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Diversity leadership under race-neutral policies in higher education

Sosanya Marie Jones (Department of Educational Administration and Higher Education, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois, USA)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 17 November 2014




The purpose of this paper is to gain insight about the experience of multicultural administrators who oversee bridge program designed to recruit and retain historically underrepresented students of color. The study was also designed to capture the experience of the multicultural administrator as well as what meaning they made of their role as a diversity leader, and the challenges they face as they try to meet diversity goals under the constraints of race neutrality.


This is a descriptive qualitative multi-case study. In order to gain a better understanding of the experience of multicultural administrators as they try to enact diversity leadership under race-neutral policies a qualitative phenomenological multi-case designed was used. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with multicultural administrators from four institutions within a southern state of the USA.


Data reveals that seeking to increase and foster diversity on predominantly white campuses under race neutrality is challenging. Many of the administrators expressed concern about how they would maintain and increase diversity and campus inclusiveness without specifically marketing and targeting to groups that are traditionally marginalized. Overall, they described the experience as one filled with heightened awareness of the social and political environment and how senior-level administrators and other offices on campus perceived them and their work.

Research limitations/implications

Using a qualitative multi-case study limits generalizability. Also, there are many other factors such as institutional type, location, student population, and institutional capacity that may impact the institutional conditions in which each of these administrators work.

Practical implications

The findings of this study can be used to inform institutional policy makers of these struggles as well as provide campus administrators and staff helpful recommendations for dealing with the politics of race neutrality as they continue to fulfill their responsibility to increase diversity on their campuses.

Social implications

This paper may raise awareness about the challenges of employing race neutrality, particularly for states and institutions concerned with diversifying higher education. It also highlights the challenges leaders face when dealing with reduced funding and policies that do not support their work.


The paper discusses an understudied and under-recognized group of diversity leaders dealing with a current race-neutral policies. It will be of interests to institutional leaders, multicultural administrators, and other types of diversity leaders in higher education.



Jones, S.M. (2014), "Diversity leadership under race-neutral policies in higher education", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 33 No. 8, pp. 708-720.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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