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Talk Is Cheap: The Prospects and Problems with Campus Conversations on Race

Diversity and Triumphs of Navigating the Terrain of Academe

ISBN: 978-1-78973-608-3, eISBN: 978-1-78973-607-6

Publication date: 30 May 2019


In attempts to defuse racial tensions on campus, higher education administrators have often commissioned special units and campus-wide initiatives. Historically, these commissions often address racial challenges in higher education that impact both faculty and students. If designed and deployed carefully, these commissions can be very useful mechanisms to address sensitive racial, religious, and linguistic concerns on campus. Despite the prevalence of studies that discuss racial experiences on campus, far less scholarship has focused on the effectiveness of these commissions and the dialogic strategies that faculty of color have employed in their service.

This study draws on three major findings. First, the chapter explores why the presidential commission structure is a powerful mechanism for improving dialogue about racial and ethnic issues on campus. Former commissioners discuss its potential for addressing the complex and interlocking concerns of faculty, staff, and students of color. Second, although the commission’s structure is promising, we present numerous problems that require further attention. We discuss how the emphasis on dialogue and less dedication to targeted actions and policies may actually undermine the goals of commissions like these and further frustrate aggrieved faculty, staff, and students. Third, the chapter highlights successful and unsuccessful strategies for sustaining fruitful dialogue that lead to an increased understanding and acceptance of diverse viewpoints and perspectives. These findings have specific relevance for international faculty and faculty of color interested in ways to be more proactive in shaping existing programs, policies, and approaches to meet the diverse needs of university life.



Figueroa, N.L. and Vaught, S. (2019), "Talk Is Cheap: The Prospects and Problems with Campus Conversations on Race", Diversity and Triumphs of Navigating the Terrain of Academe (Diversity in Higher Education, Vol. 23), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 7-23.



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