- When Diversity Drops: Race, Religion, and Affirmative Action in Higher Education by Julie J. Park
Julie J. Park
New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2013, 191 pages, $24.95 (softcover)
When Diversity Drops: Race, Religion, and Affirmative Action in Higher Education by Julie J. Park is an examination of the challenges facing college campuses to create cross-racial dialogue and relationships, specifically in the face of declining structural diversity. Park does this by observing a student organization, the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF), on a campus in California after Proposition 209 had banned the use of race in admissions to public universities. She asserts this organization’s efforts to engage in racial reconciliation through conversations about race, and acknowledges declining numbers of Black and Latino/a students highlight structural barriers. Park’s assertion is IVCF’s organizational culture can serve as a microcosm for the university, or even further, for the American higher education system.
In chapter 1, Park situates this book within the existent literature on structural diversity, organizational culture, and cross-racial interactions while presenting a conceptual framework illustrating their relationship. Park begins chapter 2 by addressing how IVCF underwent change by moving toward an organizational culture emphasizing racial diversity and cross-racial interaction. She identifies two external forces that were at play, which included the historical roots of IVCF through the national IVCF organization and the changing racial demographics at the campus. In addition, Park distinguishes three internal factors including the unique needs of students of color, a decision to take risks by the IVCF leadership, and the integration of racial reconciliation as a core value. Then, she describes how the organization incorporated these influences into their operation and how IVCF acted upon these forces to begin the process of reimagining its own culture around race. This is a pertinent example of Schein’s (2010) model of organizational culture and creating a total cultural shift. The specific issue of addressing underlying assumptions makes up the majority of the book, with chapters focusing on specific elements of this process: building congruence between race and faith in chapter 3, the possibilities and perils of interracial friendship in chapter 4, shifting strategies in chapter 5, losing diversity within the group in chapter 6, when an Asian American minority becomes the majority in chapter 7, and realigning values, structures, and practice over time in chapter 8.
This text would be valuable to anyone who works with college students and is interested in creating a more inclusive campus. While the external and internal forces that impacted the IVCF were very specific to the time and place in which the organization exists, there are larger themes that can be drawn out and utilized to inform others’ work. The recognition that there may need to be a confluence of external and internal events that propel a group toward change is important, asking those focused on creating more inclusive campus spaces to ask, what is the environment and the people in it in need of, and how does this organization address the issue? Park’s work offers an example of Museus and Jayakumar’s (2012) idea of cultural integration. Students, specifically underrepresented racial/ethnic [End Page 492] minority students, cultures, and identities are validated in processes that seek to connect their academic, social, and cultural experiences.
Park also addresses the need for individuals to experience their own changes and recognizes that shifts can be different from person to person within the organization. Chapter 4, “Man, This is Hard: The Possibilities and Perils of Interracial Friendship” offers several stories affirming the literature regarding the positive impacts of diversity on students. Alongside these stories are vignettes bringing to light the hard realities that opening up dialogue about race can bring forward very painful ideas and feelings. Additionally, sustaining friendships and relationships through these processes can be complex. Smith’s (2009) assertion of the benefits of working across difference highlights this complexity as well as its ultimate importance. IVCF provides opportunities for students from different backgrounds to learn with, as well as from, one another. As the numbers of...