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Education Sciences

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DOI: 10.3390/educsci12030211


Although diversity has been a guiding preoccupation in higher education for several decades, organizational diversity practice, i.e., what happens when colleges and universities implement diversity plans, is rarely a subject of inquiry. As a result, there is relatively little empirical understanding of why diversity has failed to significantly advance racial equity on college campuses. In response, this ethnographic, collective case study draws on interviews with 54 respondents, archival and organizational documents, and campus observations to interrogate diversity practice on three campuses of different status in one public system in the U.S. This study employs Bourdieu’s theory of practice, specifically institutional habitus as an analytic lens, to examine the influence of campus social status on diversity practice related to a statewide policy. Findings reveal that each campus has a unique institutional habitus—that is, a status-linked sense of campus identity, constraints, and opportunities—that prefigured and, on most campuses, derailed diversity practice in response to the policy. Only the middle-status campus made any substantive progress. By juxtaposing these findings, this analysis demonstrates that diversity practice does not exist within a campus vacuum; instead, it is inevitably influenced, constrained, or aided by the institutional habitus of the organizational environment. The paper concludes by arguing that organizational change efforts that recognize diversity work as a situated organizational practice that reflects broader power relations can better challenge inequities to spur transformative change across educational levels and contexts.


Published version. Education Sciences, Vol. 12, No. 3 (March 15, 2022). DOI. © 2022 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. Used with permission.

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