A new study by Zachary Foste, assistant professor of educational leadership & policy studies at the University of Kansas, examined racial differences in students’ experience in campus housing at three major universities.
After interviewing campus housing administrators, staff, and students, Dr. Foste found that all three educational institutions had spaces where students of color felt they didn’t belong. Students at all three institutions said there were campus facilities that were predominantly White, or where more students of color tended to live. Students of color who lived in predominantly White facilities commonly reported not feeling welcome, being uncomfortable with roommates, and avoiding spending time in their residence.
Adding to the racial animus was the trend in higher education of schools building newer, more lavish housing facilities to attract students. The result is often a dichotomy of new, high-dollar, spacious living spaces and older residential towers with shared bathrooms and few amenities.
Respondents at one campus also spoke of a housing facility that was low-cost but required students to work jobs as janitorial staff, in kitchens, or other similar situations. Some called the facility “the poor house.” Some institutions assign or allow students to choose rooms based on when they put down a pre-deposit. That is not an option for many students not from high socioeconomic backgrounds.
Foste said that “this was all about how people perceive their environment, which was at odds with universities’ stated values of commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Living arrangements were anything but equitable or inclusive.”
The study is forthcoming in the Journal of College Student Development.