Culture and Diversity
I sought to understand the experiences and perspectives of students who may not identify with the White majority culture group on Concordia’s campus. Participants were surveyed on perceived similarity, closeness, and satisfaction in roommate relationships. Participants were asked to examine their overall college experiences though their views of the campus’ interracial climate, intercultural communication apprehension, and satisfaction. Drawing conclusions from these variables helps people understand and improve experiences of students on campus. The hypotheses for each variable are listed below.
Variable 1: Racial/Ethnic Identification and Roommate Similarity, Closeness, and Satisfaction
H1: Interracial roommates will report lower levels of relational similarity, closeness, and satisfaction than roommates of the same racial/ethnic identification.
Variable 2: Racial/Ethnic Identification and Communication Apprehension
H2: Roommates of different racial/ethnic identifications will report higher levels of communication apprehension than roommates of the same racial/ethnic identification.
H3: Students will report higher levels of communication apprehension when interacting with a student of a different race/ethnicity than their own.
Variable 3: Interracial Climate and Satisfaction
Nora and Cabrera (1996) suggest that minority students on a majority White campus are more likely to experience a “racially sensitive climate” (p. 139). In response to this theory, I hypothesize that:
H4: Students of the minority race/ethnicity groups will view the interracial climate on campus less positively compared to students of the majority, and will be less satisfied with their experiences on campus.
Variable 4: Roommate Similarity, Closeness, and Satisfaction
H5: Students who feel more homophily—the tendency to bond with those who are similar—with their roommates will report higher levels of satisfaction and closeness.
Roommate relationships have long been studied, showing that these relationships are one of the most important relationships a person can form while at college (Marek, Knapp & Wanzer, 1995). Although these relationships are extremely important, a roommate’s perceived similarity and closeness to their roommate can determine the outcome of this relationship (Wheeless, 1976; Martin & Anderson, 1995). Racial/Ethnic identification of roommates can play an important role in these relationships as well. Roommates of differing race/ethnicity have been found to experience more challenges than roommates of the same race/ethnicity (Bresnahan, M. J., Xiaowen, G., Shearman, S. M., & Donohue, W. A., 2009). In this study, I aimed to understand the experiences and perspectives of students who may not identify with the majority culture group on campus. To do this, I examined participants’ roommate relationships and general experiences on campus. Some of the the results of this study were expected, while others were unexpected.
Roommate Similarity, Closeness, and Satisfaction
Hypotheses 1 and 5 aimed to understand different types of similarity in regards to appearance, personality, values, etc., in roommate relationships, as well as how similarities impact closeness. In addition, closeness and similarity were examined to understand their effects on satisfaction in these relationships. Hypothesis 1 predicted that roommates of different racial/ethnic identification would report lower levels of relational similarity, closeness, and satisfaction with their roommate relationship than roommates of the same racial/ethnic identification. Hypothesis 5 predicted that roommates that are not homophilous would report lower levels of closeness and satisfaction.
As predicted, both of these hypotheses were supported. When racial/ethnic identification differed between roommates, perceived levels of relational similarity, closeness, and satisfaction were lower. Along with this, Hypothesis 5 confirmed that a difference in homophily in roommate relationships does affect perceptions of closeness and satisfaction. Roommates who perceived themselves to be less similar reported lower levels of relational closeness. The bivariate correlation for roommates of different races/ethnicities reported that roommates who perceive themselves as homophilous in terms of attitude, background, values, and appearance, felt closer and therefore more satisfied. This finding suggests that racial/ethnic difference does not necessarily affect a roommate relationship if roommates perceive themselves as similar to one another.
These findings support previous research (Martin & Anderson, 1995; West et al., 2014) on similarity among roommates. West et al. (2014) discussed that roommate similarity is effective when roommates disclose significant information with each other, which in turn will create a sense of closeness in a relationship. The findings for Hypothesis 5 agree with past research (Wheeless, 1976), which describes closeness as a feeling within a relationship resulting from shared similarities, sentiments, and behaviors. Although the variables of similarity and closeness were supported, the variable of intercultural communication apprehension presented results that were unexpected.
Intercultural Communication Apprehension
The findings from this study revealed intriguing information about intercultural communication apprehension and interracial interactions. Hypotheses 2 and 3 aimed to understand intercultural communication apprehension through a student’s general experiences on campus, predicting that higher levels of intercultural communication apprehension would be reported in interracial interactions. To my surprise, predicted differences for communication apprehension were not supported in any of the given hypotheses. Findings showed that communication apprehension did not change in interracial roommate relationships when compared to roommates of the same race/ethnicity. It was also found that communication apprehension did not rise when minority students on campus interacted with students of a different racial/ethnic identification. These findings did not support past research (West et al., 2014), which states that race/ethnicity can be a precursor to negative encounters in these interactions and, consequently, gives people elevated levels of anxiety.
Although these findings do not support my hypotheses, they reveal an interesting look into the lives of racial/ethnic minority groups on campus. These findings show that the college is doing something right in terms of promoting interracial/ethnic dialogue among the various cultural groups on campus. As a student at Concordia, I have been able to witness many different efforts from the college to try and promote diversity at Concordia and in the community through various cultural organizations and cultural events. Diversity and knowledge about other cultures are not only taught through cultural events, but are also implemented in classroom settings to promote a stronger community among students on campus.
Although my hypothesis concerning communication apprehension was not supported in the study, the results on the interracial climate on campus coincided with my hypothesis. Hypothesis 4 aimed to examine the relationship between a student’s view of the interracial climate on campus and their overall satisfaction at college. The results on interracial climate support past research (Nettles, 1990; Nora & Cabrera, 1996), which states that minority students tend to experience a less positive interracial climate on a majority White populated campus. Though both groups rated the campus interracial climate as relatively positive, statistically, minority students’ ratings were significantly lower. Keeping these less positive experiences in mind, I also aimed to examine whether satisfaction in roommate relationships affects a student’s overall satisfaction in college.
Overall Satisfaction in College
The results examining the relationship between roommate satisfaction and overall collegiate satisfaction suggest that these separate satisfactions do not influence one another. Thus, if a student’s roommate satisfaction was considerably low, this would not negatively affect the student’s satisfaction at college as a whole. This suggests that if students have a greater social network of friends outside of the roommate relationship, then negative aspects affecting the roommate relationship will not hinder their overall satisfaction at school (Martin & Anderson, 1995). When examining participants’ average ratings for their overall college experience, minority students’ ratings were significantly lower, but participants tended to rate their satisfaction quite high regardless of their racial/ethnic identity.
Limitations and Suggestions for Future Research
Like many other research studies, the current study definitely had its unique setbacks. The major limitation in this study concerns the makeup of its participants. Specifically, this study lacked the ability to gather a larger amount of data from minority culture groups on campus. One lesson learned is that when conducting a study with a very specific but small target population, a larger amount of time should be allotted for data collection in order to reach out to all cultural organization options on campus.
As a result of this limitation of contact with minority groups on campus, a second limitation rests in the number of participants recruited. Due to the small number of surveys collected, some initial predictions could not be tested, and all students who did not identify with the majority White culture on campus were grouped together as a single unit for statistical testing. Future research could be improved by surveying on a larger campus. This would potentially help with diversity among racial groups and would also bring larger numbers of data to analyze.
This study contributes to the research concerning experiences and perceptions of minority students on a majority White campus. These experiences and perceptions were examined though general experiences on campus and roommate relationships by measuring roommate similarity, closeness, and satisfaction, as well as intercultural communication apprehension and views on interracial climate. The results of this study are beneficial in improving the experiences of minority students on college campuses.
The results from this study supported findings from past research studies that concern interracial climate and roommate similarity, closeness, and satisfaction, although it did not support findings from research on communication apprehension. This study can be useful in helping the college understand the experiences of minority students, and its findings can be used to improve and sustain those students’ perspectives and experiences on campus. Given the findings concerning roommate relationships, as a Residence Life staff member I think it is important to recognize the differences in both non-interracial and interracial roommate relationships to understand the uniqueness of these relationships and how perceptions can play an important role in them. As a student, I feel that it is even more important for all students to recognize these experiences of minority students on campus and to actively work towards being an open and accepting community towards diversity.
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