupation (the sit-in) as student activists situated themselves inside academic buildings as a means to disrupt the normative order, thus directly creating symbolic and literal space for dissenting views (Foster & Long, 1970; Meyer, 1999). In our contemporary era, occupation has resurfaced as a grassroots organizing strategy to bring attention to institutionalized injustices perpetrated by corporations, Wall Street, and even colleges and universities (Grasgreen, 2011). In their book, Occupying the Academy, editors Clark, Fasching-Varner, and Brimhall-Vargas, extend the symbolism of occupying American institutions as means for characterizing the direct efforts of senior and mid-level higher education scholars and practitioners who are working to advance the causes of social justice, diversity, inclusion, and equity in colleges and universities.
Occupying’s contributing authors use the case-study method to depict fifteen examples of public campuses where diversity advocates have worked to reform/transform institutionalized structures and/or organizational processes that have inhibited progress towards operating higher education in a manner that universally equates inclusion with excellence (Williams, Berge, & McClendon, 2005). Each contributor engages critical race theory (CRT; Delgado & Stefancic, 2011) as the primary analytical tool; and consistent with CRT’s tenets, the cases couple critiques of injustice with documentation of tangible actions that foster organizational change. The juxtaposition of CRT with the occupy theme reveals praxis such that it offers templates for action in each of the book’s three sections, where cases focus on the work of chief diversity officers (CDOs), midlevel administrators, and university faculty.
The editors organize the book by beginning with foundational chapters that call attention to the topic and the aforementioned theoretical and methodological strands emphasized across cases. Following the introductory chapters, [End Page 218] the book’s three sections are each reflected in five case examples. In order to acquaint the reader to the diversity workers depicted in each group (CDOs, midlevel administrators, and faculty), Bailey W. Jackson pens a brief chapter at the start of each section. Following the presentation of the cases, Margaret-Mary Sulentic Dowell presents a synthesis of the themes developed across the cases, and the editors conclude with a call to action in their closing chapter. Although the presentations of the cases are partitioned by professional role, there is much overlap in the sections thus reinforcing the extent to which challenges to inclusion and equity are both structurally dispersed, and yet closely tied to a similar set of organizational actors.
Across the cases, the editors and contributors are deliberate in enlisting multicultural organizational development (MCOD; Hurtado, Milem, Clayton-Pedersen, & Allen, 1999; Hurtado, Milem, Clayton-Pederson, & Allen, 1998) as a particularly useful conceptualization of the manner in which higher education organizations progress from a normatively exclusionary entity to one that adopts more expansive notions of diversity, up to and including the institutionalization of multicultural practices and values throughout campus. In Case 1, Clark examines the structural barriers to appointing and maintaining an administrator in a university’s CDO position, a typical challenge that campuses who hold MCOD aspirations face. In presenting Case 2, Katrice A. Albert and Marco J. Barker conceptualize diversifying the academy as running parallel to the broader social pressures of the Obama era, where financial and human resources dedicated to diversity work are construed as nonessential costs in times of retrenchment, thus rendering such efforts impotent, despite university leaders’ rhetoric to the contrary. Likewise, in Case 6, Brimhall-Vargas also touches on issues of power and scarcity as he showcases seemingly inclusive organizational processes that, in practice, function to contain or diminish institution-wide social justice efforts. With Case 7 (Virginia Lea, Hollace Anne Tueber, Glenda Jones, & Susan Wolfgram), Case 4 (Gregory J. Vincent, Sherri L. Sanders, & S. Kiersten Ferguson), and Case 9 (Shaunna Payne Gold & Leah K. Cox) the authors...