Examining Faculty Attitudes and Perceptions of Diversification Efforts At a Christian University
Background and Purpose: In recent years, colleges and universities have come to recognize the importance of diversifying their faculty. To that end, educational institutions utilized a variety of strategies, including exposing faculty to a diverse body of scholars and diversity-related content through guest lectures, workshops, etc. Mere Exposure Theory (Obermiller, 1985; Stang, 1975; Zajonc, 1968) offers a framework for conceptualizing a process of campus climate change that may occur as a result of repeated exposure to diverse experiences and people.
The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of increased exposure to diversity on faculty members at a private evangelical university from 2008 to 2012. Using Mere Exposure Theory as the paradigm, diversity related stimuli were introduced repeatedly to the otherwise, homogenous majority culture campus.
Method: The study used a pre-test/post-test. In 2008 (Time 1), faculty (n = 136) completed a baseline measure that assessed attitudes and perceptions related to campus climate as a whole, with a specific focus on racial campus climate. A second wave of data collection (n = 167) occurred in 2012 (Time 2). Three scales were developed: Attitude1 with a Cronbach’s alpha of 0.859 indicating good internal consistency, Attitude2 with a Cronbach’s alpha of 0.75 indicating acceptable internal consistency, and Perception, which had excellent internal consistency with a Cronbach’s alpha of 0.92. Differences related to age, gender, political affiliation, political views, and years of service at the university were considered in the analyses.
Results: Initial analyses examining changes in attitudes between Time 1 and Time 2 found no significant differences. Further analysis identified gender differences with female faculty members reporting significantly more favorable attitudes and perceptions compared to male faculty members. Additionally, faculty members that participated in the organized activities meant to increase exposure to diversity in the past year had significantly better attitudes and perceptions toward diversity than faculty members, who did not attend.
Conclusions and Implications: Social work faculty members are often part of initiatives on campus to help increase diversity as well as cultural competence. The findings of this study provide helpful information for social work faculty on those committees. The globalization of society has highlighted the importance of graduating students that are prepared for success in a multicultural world (Glover, 2005). The results of this study indicate the importance of not only exposing faculty to diversity, but also encouraging participation in activities. As evidenced, faculty members’ attitudes and perceptions were influenced positively by this participation. However, it is also important to do more. Recent research suggests the benefits of intragroup dialogue and interaction with diverse populations as way of improving racial campus climate (Denson, 2009). As mere exposure to the stimuli did not affect male faculty attitudes or perceptions to the degree it affected females, it is clear that additional steps are necessary to affect positive change on this private evangelical campus.