2013. Vol.4, No.11, 878-887
Published Online November 2013 in SciRes (http://www.scirp.org/journal/psych) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/psych.2013.411126
Perceptions of Diversity: Global versus Local Perceptions*
Gizelle L. Gilbert1, Candace Myers2, M. Diane Clark2#, Shelley Williams2,
1Phoenix Day School for the Deaf, Phoenix, USA
2Gallaudet University, Washington DC, USA
Received August 24th, 2013; revised September 26th, 2013; accepted October 23rd, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Gizelle L. Gilbert et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Com-
mons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, pro-
vided the original work is properly cited.
The current study investigated climate and diversity issues and how they contributed to students’ attitudes
and experiences at a private university for the deaf. A 40-item survey was administered to assess the glo-
bal perspectives regarding diversity. This scale was reduced to a 16-item scale with four subscales using
exploratory factor analysis, labeled Multicultural: Diversity is Enriching, Abstract Liberalism, Cultural
Racism, and Color-Blind Racism. In addition, focus groups were conducted to investigate the local per-
spectives of diversity of those who hold minority status within the overall cultural milieu.
Keywords: Diversity; Multicultural; Abstract Liberalism; Cultural Racism; Color-Blind Racism
Perceptions of Diversity among Deaf and Hard
of Hearing University Students: Global versus
With the election and then re-election of a Black man as
President of the United States, some people of color and many
Whites state that the US is in a “post-racial” era (Bonilla-Silva
& Dietrich, 2011). In contrast to these statements, Bonilla-Silva
and Dietrich argue that there is a new racism, which they term
color-blind racism. The tenets of color-blind racism include:
abstract liberalism, cultural racism, and the minimization of
racism. This focus on abstract liberalism uses a “blame the vic-
tim” rationale for those who find themselves without equal op-
portunities; here a free market ideology is the basis for the
“haves” and the “have-nots.” This view allows those who hold
these beliefs to be unconcerned about inequality in the welfare
system (Monnat, 2010), health care (Rosenblatt, 2009), and
even extends to beliefs about immigration (Shattell & Villalba,
Bonilla-Silva and Dietrich (2011) point out that racism in
today’s society is implicit and institutionalized. Therefore,
color-blind racism is based on the dominance of Whites in the
society and not on individual prejudice. This systematic racism
allows the dominant group, i.e., Whites, to explain, rationalize,
and defend their “free market” interests. To better understand
this new racism, one must be aware of the “location” that
groups of people hold in the system; it is not an individual’s
location within the system, but rather the location of the group
as a whole that leads to these effects of color-blind racism. For
example, many Latinos believe that they have equal opportuni-
ties for success here in the US (McClain et al., 2006). This
belief by Latinos in their equality has led several researchers
(Bonilla-Silva, 2004; Twine & Gallagher, 2008) to claim that
many Latinos identify as Whites and for McClain et al. to claim
that many Latinos “adopt anti-Black beliefs.” Given these be-
liefs that differ by location, it becomes important to investigate
both individual and institutional perceptions of diversity.
In past years, a liberal arts university for deaf and hard of
hearing students administered climate surveys to gain an under-
standing of how students viewed the campus climate. Using the
Student Cultural Attitudes and Climate Survey (SCACS), this
project proposed two studies to both follow up the SCACS
results and to better understand overall institutional perceptions
of campus diversity as well as to conduct focus groups to in-
vestigate the impact of being a member in a local minority
group. Therefore, a survey was designed based on the SCACS
as well as past research to evaluate global and local perspec-
tives of diversity. This survey was followed up by focus groups
that were conducted to evaluate local perspectives of diversity,
using homogeneous groups from selected locations. It is im-
portant to understand both of these perspectives as those hold-
ing a color-blind perspective have been found to show more
implicit prejudice than those holding a multicultural perspective
that views diversity as enriching (Richeson & Nussbaum,
Results from the earlier SCACS were reported as either
“conducive to student success” or “barriers to student success.”
Climate attributes that were viewed as conducive to student
success included a belief that the university promoted a respect
for diversity, that the university has done a good job in provid-
ing activities that promoted cultural understanding, and that
attending diversity programs helped to build the community. In
contrast, one of the climate attributes reported as a barrier to
student success included the belief by students of color that the
academic expectations placed on them by faculty and staff was
*Authors’ note: This work was partially supported by the Office of Diver-
sity and Inclusion and the Gallaudet Research Institute through a small
grant. We would like to thank all of the participants who took part in this
G. L. GILBERT ET AL.
based on their race or ethnicity. Students of color also reported
that they had to represent their racial or ethnic group in class
discussions, felt that they did not belong to the university com-
munity, and a large number of African American and Latino
students reported that they felt uncomfortable going to see a
faculty member of a different race or ethnic group.
The SCACS report found that the climate affected both the
creation of knowledge as well as individual members of the
academic community. In conjunction with results from this re-
port, the Perceptions of Diversity survey was developed and
sent out. This survey was designed to determine students’ per-
spectives on the extent to which the university’s environment
was welcoming, inclusive, and supportive. Students shared
their attitudes regarding the campus climate based on race and
Study 1: The Perceptions of Diversity Survey
The Perceptions of Diversity survey included 5 demographic
categories (gender, academic classification, year entered the
university, hearing status, and race/ethnicity) and 40 survey
items. Nineteen survey items were drawn from McTighe Musil
et al. (1999) and the remaining 21 items were developed by the
project investigators based on current literature, the earlier
SCACS findings and current diversity trends at the university
(see Appendix A for complete survey). The 40 survey items
were presented in Likert format: Strongly Disagree, Disagree,
Neutral, Agree, and Strongly Agree. Of the 40 survey items, 20
percent of the items were reverse-worded. These reverse-
worded items were based on current research that suggested
that these statements are not true, i.e., “Everyone has the same
Participants. A sample of 132 (8%) of the 1611 registered
students responded to the Perceptions of Diversity survey.
Forty-five men and 87 women completed the survey. Within
these gender demographics were 16 freshmen, 26 sophomores,
30 juniors, 34 seniors, 15 graduate students, 3 special students,
and 4 students who selected “Other” (e.g. English Language
Institute, International, Post-baccalaureate and Continuing Edu-
cation students). Four students did not specify their academic
classification. Students reported their hearing status and 76.5%
identified themselves as Deaf, 12.9% identified as hard of hea-
ring, 9.1% identified as hearing, and 1.5% declined to specify
their hearing status. Race and ethnicity were reported by all but
3% of our participants: 44.7% were Whites; 19.7% were Afri-
can American/Black; 13.6% were Hispanic/Latino; 7.6% were
Asian/Pacific Islander; 5.3% were International; 5.3% were
Multiracial; and .8% selected ‘Other.’
Procedures. The Perceptions of Diversity studies were ad-
vertised in the campus daily announcements sent out on email,
as well as through announcements by officers during student
organization meetings, and through flyers posted in public areas
on campus, as well as in dormitories. Participation was open to
all current students. The researchers set up a booth in the Stu-
dent Academic Center for two hours every day for one month.
Students stopped by, signed an informed consent and com-
pleted the survey. Survey items and response choices were pro-
vided in American Sign Language (ASL) at the student’s re-
quest. Upon returning the completed survey, each student re-
ceived a payment voucher and the researchers used a snow-ball
recruiting technique where they asked those who already par-
ticipated to encourage others to participate.
Data Analysis. The five Likert scale categories were col-
lapsed into three categories for this analysis: disagree, neutral,
and agree. Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) with a varimax ro-
tation was conducted to reduce the data and identify latent con-
structs in the Perceptions of Diversity scale. Using the scree
plot, it was determined that the elbow occurred at four factors.
Subsequent analysis was based on items loading significantly
on these four factors. To create subscales that would have util-
ity in determining prevalent attitudes of future respondents,
only items that loaded grader than .5 on each of the top four
factors were retained, resulting in highly distinct subscales. Us-
ing this criterion, 16 of the original 40 items were retained.
Given that 24 items were eliminated as either redundant or
not contributing to the most significant underlying latent attitu-
dinal factors, a second EFA was run to assess whether the rela-
tive orthogonality of the factors would be maintained with the
reduced item set. As expected, the strength of the four-factor
structure was increased after deleting items that did not con-
tribute, with 55.1% of the total item variance being explained
by the reduced set of items. Items were examined to determine
appropriate subscale labels for the factors. These are as follows:
Multicultural: Diversity is Enriching, Abstract Liberalism, Cul-
tural Racism, and Color-Blind Racism. The overall structural
model showing these four factors and the loadings of their as-
sociated items is presented in Figure 1.
Finally, we developed simple subscale computational rules
for users of the Perceptions of Diversity instrument that en-
tailed adding together the Likert ratings for all the items within
each of the subscales and dividing by the number of items in
the subscale. For this scale, we included the original 5-point
Likert ratings and this yielded a set of four scores between 1
and 5 (the same as the Likert ratings themselves) that repre-
sented the average rating of respondents for items within each
subscale. Subscale scores below three demonstrate a level of
disagreement with the statements within the scale. Subscale
scores above three indicate a level of agreement with the state-
ments within the scale. Scores close to three indicate the lack of
an opinion one way or another. The subscales include the fol-
lowing items from the original SCACS survey, which also can
be seen in Figure 1. The Multicultural: Diversity is Enriching-
subscale included items 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 30. Abstract
Liberalism included items 5, 12, 18, and 27. The Cultural Ra-
cism subscale included items 7 and 39. Finally, the Color-blind
Racism subscale included items 4, 31, and 33. To obtain sub-
scale scores, one adds up the Likert scores for each item and
divides by the number of items in each subscale. To create the
new Perceptions of Diversity scale, use the items found in the
four subscales and add the appropriate Likert scores for each
A follow-up post-hoc analysis was performed on the newly
developed subscales, comparing white students to students of
color. Table 1 presents the means and standard deviations for
the Perceptions of Diversity subscales for white students versus
students of color. There were no significant differences on any
f the factors, suggesting that overall, or global, perceptions do o
Open Access 879
G. L. GILBERT ET AL.
24. I prefer to interact with students of
the same race/ethnicity because I feel that
students of different races/ethnicities do
not understand my culture.
25. Instruction is modified to suit
students’ language and learning styles.
26. Faculty sees all students as capable
regardless of race/ethnicity.
27. My sense of ethnic identity is
strengthened by my sense of self and my
28. I do not understand why people of
color eat together at the cafeteria or are
often seen sitting and walking together
29. It is important that my professors use
examples that are relevant to different
30. My opinions are valued by others.
5. Gallaudet University promotes
12. Minorities get unnecessary special
privileges ahead of more qualified
18. Diversity is a non-issue—we all have
equal access to resources.
27. My sense of ethnic identity is
strengthened by my sense of self and my
10. I feel pressured to use ASL, even
though it is not my primary language
39. My race gives me special privileges.
Fact or 4
4. Everyone has the same opportunities.
31. Faculty use race/ethnic examples
33. I feel that when I participate in class,
I have the support of my classmates and
Path diagram for the perceptions of diversity scale.
G. L. GILBERT ET AL.
not differ by race on campus.
Table 2 presents the correlation matrix of the derived scores.
easily computing interpretable
d Perceptions of Diversity scale includes three
les and one local subscale focusing on race and
as the main
ts of color.
hnicity N Mean
Deviation t test
The unit scaling proposed for
bscale scores, undermines the orthogonality by using the
unweighted item ratings directly in the computation of the
scores and it is clear that the scaling strategy results in co-line-
arity among the derived scores. However, the pattern of corre-
lations among the subscale scores is interesting in that the three
subscales that are more global (Multicultural: Diversity is En-
riching, Abstract Liberalism, and Color-Blind Racism) are all
highly intercorrelated while the one local subscale called Cul-
tural Racism, focusing on pressure to use ASL and that my race
gives me privileges, is uncorrelated (see Table 2).
e use of sign language. Interestingly, all three of the global
subscales were highly correlated. Therefore, the Multicultural:
Diversity is Enriching subscale and the Color-Blind Racism
subscale appear not to tap different values in this sample. Fu-
ture research with different local groups may find that these
subscales do highlight different latent attitudes.
The current sample seems to find the local group of ASL us-
ers versus those whose first language is not ASL
cal group. If a deaf sample is not the dominant local group in
ubscale means and standard deviations for white participants as well S
ulticultural White 56 2.28 .36
of Color 66 2.37 .38
Libelism t = 43
Cultural Racism t = 5
Ram t = 8
ra White 56 2.16 .36 −1.
of Color 67 2.26 .43
White 58 1.78 .59 −.8
of Color 68 1.87 .60
cis White 59 2.23 .50 −.4
of Color 68 2.28 .60
orrelations among the perceptions of diversity subscales.
C-B .4* *
3 .50 .01
MC .47 .
*Correlation is significant at the .01 level, 2-tailed; MC = Multicultural; AL-
Abstract Liberalism; CR = Cultural Racism; C-B = Color-Blind Racism.
future studies, the Cultural Racism subscale may include addi-
tional items relating to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and
gendeems related more specially to these local groups
should be included if thPerceptions of Diversity scale used
were identified in the SCACS report as findings that
required further exploration; meaning the results left more
questions th each of the
ASL signers, and new signers. Each focus group
consisted of 3 to 5 students and a facilitator. The facilitators
ty, staff, and students who previously completed Di-
in a different sample.
In terms of a comparison of the earlier SCACS survey to the
current Perceptions of Diversity scale, the climate at the uni-
versity appears to have changed, such that when given a general
survey, the campus community reports feeling respected, com-
fortable, and valued. This result suggests that efforts to “warm-
up” the climate have been successful, at least at the global level.
When only this type of general survey is used, one could con-
clude that diversity has become “a non-issue.” It is still impor-
tant to check the perceptions of those in local groups before
coming to this conclusion. Study 2 used a qualitative method to
investigate local groups on campus to provide a second point-
Study 2: Local Focus Groups
For the focus groups, a comprehensive list of 12 questions
was developed from the SCACS findings. The content of these
an answers. All questions were asked in
groups. See Appendix B for the complete list of
Five focus groups from selected locations were organized:
African American/Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/ La-
Dialogue training. The focus groups were videotaped
for transcription purposes. At the end of transcription, data was
Participants. A total of 20 undergraduate, graduate and spe-
cial students participated in the focus groups: 4 African Ameri-
can/Black, 5 Asian/Pacific Islander, 4 Hispanic/Latino, 4 native
ASL signers, and 3 new signers (all from European American
backgrounds). Seventeen of the 20 participants were female and
3 were male.
Procedures. Students were instructed in the advertisements
to contact the first author to set up a date and time to participate
in a focus group. When students contacted the first author, they
were given a link to a Doodle poll where they selected their
availability. The first author then contacted facilitators to con-
firm their availability and students whose availability matched
the confirmed date and time were contacted to participate. For
consistency within the focus groups, selected facilitators were
assigned to groups that matched their location, i.e. the Asian/
Pacific Islander group was facilitated by an individual of Asian/
Pacific Island descent and the native ASL signer group was
facilitated by an individual who was also a native ASL signer.
When students showed up to participate in the focus groups,
they signed an informed consent form and a video release form.
Ground rules were explained. An interpreter was provided for
the new signer group to provide sign support for students and
the facilitator as needed. The video camera was left in stand-
alone mode for the duration of the focus groups. Participation
Open Access 881
G. L. GILBERT ET AL.
themes and discussed the identification and coding of the
nce 100% inter-rater reliability was reached, a me-
used to find themes for each
’ with administrators
ok one hour and students were compensated $20 for their
Transcript confirmation processes were conducted through a
sign-to-English process. No identifying information was in-
cluded in the transcriptions. The research team identified
thod of constant comparisons was
cal group response. Frequencies were calculated for each
group of each theme that was identified.
Transcription Coding. Responses were reviewed and coded
according to a central theme. Most frequently occurring re-
sponses (those that occurred in 40% of the transcriptions) were
coded. Responses such as “I can see who’s moving up the lad-
der at (name of university) based on their last name, their deaf
school…”, “It’s easy to become ‘buddies
hose families know each other or through family friends”, and
“The teacher favors those from Deaf families” were coded as
favoritism. Responses such as “… if someone of a different
race wants to succeed, they have to adjust to White culture.
They have to dress the way that Whites do and practice like
Whites” were coded as cross-cultural issues indicating that one
feels that they must conform to society’s standards to be accept-
ed. A total of 22 themes emerged from the focus groups. A
complete list of themes can be found in Table 3.
Focus group themes.
1) The university represents diversity
3) Racism and discrimination
e to different cultures
d ethnicity course should/should not be required
on’t have time to answer students’ questions
s/is not challenging
don’t feel welcomed/belonging
4) Cross-cultural iss
5) White privilege
6) Deaf privileg
8) Communication barrie
9) Lack of exposur
15) Race an
16) Teachers d
17) No mixed inte
18) Coursework i
20) The university and its professors have low expectations/st
21) Lack of mentors/role m
22) Lack of diversity in faculty and sta
The first step towards understanding diversity is to define it.
de definitions were similar across
groups. Everiversity is different across cul-
tureaf, hard of hearing, and
pus. Students saw cliques within
ople at the university helped them under-
ch focus group opened with asking students to explain their
inition of diversity. Students presented concrete and abstract
finitions of diversity. Many
yone agreed that d
es, races, ethnicities, skin color, d
aring, as well as in different backgrounds such as education,
values, family heritage, and talents. Disabilities and sexual
orientations were also included in some definitions.
Some unique definitions of diversity were presented. An
Asian/Pacific Islander participant said, “To me, it means like
one bowl of vegetables in a salad. It has tomatoes, lettuce, dif-
ferent things mixed. To me, it’s similar to mixing different
people in one community.” Another student in the same group
said, “Educational differences too. Value difference
ritage—same and different. That’s called diversity too.” A
participant in the native ASL group said, “Diversity could be a
localized skill in what people are good at. For example, some
people are good at welding, technology, or playing sports. That
is my definition of diversity.”
After defining diversity, students were asked whether they
thought that the university reflected those definitions of diver-
sity. African American/Black (75%) and Hispanic/Latino
(100%) students did not think that the university represented
diversity. Reasons for this perception included the presence of
cliques and separation on cam
ose of the same race, hearing status, student organizations,
and educational background (i.e. those who attended a deaf
school versus those who were mainstreamed). These students
do not “break away” from cliques. In the Hispanic/Latino group,
one student answered “In my opinion, not really. When I pic-
ture diversity at (name of university), I thought it would be like
40% Black, 40% different [races]. When I came here, I felt like
there wasn’t a lot of diversity.” Another student agreed saying
that she “didn’t see anyone interacting and breaking away from
cliques.” From students’ responses, it is clear that there is rejec-
tion happening as well as cross-cultural issues. Some students
thought that the university represented diversity because there
were Deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing students on one cam-
pus. Often this view of diversity becomes dominant on campus.
The issue of linguistic privilege emerged as a theme for 60%
of Asian/Pacific Islanders and 100% of native ASL signers.
African American/Black and Hispanic/Latino respondents did
not mention linguistic privilege. New signers felt pressured to
be able to sign as well as those who had been signing all/most
of their lives. One new signer described an incident in which
e was voicing with another student and a Deaf student said to
her, “I am Deaf, you must sign now.” The new signer said,
“New signers can’t communicate too fast… We were left out of
Communication barriers were more of an issue for the new
signers than any other group. New signers reported positive and
negative experiences learning sign language. Negative experi-
ences included being left out of class discussions and feeling
pressured to sign like native signers. Positive experiences were
finding that most pe
and sign language; there was support from “most” students
for new signers. Some students reported that they enjoyed being
at the university. They felt more comfortable. The Deaf world
is a “wonderful experience.” One student said it was a dream of
hers since she was little to learn sign language. She wanted a
richer experience. Another student saw problems when she first
G. L. GILBERT ET AL.
arrived at (name of university), but as she adjusted, the univer-
sity started to feel like home.
In the Hispanic/Latino focus group, students felt that token-
ism was an issue. It was reported by 75% of Hispanic/Latino
participants that students of color were being used as tokens on
the basis of making an organization look diverse and exploita-
tion of student athletes from underrepresented groups by the
athletic department. This group of students implied that or-
ut I am not the only one that
atino and native
cific Islanders, 75% of Hispanic/Latinos, and 100% of
merican/Black group felt
w to suc-
include people from their background. Students
avoritism and tokenism, and noted
e same time) noted that they were
nizations care more about looking diverse than they do about
their minority members.
Analysis of transcriptions revealed a favoritism theme. Sixty
percent of Asian/Pacific Islanders and 75% of Hispanic/Latino
participants reported that they thought that there was favoritism
at the university. One student in the Asian/Pacific Islander
group said, “I ask a question, the teacher looks at her book and
moves on to another chapter. B
ppens to. It happens to other students too, but the students it
happens to are students of color. Those students who are U.S.
citizens or American, the teacher cares about them and answers
their questions.” An Asian/Pacific Islander also stated an inci-
dent where a White student was promoted ahead of her, which
she attributed to the student being in the same fraternity as their
boss. The student said, “We both started working in the com-
puter lab at the same time, but the other student is higher up and
is the boss’ personal assistant. I felt ashamed.”
In the current study, students agreed that there is separation
on campus, but they did not necessarily see these separations by
race and ethnicity. Rather, they were centered on sharing simi-
lar interests such as sports, student organizations, and having
attended a Deaf school. Twenty-five percent of African Ameri-
can/Black respondents, and 75% of Hispanic/L
SL respondents reported cliques. Respondents in the Asian/
Pacific Islander group blamed student organizations for the
separation on campus. One Asian/Pacific Island respondent said,
“I know diversity means we have organizations but I think that
is one of the reasons for separation. Like BDSU (Black Deaf
Student Union), APA (Asian/Pacific-Islander Association),
ELISO (English Language Institute Student Organization)
could cause people to think that these are Asian groups or
Black groups. They have to because (name of university) has
diverse organizations, but it could be one of the reasons for
making people separated.” A suggestion to reduce the issue of
separation and cliques was to make all student organizations
one diversity organization. The top officers of each organiza-
tion (Presidents and Vice Presidents) would lead the larger
diversity group. “That way, all student organizations will sup-
port each other’s events. The structure should be similar to
ELISO (English Language Institute Student Organization).” A
Hispanic/Latino participant said that friendships were mostly
between those who interacted through sports, reflecting this
type of common bond as a basis for friendships.
While Asian/Pacific Islanders perceive student organizations
as barriers to diverse interactions, the Hispanic/Latino group
had a different perspective. They reported that international
students from Europe or those with a lighter complexion fit in
more with Whites, whereas “darker skinned international stu-
dents… struggle more to fit in with different groups.” Acco
g to one student, groups are “really based on skin color.”
Asian/Pacific Islanders said that students tend to gather with
those of the same race, e.g. Whites with Whites, Blacks with
Blacks, while Asian and international students “mix with each
other.” Sports and other special interests also influenced social
The issues of mixed interactions where they pertain to inter-
racial and interethnic friendships and interacting with individu-
als of different groups was raised in the SCACS report. We
followed up on this perception in the 2012 focus groups. Fifty
percent, (n = 2) of African American/Blacks, 20% of
tive ASL respondents agreed that there are mixed interactions
on campus. One Hispanic/Latino student said of these mixed
interactions, “I do see some friendships based on having the
same interests such as sports, academics, work, and similar
major.” Another student in this group stated, “Yes, I feel I in-
teract, but I feel that [I interact] more with people in my FCS
major who are White and Latino.” These comments indicate
that while students may see these interactions as mixed, they
are based on interests, and not race.
Within these mixed interactions, students do not always feel
comfortable around their same-race peers. A Hispanic/Latino
student said, “I feel more comfortable interacting with different
groups at (name of university) compared to Hispanics”, which
shows that these students pursue such interactions. In contrast,
the remaining 50% in the African A
at there was not much racial diversity in regards to group
interactions. Students socialize “inside” their race. While these
students hold their own beliefs and perceptions, they remain
open to interacting with different people on campus.
The majority (100%) of Hispanic/Latino respondents re-
ported a lack of mentors and role models at the university. Stu-
dents felt that the absence of Hispanic/Latino mentors played a
major role in the lack of retention of Hispanic/Latino students.
These mentors should exemplify how the students should func-
tion as community members. How can they know ho
ed when they “do not see Latino staff, faculty, and adminis-
trator role models in the community?” Students know that the
mentors are there; but they are not visible at the university. One
student asked, “What have they been doing all this time?”
As can be seen in these qualitative comments, diversity re-
mains an issue on campus. Local groups have specific problems
in terms of feeling valued and/or respected. Latino student
not see role models, noting that the faculty and staff at the
versity do not
reported issues related to f
at like groups often find comfort within their own members.
International students from Africa noted that they did not “fit
in” as well as international students from Europe and those with
lighter skin. These responses seem to reflect Color-blind Ra-
cism, with implicit racist attitudes being overlooked by groups
with more privilege but impacting those who have historically
been targets of overt racism.
New signers noted an issue related to linguistic privilege.
This issue was also seen in the Cultural Racism subscale dis-
cussed earlier. This university is a bilingual environment, with
ASL and written English given equal standing. Those students
who are late learners of ASL or use simultaneous communica-
tion (signing and voicing at th
ten the targets of heated comments that focused on their use
of oral language. Using spoken English was reported as “taboo”
and could make one the target of bullying. Linguistic privilege
has been the target of many programs established through the
Open Access 883
G. L. GILBERT ET AL.
Office of Diversity as well as the chief academic officers of the
campus. It appears that this issue is more of a “hot button” than
more traditional diversity issues such as sexism or racism.
Overall, the current studies support past research, where stu-
dents stay within their comfort zones because those are where
they feel they can truly be themselves. However, Pratt (1990; as
cited in McTighe Musil et al., 1999) emphasized the need for
students to leave thr a “contact zone”
where they can get to know each other. Our findings showed
d that Black students tend
ic minority was equally important while
ore White students than International students
From our transcriptions, we could see how
ss with being a native signer.
und them, provided that the signer is signing at
ative ASL signers. In the new signer focus group, our
e “comfort zone” and ente
at students were moving beyond their comfort zones into the
contact zone at the institutional level. From both studies, stu-
dents clearly recognize the importance of diversity. At the more
localized level, there are still perceptions of separation and
staying within one’s comfort zone reported in the focus groups.
Mixed interactions often did not occur. But there was the men-
tion of cliques, who often based on attending a deaf school.
This focus on favoritism and linguistic privilege was also de-
tected in the EFA in the Cultural Racism subscale. Interestingly,
some definitions of diversity focused only on hearing status, i.e.,
there was diversity because deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing
students were on campus. Importantly, most native ASL users
are white; most native signers come from a European back-
ground and are often of Jewish descent, as they are the group
who carry this specific genetic trait.
In their study of perceptions of deaf ethnic minority students,
Parasnis and Fischer (2005) quoted a participant who said that
being around people like themselves was related to being in
their comfort zone. Within a group of people who are similar,
one does not feel judged and they feel free to be themselves.
Additionally, Tatum (2003) explaine
sit together because there is less pressure. In the current
study, we found similar results in that students in the focus
groups said that groupings were linked to having things in
common. In the current study, students in the Hispanic/Latino
focus group, implied that they felt more comfortable having
another student of the same race there. Students also said that
whatever they said would be supported when they had someone
else of the same race/ethnicity in their class. It was important
for students to see themselves not only in the student body, but
also in the faculty and staff at the university. They placed value
on ethnic role models.
Past research (Parasnis, Samar, & Fischer, 2005) supported
the view that having ethnic minority role models was more
important than having a deaf role model. They found that White,
Hispanic, and Asian deaf students at the National Technical
Institute for the Deaf (NTID) felt that having role models who
are deaf and of an ethn
frican American deaf students reported that they needed eth-
nic minority role models more than deaf role models. This
finding seemed to be true of our Hispanic/Latino focus group
In the current study, we found that White and African
American/Black students thought that diversity was not an is-
sue and there was equal access for all. In contrast, Parasnis and
Fischer (2005) cited research maintaining that social status and
access to information was not equal for everyone. It was also
found that m
lieved that everyone had the same opportunities. Both find-
ings support a color-blind perspective by Whites. The afore-
mentioned statement is not only true within the university but
for society as a whole. Some students honestly answered that
they only knew of their own privileges in regard to having the
Parasnis and Fischer (2005) pointed out that it was vital to
the retention and success of ethnic minority students that insti-
tutions confront diversity in curricular and co-curricular activi-
ties. Programs that teach students about multicultural back-
grounds as well as ongoing dialogues about race and diversity
should be provided.
portant it was for students to see themselves not only in the
curriculum, but also in the faculty. A university should be a
reflection of its student body.
New signers found it hard to follow class discussions. The
abovementioned situations by new signers can be reflective of
White privilege in which White individuals feel entitled to cer-
tain privileges based on their race. In this focus group, all
members were White, a sampling strategy to attempt to address
the confounding of Whitene
herefore, in this situation linguistic privilege can be attributed
to native signers feel entitled because of visual language access.
Native signers have constant access to communication whereas
new signers who have just entered a signing environment are
faced with the task of adapting to a new culture and language.
Although linguistic privilege has yet to be defined in the litera-
ture, this discussion poses the following question: Is linguistic
privilege for native signers similar to the privileges found in
other dominant groups? Are native signers a dominant group at
this university? Is there a mechanism that will make new sign-
ers more a part of this group? These questions warrant further
Transcriptions from the new signers group indicated com-
munication barriers that could be attributed to being in the early
stages of language acquisition. New signers are still learning to
communicate and are not near the level of proficiency as their
more experienced peers. They may be able to catch on to what
is being said aro
steady pace. Thus, it seems that more understanding needs to
happen as well as support from faculty, staff, and fellow stu-
The perspectives of new signers and native ASL signers to-
wards the campus climate were an arena that has not been vis-
ited in the past. These two groups were not based solely on
hearing status. When designing this study, we suspected that
new signers would have different perspectives of the campus
ndings were not similar to the other groups. This group had
more specific issues. Clearly, this group struggled with two
things during their discussion: one was their feelings of oppres-
sion; the other was communication—putting their thoughts into
words due to their level of signing experience. Future research
should focus on facilitating communication for new signers.
Campus-wide dialogue can focus on the new signer experience
with past and current new signers sharing perspectives on how
welcoming or unwelcoming the university is towards them.
Because this study occurred at a private university for the Deaf,
native ASL signers are the majority culture while new signers
are the minority. The majority, in an effort to preserve their
culture, may feel the need for the minority to conform to the
majority culture. This pressure to conform is applied to both
hearing students and new deaf and hard of hearing signers who
were elected to come to a bilingual university.
G. L. GILBERT ET AL.
Open Access 885
012 one can see
If the university is to keep up with the changing times and an
ever-increasing diverse society, changes in the student body,
faculty and staff, overall campus climate, as well as the cur-
riculum are necessary to continue to move forward. Barriers
need to be confronted and what works should be the focus for
improvement. In general, between 2009 and 2
anges in how diversity is viewed within this university. Ear-
lier negative responses to diversity were overt and explicit.
Currently, there is a move to a more Multicultural perspective
where diversity is seen as enhancing one’s life, which is a posi-
tive change. But one also finds Color-Blind Racism with its
implicit and covert negative views toward diverse groups. This
kind of mixed method investigation can help identify local
groups that may be overlooked when only more global instru-
ments are employed. As in the larger culture, racism has not
been eliminated; rather it has changed and reflects a more ab-
stract liberalism. This viewpoint may lead one to blame the
individual if they are not successful because everyone is be-
lieved to have equal opportunities and access. The university is
to be congratulated on past efforts but warned to be aware of
more implicit attitudes that may lead local groups to feel un-
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G. L. GILBERT ET AL.
Perceptions of Diversity Survey
1) Diversity encourages a deeper understanding of students
and the ways that our identities influence learning.
2) When we commit to diversity, we are also paving the way
for equal opportunities.
3) Past history with discrimination has influenced today’s
4) Everyone has the same opportunities.
5) The university promotes diversity.
6) Diversity education brings society together.
7) The university provides students, faculty, and staff with
opportunities to learn from different cultures.
8) Diversity values differences more than commonalities.
9) My experiences at the university have encouraged me to
pursue social interactions with others of different cultural or
10) I feel pressured to use ASL, even though it is not my
11) I feel comfortable approaching faculty who are of a dif-
ferent race/ethnicity than mine.
12) Minorities get unnecessary special privileges ahead of
more qualified people.
13) The university should require students to take at least one
cultural and ethnic diversity course as a graduation require-
14) Diversity is a distraction from major issues that threat-
ens national unity and local communities.
15) Interacting with diverse groups will improve learning,
build community involvement, and new attitudes of the mind
16) Diversity is the key to helping students understand and
find their many identities.
17) Diversity influences how and what students learn.
18) Diversity is a non-issue—we all have equal access to re-
19) The university plays an important role in helping all
members of the community understand diversity.
20) Supporting diversity is the right thing to do.
21) Diversity creates a commitment to equality and equal
22) Diversity depends on groups of people to build fairness
23) Support programs and financial aid are provided equally
to all students.
24) I prefer to interact with students of the same race/ethnic-
ity because I feel that students of different races/ethnicities do
not understand my culture.
25) Instruction is modified to suit students’ language and
26) Faculty sees all students as capable regardless of race/
27) My sense of ethnic identity is strengthened by my sense
of self and my community.
28) I do not understand why people of color eat together at
the cafeteria or are often seen sitting and walking together
29) It is important that my professors use examples that are
relevant to different race/ethnic groups.
30) My opinions are valued by others.
31) Faculty use race/ethnic examples where appropriate.
32) There is diversity and equality in faculty and staff of
33) I feel that when I participate in class, I have the support
of my classmates and faculty.
34) New changes will lead to the loss of tradition.
35) Students and faculty are accepting of individual differ-
36) There is increased confusion about identity categories
(e.g. deaf/hard of hearing, race/ethnicity).
37) When the university tries to accommodate diverse groups,
the result is lowered standards.
38) Students need a curriculum that helps them to analyze
their identities, and increase opportunities to learn about other
39) My race gives me special privileges.
40) Being able to voice your opinion allows for different per-
spectives to be heard.
Note: Survey responses were rated on the Likert (1 - 5) scale
from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (5).
Focus Group Questions
1) Diversity means similar and different things to everyone.
What is your definition of diversity?
2) Based on your definition of diversity, do you feel that the
university represents diversity?
From “Shades of Distinction: How Students of Color
Experience the University” 2009 Campus Climate
In 2009, a Student Cultural Attitudes and Climate Survey
was distributed to students on campus. The findings suggested
strengths and areas of opportunity for improvement at the uni-
versity. For example, students reported that their experiences
encouraged them to initiate contact with people of different
ethnicities or cultures. The following questions are meant to
give us more insight on the 2009 findings that were found to be
areas where the university can improve.
3) We have heard from some students that they feel that their
professors ignore their comments or questions. Why do you
think that students feel ignored by their professors? What be-
haviors by professors may lead students to believe they are
4) We found in a 2009 survey that more White, Biracial, and
Asian/Pacific Islanders are comfortable being in situations
where they are the only person in their racial/ethnic group than
African American students. What would make you comfortable
in such situations?
5) We asked students whether they think that students should
be required to take at least one course on the role of ethnicity
and race in society as a condition for graduation. Do you think
that completion of a course on ethnicity and race should be
required of all students?
6) Some students believe that there is racial/ethnic separation
on campus. What factors do you think contribute to this percep-
7) Not everyone agrees that there are friendships between
students of different racial and ethnic groups on campus. Is
there a strong presence of interracial and inter-ethnic friend-
G. L. GILBERT ET AL.
Open Access 887
ships on campus?
8) There was a variety of responses about being able to rec-
ognize culturally biased behavior based at the university. Has
your ability to recognize culturally biased behaviors been in-
fluenced during your time as a student?
9) A high number of students responded ‘No’ and ‘Don’t
know’ when asked whether they stop themselves from using
language that may be offensive to others. Do some students use
10) A low percentage of Asian/Pacific Islanders reported that
they initiate contact with people of different cultural and ethnic
backgrounds. Do you interact with people of different racial/
11) There are differences among groups in feeling that they
belong at this university. Why do you think that this difference
among groups exists? Is there a difference in how people ex-
perience the university?
12) A high number of seniors and graduate students disagree
that the quality of academic programs here at the university is
excellent compared to freshmen, sophomores, and juniors.
What do you think is the quality of the curriculum here at the