The term diversity is exceedingly common—some would even say conspicuous—in discussions of higher education, yet there is no consensus as to its import or even a precise definition.
On one hand, some proponents of fostering racially and ethnically diverse student bodies in higher education facilely proclaim that diversity is crucial, as college is considered a training ground for life in our multicultural society. Indeed, colleges and universities are even frequently evaluated on the racial, geographic, and socioeconomic diversity of each incoming class of students, and affirmative action policies in admissions are based on the rationale that the presence of campus diversity enriches the learning environment.
On the other hand, there are those who challenge the legitimacy of having higher education institutions take active measures to ensure campus racial diversity, including through the use of affirmative action. We need to look no further than to the recent Supreme Court decision in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin and the broader history in which it is situated for evidence of this robust and continuing debate.
Yet, as we debate the benefits of campus diversity, a more critical understanding of the concept is needed — benefits for whom and with what outcomes? This question is especially salient in the case of black students — from across the diaspora — at elite institutions of higher education. So-called diversity efforts have not always been affirming to students of color broadly, and black students in particular.