-Mitchell J. Chang, UCLA
“American individualism suggests that we have a high amount of agency and that human relationships are simply a matter of preference; thus, choosing to interact or befriend someone across race seems to be just that: a choice. We rarely think about how organizational structures and demography influence our ability to meet and befriend one another…” –When Diversity Drops, p. 5
Julie J. Park examines how losing racial diversity in a university affects the everyday lives of its students. She uses a student organization, the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) at “California University,” as a case study to show how reductions in racial diversity impact the ability of students to sustain multiethnic communities.
The story documents IVCF’s evolution from a predominantly white group that rarely addressed race to the most racially diverse campus fellowship at the university. However, its ability to maintain its multiethnic membership was severely hampered by the drop in black enrollment at California University following the passage of Proposition 209, a statewide affirmative action ban.
Park demonstrates how the friendships that students have—or do not have—across racial lines are not just a matter of personal preference or choice; they take place in the contexts that are inevitably shaped by the demographic conditions of the university. She contends that a strong organizational commitment to diversity, while essential, cannot sustain racially diverse student subcultures. Her work makes a critical contribution to our understanding of race and inequality in collegiate life and is a valuable resource for educators and researchers interested in the influence of racial politics on students’ lives.
Available for purchase at Amazon and Rutgers University Press (at check-out enter code 02AAAA11 to get free shipping and 20% off. You can also try 02RWWW13 for free shipping and 40% off–coupon still works as of 8/26/13).