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Chaddrick D. James-Gallaway, a doctoral candidate and research associate at the Office of Community College Research and Leadership, writes about race issues within community colleges and varied perceptions of campus climates and experiences by race.

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Published by Office of Community College Research and Leadership, 2019-10-04 13:40:54

Racial Realities of Community College Institutional Climates

Chaddrick D. James-Gallaway, a doctoral candidate and research associate at the Office of Community College Research and Leadership, writes about race issues within community colleges and varied perceptions of campus climates and experiences by race.

Keywords: racial realities,Chaddrick D. James-Gallaway,community college institutional climates,OCCRL research associate,Office of Community College Research and Leadership,campus climates,race issues,experiences by race,UPDATE Fall 2019 issue






by Chaddrick D. James-Gallaway
Doctoral Candidate
OCCRL Research Associate

C ampus climate has the racialized campus climate also known as historically Black society (Bell, 1992). As such,
been defined in a at community colleges community colleges (Beach, the foundation of the U.S.
multitude of ways, (Baber,Zamani-Gallaher, 2011). Although community education system was founded
from students’ attitudes, Stevenson, & Porter, 2019). colleges were the least restrictive on racial exclusion and racism
perceptions, and beliefs about Race Matters and Community higher education institutions, permeates college campuses
their campus (Tierney, 1990) to Colleges they still were not adequately (Ladson-Billings, 1998; Ladson-
the summation of the objectives Until the founding of U.S. serving racially minoritized Billings & Tate, 1995; Patton,
and perceptions of the campus junior colleges, most of higher students from the 1960s through Harper & Harris, 2015). African
climate (Peterson & Spencer, education had been restricted the 1980s, since gaining access Americans have particularly
1990). Campus climate can for the White elite (Zamani- did not mean being exempt faced covert and overt forms of
also be made up of the merging Gallaher, 2016). The historical from racism on campus, finding racism from faculty, students,
structural and institutional mission of junior colleges/ inclusive spaces, or achieving and staff on predominately
diversity or the behavioral and community colleges was to create equitable outcomes. White campuses (Smith et al.,
psychological climate (Hurtado, a system of higher education Differential Perceptions 2016).
Milem, Clayton-Pederson, & that any and every person could of Campus Climate and Research has repeatedly found
Allen, 1998) or the overall ethos access. However, community Experiences by Race that racially minoritized
and atmosphere reflected in the colleges were also stratified like According to Hurtado, Milem, students and White students
sense of belonging, engagement, their four-year higher education Clayton-Pederson, and Allen, view their campus climates
and safety often reflected in counterparts, founded through (1998), “Most institutions, in completely different ways
the institutional mission and systemic racism (e.g., historically when considering diversity (Harper & Hurtado, 2007).
identity (Renn & Patton, 2010). Black community colleges) and on campus, tend to focus on Students of color (primarily
Hence, if the campus climate is evolved during legal Jim Crow increasing the numbers of African American) cite
found to be chilly, debilitating, segregation. racial/ethnic students” (p. 281). campus climates as racist,
malicious, and/or antagonistic Community colleges emerged While it is important to focus prejudiced, discriminatory,
to students of color, they are and were commonly referenced on increasing the number of and less accepting of their
adversely impacted (Hurtado, as the people’s colleges in lieu students of color on campus, it racial identities, whereas White
2002; Vacacaro, 2010). of two-year institutions created is also imperative that students students do not hold similarly
Much of the research on campus to serve freed slaves that were of color are provided with a negative experiences or feelings
climate is focused on four-year underfunded and under- welcoming and supportive of racially hostile campus
institutions while there is a resourced institutions, most campus climate. Racism is climates (Rankin & Reason,
dearth of literature on campus notably Negro Junior Colleges, culturally ubiquitous; it is 2005; Smith et al, 2016; Smith,
climate and especially little on the foundation of the U.S. Yosso, & Solórzano, 2006).
Studies have shown that African


American students have less 2002). Racial microaggressions al. 2016; Franklin, Smith, & designed to help students learn
collegiate satisfaction and the are also at the root of racial Hung, 2014; Smith, Hung, & about their own and others’
lowest levels of fulfillment tensions, and an antecedent in Franklin, 2011). social and racial identities
in terms of treatment based many respects. While some research finds that and interracial differences.
on race, in comparison with Racial Microaggressions and students of color that navigate Programs may also address the
other racial groups on college College Students historically white institutions historic and current state of
campuses (Ancis, Sedlacek, & Racial microaggressions are have positive interracial relations racial relations in society and
Mohr, 2000; Suarez-Balcazar et conscious and unconscious (Matlock, Gurin & Wade- on campus and the possibilities
al., 2003). forms of colorblind racism Golden, 2002), other studies of more productive and
that affect the mental health of report racial microaggressions egalitarian learning conditions,
More than half of all their victims (Smith et al, 2016; and racial stereotyping as intergroup relationships,
undergraduates attend Smith, Hung, & Franklin, 2011; common experiences of students and joint actions for change
community colleges and well Smith, Yosso, & Solórzano, of color (Solórzano, Ceja & (Gallaway & Zamani-Gallaher,
over half of African American 2006). Racial microaggressions Yosso, 2000; Feagin, Vera & 2018).
and Latinx students in higher can mirror aversive (avoidance) Imani, 1993). Many students of
education are enrolled in racism and are present color risk damaging their self- Concluding Thoughts
community colleges (Baber, underneath the awareness of esteem and racial identity when
Zamani-Gallaher, Stevenson, “well-intentioned people” (Sue, they answer questions about race Racism is an aspect of society
& Porter, 2019). Because the 2010). Students of color often or have race-based interactions that can have overt and covert
number of students of color in face racial microaggressions that that they perceive as ignorant, constraints on community
community colleges is high, it are inadvertent, unintended, uneducated, and/or insensitive college campuses for racially
is imperative that community and unconscious. (Feagin, Vera & Imani, 1993). minoritized groups. Community
colleges, their programs, and Studies of racial microaggression Students of color often must college campuses, professionals,
their policies promote racial in college students state learn how to accommodate to, and students need to understand
parity and equity. One means that racial microaggressions or negotiate with, the dominant how racial dynamics exist
in which many campuses can on college campuses exist at White culture while explaining and impact administration,
declare a mission of diversity, alarming rates and typically in tandem to White students faculty, staff, and students.
equity, and inclusion is by hiring result in students of color what it is like to be racialized Lacking attention to detail in
a diverse faculty that represents showing signs of poor and minoritized (Feagin, Vera terms of racial dynamics on
the student population. Sadly, mental health and academic & Imani, 1993). Navigating a community college campus
African American and Latinx performance (McCabe, 2009; mainstream dominant White can have detrimental effects
faculty are disproportionally Torres, Driscoll, & Burrow, culture and enduring racial for campus climate, which can
hired on predominantly White 2010; Solórzano, Ceja, & Yosso, microaggressions contributes to create a space that is unwelcome
two and four-year college 2000). The “social-psychological racialized role strain, which is for people of color. Focusing on
campuses (Bower, 2002). stress” that is induced by racial taxing on student well-being, lessoning and addressing racial
Racially minoritized faculty microaggressions is known as retention, persistence and microaggressions, as well as
and students experience racism, racial battle fatigue, defined perceptions of campus climate other forms of microaggressions,
prejudice, and discrimination in as experiencing physical (Bowman & Smith, 2002; is a foundational step toward
academia as higher education and mental reactions due to Hurtado, Milem, Clayton- creating a hospitable and
institutions parallel race-based racialized stressors (Smith et Pederson, & Allen, 1998). In the equitable campus climate for all
issues in society, which are often face of these racial challenges, constituents of a campus.
the source of tensions in race many colleges and universities
relations (Bowman & Smith, have developed programs

Chaddrick D. James-Gallaway can be reached at [email protected]


Research has repeatedly
found that racially
minoritized students
and White students view
their campus climates in
completely different ways.



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