Let My People In: A Comparative Study of Diversity Rhetoric to Reality in Institutions of Higher Education
Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Feldner, Sarah B.
Due to longstanding structures that have failed to provide an academic climate that is inclusive of the many dimensions of difference that exist among all people, institutions of higher education are under increased pressure to not only communicate but to live out a commitment to diversity as a means for business survival. By conducting this two-step research study at one private, Midwestern university, I examined the extent to which Black faculty members identified with their institutional rhetoric on diversity. In the first step, I completed a rhetorical analysis on four official texts to fully understand the extent to which Saint Alexander University communicates its diversity efforts as part of its identity. In the second step, I conducted qualitative interviews with Black faculty members to understand whether or not the stated commitment is lived out in the institutional culture. This study revealed that (1) official actions surrounding diversity speak louder to Black faculty members than organizational rhetoric, and (2) Black faculty members believe that how they experience diversity within their institution is largely different than those experiences of their White counterparts. Finally, (3) the “diversity talk” and “diversity walk” at Saint Alexander University did not fully align which revealed disparity between the organizational rhetoric and reality.