According to the National Education Association's 1992 Almanac of Higher Education , 36% of institutions reported incidents of intolerance related to race, gender or sexual preference in the last year. For doctoral universities this rate was 74%. A few studies suggest the extent and nature of racist incidents on campus are changing. McClelland and Auster (1990) claim that incidents of racial and ethnic confrontation are on the rise on college campuses. According to Smith, Roberts, and Smith (1997), several recent studies have implied that intergroup prejudice and conflict are increasing on college campuses in the United States. The ethnic/racial groups that are frequently discriminated against on college campuses include African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans and Middle Easterners (particularly Arabs). Although each of these groups experience different degrees and types of discrimination, it is safe to assume that all of the discrimination and prejudice results from ignorance and fear.

Discrimination can be defined as "the differential practices carried out by members of dominant racial groups that have a negative impact on members of subordinate groups" (Feagin & Eckberg, 1980). A study by Loo and Rolison (1986) found that minority students were more socioculturally alienated than White students. Black and Hispanic students reported the greatest isolation and social alienation on campus. In a study by Feagin (1992), several factors were discussed which encourage racism in White colleges. These specific campus barriers include racist comments and racial awareness, racist jokes, student opposition to the Black culture, and the difficulty of socializing on a White campus.

Top Ten Reasons That College Enrollment and Graduation Rates for Black Americans Have Declined(according to Keller, 1988-1989):

1. The campus subculture is hostile to Blacks at many institutions, and the faculty and deans remain insensitive.
2. A growing number of Blacks are enrolling in the military, in part because of the more hospitable environment there.
3. Financial aid has been declining.
4. The decline is mainly among Black males; and is mainly attributable to drugs, prison and unemployment.
5. Poor preparation for college work, as seen in SAT scores, is a major factor.
6. With more jobs available, many Blacks go to work rather than to college.
7. The deterioration of the Black family means a lack of discipline and emphasis on education.
8. The high incidence of drug use inhibits study.
9. Attitudes of Blacks, such as lack of effort,are a problem.
10. There is a lack of adult leadership emphasizing education.

    Racist jokes are very dangerous because some White students may not realize how offensive and troubling such jokes can be, while others may intentionally tell them because they know the jokes cause pain. For these joke-telling students, racial humor is probably an outlet for passive aggression. Racial aggression against Black students is not uncommon across U.S. campuses, and it has escalated beyond individual epithets and jokes. According to Baltimore's National Institute Against Prejudice and Violence, there were published reports of at least 175 racial incidents on college campuses in 1986 and 1987 alone; and 78 additional incidents were reported for the spring of 1988 (Magner, 1989). The campus incidents have involved anti-Black graffiti, fraternity parties and parades with racist themes, racist literature passed out on campus, and violent attacks on Black students and interracial students (Feagin, 1992).

    Approximately one in every four minority students has experienced a personal incident of discrimination at universities. For Hispanic and Black students this rate is one in three. 30% of Hispanics who enter college complete their studies, compared to 61% of whites and 40% of blacks (Gold, 1984). Hispanic students frequently experience a great amount of loneliness and alienation. There are several factors that may affect the degree of loneliness and alienation that young Hispanics may experience. First, the process of acculturation involves significant shifts in value orientation that may heighten perceived differences in value orientations of Hispanic individuals from their family. This may be an important source of loneliness and alienation. Feelings of being different from one's family can be a particularly important source of loneliness and alienation for Hispanics because the family is so central to a sense of belonging and well- being among them (Szapocznik, 1986).

    The second factor that may influence young Hispanics' degree of loneliness and alienation is biculturalism, which is an adaptive stance that has evolved among Hispanic immigrants in bicultural settings (Suarez et al., 1997). Third, it is important to consider perceived differences in value orientation of Hispanic individuals from their peers. A Hispanic college student may have a heightened sense of loneliness and alienation if she or he perceives a difference in value orientations between herself or himself and important peers. The combination of acculturation and developmental stress may be particularly difficult for Hispanic college students.

    Asian Americans have been labeled the "model minority", and have been stereotyped as being "overachievers" and generally more mathematically-oriented (Tan, 1994). One advantage of this stereotype is that it can help foster a more positive self-image, which can in turn affect social-interaction, personal well-being, and productivity. On the other hand, this label can be counterproductive to those who do not fit the description. The label can easily give the impression that Asian Americans suffer few or no social problems commonly faced by other ethnic minorities when in fact they do and can be helped in many instances (Suzuki, 1989). In higher education, the image of Asian Americans as "super- bright, highly motivated overachievers" often is not complimentary to those who do not fit that description. There are many Asian American students in college who have language problems, academic difficulties, and other social and physiological problems which hinder their performance as students (Tan, 1994). On the issue of racism and prejudice, the nature of it is usually more subtle than the blatant kind shown against African-American college students (Tan, 1994). Tan (1994) examined factors related to Asian American participation in higher education, their academic performance, and their unique experience as college students. Asian American college students thought that the mathematically-oriented stereotype either made no difference, or was more of a hindrance to them in terms of their productivity.

    The enrollment of Native American students in U.S. institutions of higher education in 1990 was very low. Only 9% of Native Americans 25 years of age or older completed a bachelor's degree or higher compared to 20% of the same age group in the total population (U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Census, 1993). Furthermore the attrition rate of Native American college students has been reported to be about 85% (Wright & Tierney, 1991). The inability to recruit and graduate Native American students is shared by all disciplines in U.S. college and universities (Fries, 1987). The factors that affect retention of Native America students include motivation, self- esteem, sense of isolation, and cultural values. They are more motivated by self and community improvement rather than by monetary rewards to pursue college education (Kirkness & Barnhardt, 1991). A lack of respect for Native American values, culture, language, and traditions often persist in colleges and universities. This behavior undermines the self esteem and confidence of any student different from the majority population which contributes to their decision to leave the institution (Tierney, 1991). Native Americans and other minority students experience a sense of isolation in predominantly White institutions that do not appreciate diverse cultural backgrounds. Huffman, Sill, and Brokenleg (1986) found that the most important factor in the prediction of Native Americans' achievement in college is the retention of their heritage and their cultural identity.

    One group that currently seems to be suffering considerable prejudice and stereotyping, partly based on media influences and societal changes in the U.S, are Arabs and Arab Americans (Roper, 1988). The term "Arab" refers to the people who inhabited the Arabian Peninsula and the Syrian Desert. In general, writers have concluded that most of the U.S. stereotypes towards Arabs are derived from ignorance of the Arab culture (Moracco, 1983; Patai, 1973). Moracco (1983) remarked that the Arab Middle East has traditionally held minimal interest for Westerners. Also, the media have frequently caricatured Arabs as antagonists who are threats to the peace, politics, and economic security of the U.S., thus perpetuating stereotypes (Gilboa, 1985; Slade, 1981). Recognition that there may be prejudice or stereotyping of particular groups is important to reduce potential conflicts that may arise when different cultures interact (Stovall & Sedlacek, 1983). In a study by Sergent, Woods and Sedlacek (1992), attitudes towards Arabs were examined. The results showed that attitudes were significantly more negative in situations involving an Arab individual than in identical situations involving a neutrally identified person. Also, attitudes towards Arabs were more negative than toward unspecified individuals.


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By: Jerry M. Greene, Claudia Peschiera, Jessica E. Shuleva, Elizabeth Stricklen


This project was produced for Psy 324, Living in a Social World, Spring 1999, at Miami University. All images in these pages are used by permission or were produced by the authors. Social Psychology / Miami University (Ohio USA). Last revised: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 23:43:00 .   This document has been accessed 1 times since 1 May 1999. Comments & Questions to R. Sherman