Different Experiences and Perceptions of Campus Climate Among Minority Students at a Predominantly White Institution

Different Experiences and Perceptions of Campus Climate Among Minority Students at a Predominantly White Institution

Lucila Telles Rudge (University of Montana, Missoula, MT, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJBIDE.2017010104
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Abstract

This study examines the differences in experiences and perceptions of campus climate of 38 minority students enrolled in a predominantly White institution (PWI). The study included six focus group sessions, each designated for a specific minority group – African American students, Native American students, gender and sexually diverse students, students with disabilities, Latino-Hispanic students, and International students. About half of the participants reported negative experiences with racism and discrimination on campus whereas the other half reported exactly the opposite. Attribution to discrimination theory was used as a lens to closely analyze participants' discourse.
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Theoretical Framework

Attribution theory is concerned with the ways in which individuals explain events and people’s behavior. Research on attributions to discrimination is concerned with how people respond to social disadvantage and negative treatment and how specific examples are explained (Croker & Major, 1989; Major & Dover, 2015; Major & Sawyer, 2009; Schmitt et al., 2014). Major, Quinton, and McCoy (2002) define attribution to discrimination as having two primary elements: a) a judgment that treatment was based on social identity or group membership; and b) a judgment that treatment was unjust or undeserved. Events are prone to be attributed to discrimination when both elements are present. In other words, “people are most likely to say that they were discriminated against when they feel they were treated unfairly because of their social identity” (Major & Dover, 2015, p. 215). According to social psychologists, perceptions and attributions to discrimination are often subjective, disputable, and dependent on a number of psychological factors. Research in this area reveals that

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