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Racial Dynamics in Colleges and Universities: A Research Perspective

This project, funded by the American Educational Research Association and the Stanford University Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, examines the research base that can contribute to the current debates about the value, means of achieving, and consequences of racial diversity in colleges and universities. The co-chairs of this effort were Kenji Hakuta and James Jones, with Mitchell Chang as Executive Director and Daria Witt as Associate Director.

The resulting book, Compelling Interest: Examining the Evidence on Racial Dynamics in Colleges and Universities, aspires to move the deliberation toward a more data-based orientation. The structure and content of the book is based on the work of a distinguished panel of researchers. It synthesizes and interprets this body of research in a way that is accessible to a broad audience. This synthesis of the research provides evidence and objectivity that can be used to inform litigation and practice, and to develop a research agenda for this important area of work.

The review arrives at the following conclusions: (1) there is clear evidence of continuing inequities in educational opportunity along racial categories; (2) test-based definitions of merit are incomplete; (3) race is a major social psychological factor in the American consciousness and behaviors; and (4) racially diversified environments, when properly utilized, lead to improvements in educational outcomes for all parties.

These findings have been disseminated through a conference held at Stanford University on May 20-21, 1999, titled Facing the Courts of Law and Public Opinion: Social Science Evidence on Diversity in Higher Education. This conference was attended by about 200 leading scholars, lawyers, university administrators and opinion makers from across the country.

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