Creating Positive College Campus Racial Climates for Students of Color

The term “campus racial climate” is used to describe the “current attitudes, behaviors, and practices of faculty and students at a higher education institution toward students based on their race/ethnicity.” So, how does a college’s campus racial climate affect college students of color?

Getting into college is one accomplishment. However, what happens once a student arrives on campus? How are they treated? How do they feel? Students of color often experience college differently than their White peers because of the negative attitudes, behavior, and practices some peers and faculty have toward students of color due to their race and/or ethnicity. The long-term effects of college students’ experiences on campus severely affect the academic experiences and social well-being of students of color, namely — their college access and success.

That’s why colleges and universities need to ensure that their students, faculty, and campus communities are welcoming, supportive, and attuned to the unique experiences of students of color on their campus. Research has shown that college students of color who receive continuous, tailored support have positive student social and academic outcomes, including increased campus participation, persistence, and graduation rates. What’s more, a college’s commitment to increasing the cultural competency of all its students, faculty, and surrounding campus communities has been shown to better prepare students of all racial backgrounds to participate in a diverse democracy.

As such, it is imperative that policies at the institutional, state, and federal levels expand college access and success for all students and ensures students of color are supported through positive campus racial climates that will lead to their social and academic success throughout and beyond college. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s limitation on the use of affirmative action, some colleges are doing away with their efforts to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) on campus; but we argue that there needs to be even greater efforts on college campuses to support the belonging and success of students of color, not fewer.

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Ed Trust’s Campus Racial Climate Student Project

To find out how campus racial climates affect students of color, Ed Trust went straight to the source: From September 2022 to May 2023, researchers interviewed 32 Black, Latino, and Asian American college students enrolled at predominantly White institutions (PWIs) in 15 states to learn about their experiences on campus. Their answers revealed many common themes, such as

 

Underrepresentation of students of color and faculty on campus

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Limited support from their college for students of color

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Lack of student knowledge about college policies and procedures to report incidents of racial/ethnic discrimination

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Lack of mental health supports that provide care specifically to students of color

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In Their Own Words: Quotes from College Students

On Being the Only One

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On the Lack of Faculty of Color

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On Experiencing Racism and Microaggressions

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On Student Well-Being and Mental Health

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Focus Group Findings

Our conversations with students led to various recommendations by students that could hold colleges and universities accountable for ensuring positive campus racial climates. Some suggestions:

  • Have frequent meetings around racialized issues between racial/ethnic student organizations and Board of Trustees
  • Increase the percentage of faculty of color
  • Require frequent campus racial climate assessments
  • Have more efficient systems for students to report racial/ethnic incidents, including updating students on the progress on the resolution of such incidents
  • Create social, academic, and economic supports for students of color, including faculty mentoring, more mental health resources for students of color (and continuous financial aid to students)
  • Require higher education institutions to have cultural centers, funded with substantial resources
  • Address educational inequities by race and/or ethnicity in public K-12 schools

A Framework to Understand Campus Racial Climate

This framework, developed by Dr. Sylvia Hurtado, Alma Clayton-Pedersen, Walter Allen, and Jeffrey Milem, measures campus racial climate for higher education institutions based on four dimensions. In this framework, a student’s race/ethnicity is defined as a student’s race, color, national origin, ethnicity, or ancestry, actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, including membership in a religion that may be perceived to exhibit such characteristics (as defined by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights). We use this definition to acknowledge that race and ethnicity are complex, and students themselves have intersecting identities including that of race and ethnicity. Students also experience their college campus based on the way their peers, professors, and others perceive the student’s identity, including race/ethnicity. For example, there may be a male student who self identifies as Afro-Latino, is a practicing Muslim, and is also a student parent. Professors and peers who are not familiar with this student may only perceive this student as being a Black male and are unaware of his religion or that he has a child.

The researchers identify four dimensions of campus racial climate. We’ve created a chart to illustrate how the dimensions work together. These include an institution’s:

  1. Historical Legacy of Inclusion/Exclusion: How has a college or university historically included or excluded students of color in admission and campus policies?
  2. Structural Diversity: How many students of color are enrolled on campus and how many faculty of color are there at the college or university?
  3. Psychological Climate: What are the experiences of students of color on campus and how do they affect their mental health? Do students of color on campus perceive themselves as likely to experience discrimination or racial conflict by their peers or faculty? And how do they perceive conflict or discrimination will be addressed by their college?
  4. Social Behavior: How do students on campus interact with each other and faculty, especially among peers and faculty from different racial/ethnic backgrounds?

The framework also acknowledges that the campus racial climate of higher education institutions are influenced by a) governmental policy, programs, and initiatives, such as state and federal policy on affirmative action; and b) sociohistorical contexts, events, or issues in the larger society that influence how people view racial diversity in society.

campus racial climate

DIMENSION 1: Historical Legacy of Inclusion/Exclusion

Unfortunately, most higher education institutions have a history of limited access and exclusion toward students of color. A college’s historical legacy of exclusion can determine the prevailing campus racial climate and influence current practices on campus toward students of color. Higher education institutions should acknowledge their past history of exclusion and the detrimental impact that this history has had on the campus and students of color. By doing so, colleges can garner broader student and faculty support for their efforts to improve the campus climate for diversity. Moreover, acknowledging a past history of exclusion implies an institutional willingness to actively shed its exclusionary past. Such efforts may be even more effective if they are coupled with a clearly articulated vision for a more inclusive future.

What higher education institutions can do

Higher education leaders must consider whether “embedded benefits” may still exist on their campus for some students over others, namely White students over students of color. Colleges with a history of exclusion toward students of color are likely to have evolved in ways that disproportionately benefit some groups. For example, at many colleges, White fraternities and sororities have been a part of campus life much longer than people of color have been attending universities. Similarly, legacy admissions at various higher education institutions has and continues to disproportionately benefit White students, who are more likely to be the children of alumni of selective colleges. Higher education institutions must examine how their current policies and practices may disproportionately harm college access and success for students of color, acknowledge the impact of these practices on students, and remedy them.

DIMENSION 2: Structural Diversity

Structural diversity refers to the structure of student enrollments and faculty on campus, and specifically, racial/ethnic representation within student enrollments and faculty. Research supports the concept that increasing the college’s structural diversity is an important step toward improving the campus racial climate. Here are three scenarios:

Environments with highly skewed distributions of students shape the dynamics of social interaction:

  • In environments that lack diverse populations, underrepresented groups are viewed as tokens.
  • A college’s stance on increasing the representation of diverse racial/ethnic groups communicates whether maintaining a multicultural environment is a high institutional priority.

However, the racial/ethnic restructuring of student enrollments can also trigger conflict and resistance among groups. When there is an increase in the numbers of students of color on campus, a college must also encourage maximizing cross-racial interaction and encouraging ongoing discussions about race. Research has shown that at colleges and universities where there has been an increase in the numbers of students of color on campus without implementing cross-racial interaction and ongoing discussions about race, students of color reported less overall satisfaction with their college experience.

What higher education institutions can do

  • One way to improve the college campus racial climate is to increase the representation of people of color (students and faculty) on campus. College admissions practices and financial aid policies are two areas in which changes can be made that will increase the representation of students of color on campus. Colleges can also adopt specific targets for increasing faculty of color on their campus and create faculty diversity initiatives.
  • Any institutional, state, or federal financial aid policies to increase the representation of people of color on campus should involve substantial increases in student need-based funding, rather than an increased emphasis on loans. Moreover, additional investment in financial aid programs makes good fiscal sense. Funding federal and state financial aid programs provides a substantial return on investment of public funds.
  • As colleges and universities work to increase the representation of people of color on campus, they must also take charge of facilitating cross-racial interactions among students and faculty. One way to do this is by making peer groups a deliberate and positive part of the educational process and providing formal mentoring programs where students are matched with faculty who will support them and their work as emerging scholars.

 

DIMENSION 3: Psychological Climate

The psychological dimension of the campus racial climate involves individuals’ views of group relations, institutional responses to diversity, perceptions of discrimination or racial conflict, and attitudes toward racial/ethnic backgrounds different than one’s own. It’s important to note that more recent studies show that racially and ethnically diverse administrators, students, and faculty tend to view the campus climate differently than their White peers.

Introducing ways for students to report and seek redress for negative experiences is important, but campuses must also be aware that many psychological aspects of the college climate go unreported. A study of California State institutions revealed that Asian Pacific Americans often do not use formal grievance procedures when they experience discrimination or harassment.

What higher education institutions can do

  • Colleges and universities must address negative perceptions peers and faculty have toward students of color through ongoing measurement of student perceptions via campus racial climate assessments, implementation of educational programs to combat negative racial/ethnic bias, and implementation of clear and anonymous reporting systems for students of color to report incidents of racial discrimination.
  • Colleges should design and implement systematic and comprehensive educational programs to help all members of the campus community (students, faculty, and staff) identify and confront the stereotypes and myths that people have about those who are different from them.
  • Colleges should also create clearly stated policies and procedures to help the campus community confront and resolve incidents of racial/ethnic harassment and discrimination. These policies and procedures should include formal processes for resolving conflicts or disputes that involve representatives from all members of the campus community (students, faculty, staff).
  • Colleges must also implement regular and ongoing assessments of the campus climate that include students, faculty, and staff.

 

DIMENSION 4: Faculty/Student Social Behavior

The behavioral dimension of the campus racial climate consists of (a) actual reports of general social interaction between and among students and faculty of different racial/ethnic backgrounds and (b) the nature of intergroup relations on campus.

The absence of interracial contact clearly influences students’ views toward others, support for campus initiatives, and educational outcomes. Research has shown that White students who have had little social interaction with individuals of different racial backgrounds on campus are less likely to hold positive attitudes toward multiculturalism on campus. Conversely, White students who have socialized with someone of another race, have discussed racial and ethnic issues with other students, or have attended racial/cultural awareness workshops are more likely to value the goal of promoting racial understanding.

What higher education institutions can do

  • Colleges and universities should clearly convey to all members of the community the expectation that interracial dialogue and interaction are highly valued on campus. They should work to provide students with opportunities for cross-racial interaction whenever possible — both in and out of the classroom.
  • Contact and communication should also be regular, ongoing, and viewed as equal in status by all participants.
  • Contact should occur in an environment characterized by cooperation and not competition. Given the important role of faculty-student relationships, colleges should also provide abundant opportunities for faculty-student contact in and out of the classroom. Cross-race interactions can be also enhanced by the programs and activities of multicultural centers.

Recommendations for Ensuring Positive Campus Racial Climates at the State and Federal Level

Here, we make policy recommendations at the state and federal levels. Read to see how making these changes in policies and practices can improve the campus racial climate at colleges and universities.

State Policy Recommendations

State Policy Recommendations

State Legislatures

  • Require mandatory campus climate metrics in state outcomes-based funding measures. Metrics should be comprehensive to account for how a higher education institution is addressing its historical legacy of inclusion/exclusion of students of color, structural diversity, psychological climate, and student behavior (see Campus Climate Framework).
  • Require all higher education institutions in the state to audit any existing student complaint process regarding student discrimination/harassment based on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, or ancestry, actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, including membership in a religion that may be perceived to exhibit such characteristics on their campuses to better understand and improve:
  1. How the complaint process handles and resolves these reports, especially reports not regarding civil rights crimes, such as microaggressions or the psychological impacts of discrimination/harassment
  2. How the complaint process includes student input and feedback on the process including how students who file a report are kept abreast of their report proceedings, including the larger student body, when appropriate
  3. How higher education institutions monitor actors they have determined to be noncompliant with campus policy on discrimination/harassment based on race, including how the student complaint process intersects with faculty senate/tenure systems.
  4. The audit should also explore ways to improve student accessibility and navigation of the complaint process, especially considering that many reports of student discrimination/harassment based on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, ancestry, or religion go unreported. Legislatures should appropriate state funds toward this purpose.
  • Mandate state higher education institutions to have a university policy prohibiting discrimination and/or harassment based on a student’s race, color, or ethnicity.
  • Mandate state higher education institutions to have a student complaint process in line with campus policy on prohibiting discrimination and/or harassment based on a student’s race, color, or ethnicity. The complaint process should include a website and hotline that is fully accessible to all students and provides the option for students to remain anonymous.
  • Mandate state higher education institutions to inform incoming and current college students about university policy prohibiting discrimination and/or harassment based on a student’s race, color, or ethnicity; The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) student complaint process; and the student complaint process for respective U.S. Department of Education federally recognized accreditors in the state.
  • Mandate state higher education institutions to inform incoming and current college students about their institution’s annual data on student reports of discrimination and/or harassment based on a student’s race, color, ethnicity, or religion from the following sources:
  1. The institution’s own complaint process regarding student discrimination/harassment based on race/ethnicity
  2. OCR’s student complaint process
  3. The student complaint process for an institution’s respective U.S. Department of Education federally recognized accreditor. Data from the following sources should be posted publicly on a college’s website.
  • Require state higher education institutions to conduct annual campus racial climate assessments. Assessments should evaluate the college’s historical legacy of inclusion/exclusion of students of color, structural diversity, psychological climate, and behavioral dimension (see Campus Climate Framework). Campus racial climate assessment planning should include a strong representation of students (including students of color), faculty, staff, and any campus office of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Mandate campus racial climate assessment results be shared in an accessible and understandable manner to incoming and current students. Legislatures should appropriate state funds toward this purpose.
  • Require state higher education institutions to establish a minimum amount of permanent, annual funding toward supporting racial/ethnic cultural centers and student organizations. Funding should not result in an increase in student fees and tuition and funding should be given to cultural centers and organizations with limited oversight. Legislatures should appropriate state funds toward this purpose.
  • Require state higher education institutions to strengthen and implement continuous best practices for the academic, social, and economic support of students of color, such as faculty and peer mentoring initiatives, first-year courses and curriculum, college and career advising, mental health resources, and scholarship opportunities for students. Strengthening of best practices should include the input of students of color on campus, including leadership of any respective racial/ethnic cultural centers on campus. Practices involving student staffing should appropriately compensate students through the provision of stipends, reduction and removal of institutional student debt, housing security and guarantees, etc. Legislatures should appropriate state funds toward this recommendation.
  • Require state higher education institutions to inform all incoming and current students about existing supports on campus for the social, academic, and economic support of students of color. This should include information about existing supports focused on campus interfaith cooperation such as designated physical spaces for students to pray on campus, integration of religious holidays in academic scheduling, and halal and kosher dining options. Information about these supports should be shared with students via methods such as email blasts to students, student portals, etc.
  • Require state higher education institutions to audit the racial/ethnic diversity on their respective Board of Trustees and assess how the Board invites and includes the concerns of racial/ethnic students and student organizations in Board decision-making. The Board of Trustees should include members of various racial/ethnic backgrounds, including a diverse racial/ethnic representation of students.
  • Work toward closing state and local funding gaps among school districts educating the most students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.
  • Set goals and benchmarks for addressing faculty diversity at state higher education institutions, explore promising practices being implemented nationally by higher education institutions and systems to address faculty diversity, and provide state appropriations to state higher education institutions to build out and implement practices addressing faculty diversity.
  • Set goals and benchmarks for addressing student racial/ethnic diversity at higher education institutions. Require state higher education institutions to review current student recruitment practices to better address student racial/ethnic diversity.
  • Encourage state higher education institutions to continue the consideration of race/ethnicity in college admissions within the scope of the 2023 U.S. Supreme Court affirmative action ruling, using the U.S. Department of Education’s guidelines.

Accreditation Agencies/State Approval Agencies

  • Review agency accreditation requirements for higher education institutions to specifically and intentionally incorporate campus racial climate measures into existing accreditation requirements. Campus racial climate measures should evaluate a higher education institution’s historical legacy of inclusion/exclusion of students of color, structural diversity, psychological climate, and student behavior (see Campus Climate Framework).
  • Publicly share annual data on student complaints received through an accreditation agency, including complaints specifically filed under student discrimination or harassment on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, or ancestry, actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, including membership in a religion that may be perceived to exhibit such characteristics. Data should include information on the total number of filed complaints disaggregated by race/ethnicity; number of resolved complaints and resolved complaints with determinations of noncompliance; number of resolved complaints with determinations of compliance; number of unresolved complaints due to ongoing investigation; and names of higher education institutions affiliated with all complaints.
  • Promote the accreditor student complaint process to incoming and current college students as an avenue through which students can hold their respective higher education institution accountable for an unresolved/not fairly resolved report of student discrimination or harassment based on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, or ancestry, that a student has submitted directly to their respective higher education institution. Accreditation agencies should also provide students with guidance on best practices for reporting incidents through the accreditor complaint process.

State Commissions of Higher Education

  • Provide state higher education institutions guidance for creating a student complaint process that is fully accessible to all students and provides the option for students to remain anonymous.
  • Create state-wide higher education working groups including representatives of the state commission of higher education, U.S. Department of Education federally-recognized accreditors, state higher education institutions, and current college students, staff, and faculty to explore alternative ways outside of existing campus student complaint processes for students to report and seek redress for student discrimination or harassment based on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, or ancestry, actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, including membership in a religion that may be perceived to exhibit such characteristics.
  • Enforce campus climate metrics in state outcomes-based funding measures. Metrics should be comprehensive to account for how a higher education institution is addressing their historical legacy of inclusion/exclusion of students of color, structural diversity, psychological climate, and student behavior (see Campus Climate Framework).
  • Require state higher education institutions to audit the racial/ethnic diversity on their respective Board of Trustees and assess how the Board invites and includes the concerns students of color and student cultural organizations in Board decision-making. The Board of Trustees should include members of various racial/ethnic backgrounds, including a diverse racial/ethnic representation of students.
  • State legislatures should increase appropriations for state commissions of higher education given their roles in enforcement, dissemination, and monitoring of state campus racial climate requirements.

Attorneys General

  • Investigate how the state’s local higher education institutions are performing with regards to campus racial climate, and how negative campus racial climates at these institutions may be harming students. Investigations on campus racial climate should evaluate a higher education institution’s historical legacy of inclusion/exclusion of students of color, structural diversity, psychological climate, and student behavior (see Campus Climate Framework). Attorneys general can also help their state’s higher education commission develop a system to monitor institutions struggling to achieve a positive campus racial climate.
  • State legislatures should increase appropriations for attorneys general given their roles in enforcement, dissemination, and monitoring of state campus racial climate requirements.

Federal Policy Recommendations

Federal Policy Recommendations

Congress

  • Require all higher education institutions to have a university policy prohibiting discrimination and/or harassment based on a student’s race, color, national origin, ethnicity, or ancestry, actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, including membership in a religion that may be perceived to exhibit such characteristics.
  • Require all higher education institutions to have a student complaint process in line with campus policy prohibiting discrimination and/or harassment based on a student’s race or ethnicity. The complaint process should include a website and hotline that is fully accessible to all students and provides the option for students to remain anonymous.
  • Require all higher education institutions to audit any existing student complaint process regarding student discrimination/harassment based on race, color, ethnicity, or religion on their campuses, to better understand and improve:
  1. How the complaint process handles and resolves these reports, especially reports not regarding civil rights crimes, such as microaggressions or the psychological impacts of discrimination/harassment
  2. How the complaint process includes student input and feedback on the process including how students who file a report are kept abreast of their report proceedings, including the larger student body, when appropriate
  3. How higher education institutions monitor actors they have determined to be noncompliant with campus policy on discrimination/harassment based on race, including how the student complaint process intersects with faculty senate/tenure systems. The audit should also explore ways to improve student accessibility and navigation of the complaint process, especially considering that many reports of student discrimination/harassment based on race/ethnicity go unreported. Congress should appropriate federal funds toward this purpose.
  • Require all state higher education institutions to inform incoming and current college students about their institution’s annual data on student reports of discrimination and/or harassment based on a student’s race, color, national origin, ethnicity, ancestry, and religion from the following sources:
  1. The institution’s own complaint process regarding student discrimination/harassment based on race/ethnicity or religion
  2. OCR’s student complaint process
  3. The student complaint process for the institution’s respective U.S. Department of Education federally-recognized accreditor
  • Require all higher education institutions to inform incoming and current college students about campus policy prohibiting discrimination and/or harassment based on a student’s race/ethnicity; OCR’s student complaint process; and the student complaint process for an institution’s respective U.S. Department of Education federally recognized accreditor.
  • Require all higher education institutions to conduct annual campus racial climate assessments. Assessments should evaluate a higher education institution’s historical legacy of inclusion/exclusion of students of color, structural diversity, psychological climate, and student behavior (see Campus Climate Framework). Campus racial climate assessment planning should include a strong representation of students (including students of color), faculty, staff, and any campus office of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Mandate campus racial climate assessment results to be shared in an accessible and understandable manner to incoming and current students. Congress should appropriate federal funds toward this purpose.
  • Require all higher education institutions to inform all incoming and current students about existing supports on campus for the social, academic, and economic support of students of color via methods such as email blasts to students, student portals, etc. This should include information about existing supports focused on campus interfaith cooperation such as designated physical spaces for students to pray on campus, integration of religious holidays in academic scheduling, and halal and kosher dining options. Information about these supports should be shared with students via methods such as email blasts to students, student portals, etc.
  • Require all higher education institutions to strengthen and implement continuous best practices for the academic, social, and economic support of students of color, such as faculty and peer mentoring initiatives, first-year courses and curriculum, college and career advising, mental health resources, and scholarship opportunities for students. Strengthening of best practices should include the input of students of color on campus, including leadership of any respective racial/ethnic cultural centers on campus. Practices involving student staffing should appropriately compensate students through the provision of stipends, reduction and removal of institutional student debt, housing security and guarantees, etc. Congress should appropriate federal funds toward this recommendation.
  • Increase Title I funding to public P-12 schools. Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) provides financial assistance to local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income backgrounds to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards.
  • Increase funding for federal college preparation programs focused on students of color and students from low-income backgrounds to help address student diversity. This includes federal TRIO programs such as the Educational Opportunity Centers Program, Talent Search Program, and Upward Bound.
  • Increase funding for federal graduate preparation programs to help address faculty diversity. This includes federal programs such as the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, Master’s Degree Programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Promoting Postbaccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans Program, and the Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence (Hawkins) Program.

U.S. Department of Education

Office for Civil Rights (OCR)

  • OCR is responsible for enforcing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin.
  • Promote OCR’s student complaint process to all incoming and current college students as an avenue through which students can hold their respective higher education institution accountable for an unresolved/not fairly resolved report of student discrimination or harassment based on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, or ancestry, that a student has submitted directly to their respective higher education institution. OCR should also provide students with guidance on best practices for reporting incidents to OCR.
  • Promote the student complaint process of U.S. Department of Education federally-recognized accreditors to incoming and current college students as an avenue through which students can hold their respective higher education institution accountable for an unresolved/not fairly resolved report of student discrimination or harassment based on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, or ancestry, that a student has submitted directly to their respective higher education institution. OCR should also provide students with guidance on best practices for reporting incidents through the accreditor complaint process.
  • Publicly share annual data on student complaints received through the OCR student complaint process for higher education institutions, including complaints specifically filed under student discrimination or harassment on race/ethnicity (Title VI). Data should be disaggregated by student race/ethnicity, student education level, type of Title VI violation, and names of higher education institutions that complaints were filed towards. Data should also include information on the number of filed complaints including those provided through OCR’s electronic complaint form, fillable PDF Complaint Form, and a letter/email with items 1-15 of the fillable PDF Complaint Form; number of complaints with approved 180-day period waivers and general data trends associated with 180-day waivers; number of filed complaints requiring signed consent forms and the number of closed complaints due to lack of signed consent forms; resolved complaints with determinations of noncompliance; and resolved complaints with determinations of compliance.
  • Congress should increase appropriations for the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights given its role in enforcement, dissemination, and monitoring of campus racial climate requirements.

National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI)

  • Within the U.S. Department of Education’s regulatory criteria for the recognition of accrediting agencies, insert “(xi) campus racial climate” as a required area that a U.S. Department of Education federally-recognized accreditor must have clear expectations about for higher education institutions it accredits.
  • Recommend federally-recognized accreditors review their accreditation requirements for higher education institutions to specifically and intentionally incorporate campus racial climate measures within their existing accreditation requirements. Campus racial climate measures evaluate a higher education institution’s historical legacy of inclusion/exclusion of students of color, structural diversity, psychological climate, and behavioral dimension (see Campus Climate Framework).
  • Provide guidance for federally-recognized accreditors on best practices for higher education institutions to update their student complaint processes to be fully accessible and anonymous for students and recommend higher education institutions modify their current complaint processes to meet best practices.
  • Publicly share annual data on student complaints received through the student complaint process of federally-recognized accreditors, including complaints specifically filed under student discrimination or harassment on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, or ancestry, actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, including membership in a religion that may be perceived to exhibit such characteristics. Data should include information on the total number of filed complaints disaggregated by race/ethnicity; number of resolved complaints and resolved complaints with determinations of noncompliance; number of resolved complaints with determinations of compliance; number of unresolved complaints due to ongoing investigation; and names of higher education institutions affiliated with all complaints.

U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General

  • Audit OCR’s student complaint process to better understand and improve:
  1. How the complaint process handles and resolves reports of student discrimination/harassment based on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, or ancestry, actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, including membership in a religion that may be perceived to exhibit such characteristics for offenses not considered civil rights crimes, such as microaggressions or the psychological impacts of discrimination/harassment.
  2. How OCR monitors recipients they determined to be noncompliant with the civil rights law(s) that OCR enforces, and specifically, recipients that are or belong to higher education institutions. The audit should also explore ways to improve student accessibility and navigation of the OCR complaint process, especially considering that many reports of student discrimination/harassment based on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, ancestry, or religion go unreported.
  • Congress should increase appropriations for the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General given its role in enforcement, dissemination, and monitoring of campus racial climate requirements.