Date of Award
Master of Arts
The purpose of this study was to explore the different kinds of microaggressions that students of color experienced with white faculty, including the process and outcomes of these interactions. Undergraduate students of color face fewer positive outcomes, in comparison to their white peers, such as increased attrition, lower academic self-efficacy, and feeling less connected to their campus (Tinto, 1975; Cabrera et al., 1999; Rankin & Reason, 2005). The relationship between students and faculty has been shown to have a direct impact on student’s engagement on campus and their academic self-efficacy (Komarraju, Musulkin, & Battacharya, 2010), thus implying that students of color could benefit from strong relationships with faculty. However, faculty are more likely to have lower expectations of minority students, interact with these students less frequently, and depend on racial stereotypes to develop perspectives on students (e.g., Jussim & Harbor, 2005, Trujillo, 1986, Jussim, Eccles, & Madon, 1996). Participants in this study were recruited from a mid-size Midwestern university from university-based organizations and direct contact with students in various campus locations. Experiences with microaggressions were assessed through a short answer survey, in which participants were asked to recount both a negative incident and a positive incident that involved a faculty member committing or responding to a microaggression. A Grounded Theory approach was used to analyze the data. The emergent themes from this study were categorized in terms of type of incident, proximal outcomes, distal outcomes. Relationships were also examined between the events and outcomes. Participants observed that white faculty did commit microaggressions in the classroom, involving stereotyping, dismissing derogatory comments made by other students, and treating participants differently than their white peers. These microaggressions were typically not noticed by the faculty themselves, and students often did not address them with faculty due to the faculty members’ power and influence on participants’ grades. However, participants experienced internal cognitive and emotional reactions that led to them feeling a loss of trust and respect for their faculty and institution. Students who experienced classroom microaggressions also experienced a negative impact on their academic performance, as they were less likely to attend class, participate, and seek out the faculty member for academic help after such incidents. These students also reported some positive experiences with other faculty, such as having discussions around diversity or being encouraged to be successful. Participants who experienced such positive interactions felt a stronger connection to faculty and reported that they were motivated and cared more about their coursework. These findings suggest that the interactions between faculty and students of color have an impact on students’ relationship with faculty and their academic performance, specifically when they are negative, race-related interactions such as microaggressions.
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