APPENDIX E

CLASSROOM AND INFORMAL INTERACTIONAL DIVERSITY
AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN

To provide context for the data presented in my statement of the impact of classroom and informal interactional diversity at Michigan, this appendix presents some findings from the Michigan Student Study on how Michigan students experience these two types of diversity.

Classroom Diversity

Classroom diversity was measured by an index constructed from two questions in the senior questionnaire. In one question students were asked to indicate, on a five-point scale ranging from "not at all" to "a great deal", the extent to which they had "been exposed" in their classes to "information and activities devoted to understanding other racial/ethnic groups and inter-racial ethnic relationships." In an attempt to measure the salience and impact of the diversity content that students encountered in their classes, the other question in this index asked students to indicate whether or not there had been a course at the university that had "an important impact on your views of racial/ethnic diversity and multiculturalism."

The different student groups at the University of Michigan varied somewhat in their involvement with diversity in their classes, although for many students in all groups this involvement was significant.

Among students of color, African American students had the most involvement with classroom diversity. Asian Americans had the least involvement, reflecting the fact that they more often majored in the natural sciences and engineering where diversity content is less relevant to the curriculum. Among African Americans, 40% indicated extensive ("quite a bit" or "a great deal") exposure to diversity content in their courses. An equal proportion indicated that their views on diversity had been significantly influenced by some course at Michigan. About one quarter of the Asian American students indicated extensive exposure and one quarter also indicated significant impact on their views on diversity.

Among white students, about one third (35%) indicated extensive exposure to diversity in their classes, and 28% said that this had a significant impact on them.

The two questions in the classroom diversity index do not explicitly indicate whether or not exposure to content on ethnicity and race through courses was a positive or negative experience. However, student responses to an open-ended question that followed the question on course impact suggest that the classroom effects were viewed as predominantly positive. This question asked students who identified a course that had affected their views on diversity to indicate "in what ways it changed your views." Over 95% of the students indicated that the impact of the course was positive. A few percent wrote about being "turned off" by the course.

Pre-College and College Interactions with Diverse Students

Pre-College Experience with Diversity

Students of different racial and ethnic groups come to Michigan with strikingly different experiences with racial and ethnic diversity. White students come from the most segregated backgrounds and hence have the most to learn from the racial/ethnic diversity they find at Michigan.

Ninety-two percent of Michigan's white students grew up in neighborhoods that were predominantly white, and 83% went to predominantly white high schools. In contrast, very few of the Latino and Asian American students had a segregated community or high school background; a little over 70% of them grew up in neighborhoods that were predominantly white, and two-thirds went to predominantly white high schools. About half of the African American students grew up in integrated or predominantly white neighborhoods, and 60% went to high schools that were integrated or predominantly white.

Extent of Interracial Relationships at Michigan

Michigan students indicate a considerable degree of interracial contact in their general relationships on the Michigan campus. For white students, who come from the most segregated backgrounds, this represents a significant increase over their pre-college experiences with personal interactions across racial and ethnic lines.

In response to a question that asked seniors to rate the "interactions they have with students from various racial/ethnic groups on campus," 40% of the white students indicated having "substantial" interaction with Asian American students and another 40% indicated having "some" interaction.

Twenty percent indicated "substantial" interaction and 45% "some" interaction with African American students. Despite the relatively low number of Latino students at Michigan, almost half the white students indicated at least "some" interaction with them.

The extent of interracial relationships is even greater among students of color, which is a reflection of the predominance of white students on the Michigan campus. Ninety-one percent of the Latino students, 86% of the Asian Americans, and 50% of the African American students have "substantial" interactions with white students.

Quality of Interracial Interactions

In addition to fairly extensive interracial interactions on the Michigan campus, the quality of these interactions is predominantly positive, particularly between white students and Asian Americans and Latinos. Students were asked to describe their relationships with the group they interacted most with on the Michigan campus. Latino and white students (and Asian American and white students) tend to view their relationships with each other as involving considerable cooperation and personal sharing, and very little hostility and tension. For example, approximately two-fifths (39%) of the white students said they "studied together" with Latino students "quite a bit" or "a great deal", and two thirds (68%) of the white students said that they "shared personal feelings and problems" in these relationships. Moreover, only 7% of the white students said they "had tense, somewhat hostile interactions" with Latino students "quite a bit" or "a great deal", and only l% said they "had guarded, cautious interactions" this often.

About two-fifths (38%) of the white students said they "studied together" extensively with Asian American students, and about half (49%) said that they "shared personal feelings and problems" in these relationships. Only l% of the white students said that these relationships involve extensive "tense, somewhat hostile interactions," and only 2% felt these interactions were extensively "guarded, cautious."

Their relationships with white students were viewed even more positively by Latino and Asian American students. Seventy-three percent of the Latino students and 67% of the Asian Americans said they "studied together" with white students "quite a bit" or "a great deal"; 85% of the Latino students and 70% of the Asian American students said they "shared personal feelings and problems" in these relationships. About 10% felt that these interactions were "tense, somewhat hostile" and "guarded, cautious."

Relationships that white students had with African American students were somewhat less personal than their relationships with other students of color, but very few white students felt that their interactions with African Americans were negative. Fourteen percent of the white students said that "they studied together" with African American students "quite a bit" or "a great deal"; 29% said that they "shared personal feelings and problems" in these relationships. Only 4% of the white students said that they "had tense, somewhat hostile interactions" with African American students, and only 1% said these relationships were "guarded and cautious."

From the perspective of African American students, their relationships with white students were somewhat ambivalent, reflecting negative as well as positive interactions. Twenty-six percent of the African American students said that they "studied together" extensively with white students, and 25% said that they "shared personal feelings and problems." Twenty-three percent of the African American students said that their relationships with white students were "guarded and cautious," and 15% felt that they were "tense, somewhat hostile."

Close Friendships

In addition to questions about their general interracial interactions on campus, the Michigan seniors were asked to indicate the race/ethnicity of their six closest friends at Michigan. Since students were also asked to identify race/ethnicity of their six closest friends at the time they entered Michigan, we can measure the increase in the racial/ethnic diversity of the most intimate friendships. This question is particularly pertinent for African American and white students since Asian American and Latino students came to Michigan from predominantly white environments. At the time they entered Michigan, three or more of the six best friends of 87% of the Latino students were not Latino, and three or more of the six best friends of 73% of the Asian American students were not Asian American.

While close friendship circles of African American and white students are predominantly with peers of their own backgrounds both at entrance and after four years at the University of Michigan, there is a significant increase in the racial/ethnic diversity of such friendships.

The proportion of white students who had at least one close friend of color (among their six best friends) increased from about one third (32%) at the time they entered Michigan to almost half (46%) four years later. African American students with at least one close friend who was not African American increased from slightly less than half (47%) at time of entrance to slightly more than half (54%) when they were seniors.

While one might hope that even more African American and white students would have increased their closest friendships with each other while at Michigan, the overall picture of interracial relationships at Michigan is predominantly positive.

It does not conform to the views of those in the public debate who have claimed that affirmative action has created hostile interracial environments on our college campuses.

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