Minorities held more likely to mix

April 04, 1994|By Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- Minority students are more likely than whites to study with, dine with and date students from different racial and ethnic groups, according to a nationwide study to be released tomorrow.

However, students of color are much more likely than whites to feel excluded from school activities because of their racial or ethnic identity. And they are more likely to report racially based insults or threats made by faculty or fellow students, according to the study conducted by researchers from the Universities of Michigan and Arizona.

Critics of multiculturalism and diversity on college campuses have complained that programs such as ethnic and racial student organizations, minority dorms and houses and student cultural centers segregate minorities on campus.

"When people talk about Balkanization on campus, they talk only about minority students," said Sylvia Hurtado, an assistant professor of education at the University of Michigan, who co-wrote the study with Jesus Trevino of the University of Arizona and Eric L. Dey of Michigan. The study was based on a national sample of 6,000 college students at 390 schools.

"Nobody points to the sororities and fraternities -- which historically have been white and exclusionary. Whose perspective has been represented in this discussion?" she asked.

"Opponents of what is perceived as self-segregation believe that students who dine with members of the same ethnic group, participate in ethnic student organizations and participate in university programs established for minorities, such as minority student graduation ceremonies, contribute to a decline of race-ethnic relations on campus," Ms. Hurtado said.

"It's been from the point of view of the whites looking outward and saying: 'Those groups out there are doing all that,' " she said.

However, the study, to be presented tomorrow at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, found almost 70 percent of the Asian-American students and 78 percent of Mexican-American students frequently dine with someone of a different racial or ethnic group, while 60 percent and 72 percent, respectively, often study with someone of a different group.

More than half of African-American students frequently dine with members of other groups, and about half frequently study with members of other groups.

In contrast, only one in five white students said he or she frequently dines with someone from a different group and only about one in seven frequently studies with someone from a different group.

Colleges in the Midwest, South and West had less interracial interaction than colleges in the East, according to the study. Schools with more competitive entrance requirements also had higher degrees of interaction among different groups.

The students who feel most excluded and harassed on campuses, according to the study, are black and Asian. More than half of blacks and nearly one-quarter of Asians feel excluded from activities because of race.

Although students of color experience more hostility on campus than whites, they are still more likely to interact with other groups, Ms. Hurtado said.

The survey findings, said Ms. Hurtado, suggest the claims of "reverse discrimination" raised by some white students are questionable.

"Our analysis suggests that self-segregation does appear to occur on college campuses, but it is the white students who are choosing to self-segregate," Ms. Hurtado said.

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