I think that racial climate in American Universities is a very important topic right now. Although race has been an issue in higher education throughout history, I would argue that racial climate is as important now as ever. A major issue regarding race in higher education is that universities are slowly becoming less and less diverse. In fact, I recently read a study that showed a decline in diversity among American colleges within the last twenty years. This is obviously an issue because it shows that we are regressing as a nation in terms of race relations. One issue contributing to the decline in diversity is that courts ruled that race cannot be considered in one’s application for admission. Universities must clearly be able to articulate their reasoning for seeking diversity, and it can only be considered if diversity cannot be met through race neutral methods.
I think another issue that has contributed to the decline in racial diversity is the overwhelming cost of attending college today. I just read an article this week titled “State Universities Are Being Resegregated”. The article discusses how race is being considered in admissions less today, fewer people of color are enrolled in college today than they were 20 years ago, and a decrease in state funding has led colleges to recruit more students who do not require financial aid. The decrease in funding and increase in cost has made it almost impossible for low income individuals and underprivileged students to have the opportunity to attend college. I believe that unless these issues get resolved, the overwhelmingly white racial climate will not improve.
I believe another factor affecting the racial climate in higher education today has a lot to do with the political issues currently taking place in our country. Everyone is aware of President Trump’s policies regarding immigration, deportation, and building a wall on our southern border. These controversial topics have created turmoil, not only in our country, but in the higher education communities as well. I think that students of color, and Latino/a students in particular feel unwelcomed and under attack in higher education today. Because of these controversial views and feelings, I think that there is a certain degree of racial division taking place in higher education. Until we can resolve our differences and create a culture that makes students feel welcomed both at the university level and as a country, I do not believe we will be able to move forward.
Finally, I think a major difference impacting the racial climate of our universities today is that it seems as if diverse groups and students of color are uniting and standing up against oppression and marginalization more often. A perfect example is the Black Lives Matter movement. Black people came together to fight for their rights and to fight against the injustices that have occurred against them.
An experience that always sticks with me in regards to racial climate occurred was when I was fresh out of college and began my coaching career at my alma mater. It was either my first or second season coaching when Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem in an NFL game to promote awareness of the injustices against black people within the United States. This of course caused a nationwide controversy. Although we did not have many student athletes of color on our football team in North Dakota, the ones that were there felt the impact of Kaepernicks’s actions. During one of our games, a group of black players locked arms during national anthem and a news reporter took a picture of it and wrote an article in our local newspaper.
As you can imagine, this caused quite a stir in the small conservative white town of Dickinson, North Dakota. There was a mixed response from the public, but many people were angry and making hateful comments towards the student athletes and their actions. I will never forget the pressure that our head coach was under regarding the situation. However, he stood by the black players and supported them through the whole process. This meant so much to the players and I think it really helped the race relations and unity not only within our team, but in at the university as a whole.