Senior Campus Administrators, Decision-Making and the Campus Racial Climate

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The purpose of this study was to understand senior administrative decision-making regarding the campus racial climate within institutions of higher education. Specifically, I addressed the following questions: 1. How do senior administrators learn/develop their views about diversity? 2. What is their experience with diverse populations and how does this influence their views about diversity? 3. What organizational characteristics of the University of Maryland influenced their decisions? 4. What common factors influence senior administrators decision-making regarding policies and practices related to the campus racial climate?

To answer these questions, I engaged in an interpretive case study analysis (Merriam, 1998) of senior administrators at the University of Maryland. Data obtained from semi-structured interviews with fifteen senior administrators and documents were analyzed to create themes around how senior administrators make decisions regarding the campus racial climate.

This study has implications for expanding theory, particularly regarding decision-making in higher education. In the most general sense, the data collected in this study was consistent with existing research on decision-making within institutions of higher education. In this study, decision-making regarding the campus racial climate was influenced both by individual differences and the organizational nature of institutions of higher education (Baldridge et al. 1979, 1991). This study also reinforced the research by Hurtado et al. (1998, 1999) showing that socio-historical forces, governmental policies and an institution's legacy of inclusion/exclusion, the psychological and behavioral climates affect the campus racial climate.

Implications for practice suggests five propositions for consideration regarding the factors that influence the decision-making of administrators regarding the campus racial climate: 1) Race matters in decision-making, 2) Experiences that administrators have with diverse others, diverse ideas and diverse institutions affect the decisions they make regarding the campus racial climate, 3) The institutional context in which decisions are made matters a great deal, 4) Faculty members play an important role in shaping administrative decisions and how they are engaged and involved in diversity efforts is important, 5) Given the professional nature of higher education, leaders can shape the campus racial climate through the use of symbols.