Campus racial climate as perceived by undergraduate American Indian students attending the University of North Dakota

Cynthia A. Lindquist Mala
Dept. of Educational Leadership, University of North Dakota
July, 2006


Enriched and enhanced learning environments are created by a diverse campus population that allows for an increased understanding, acceptance, and/or tolerance of cultures different from one's own. Higher education institutions are in unique positions to address the teaching and learning of diversity by creating environments that allow for positive interactions among all people.

Campus racial climate has been identified as a critical factor in the success and/or failure of minority students. Of the 42,500 college students in North Dakota, approximately 4,200 are minority students. The American Indian population in North Dakota is approximately 5% of the state's population and about 1,200 American Indian students attend public and private higher learning institutions in the state. The purpose of this study was to assess campus racial climate as perceived by American Indian undergraduate students attending the University of North Dakota.

Data were collected from the 45-item CACQ plus one open-ended question and an additional section for demographic information. The study generated a 42.8% response rate with 93 American Indian undergraduate students completing the questionnaire.

Based on this study, American Indian students were most positive on the factors of Cross Cultural Comfort, Fair Treatment, Overall Satisfaction, and Comfort with Their Own Culture and positive on Diversity Awareness and Respect for Other Cultures. Residence Hall Tension indicated that the American Indian students had a significant neutral response but more disagreement, reflecting lack of satisfaction. Faculty Racism and Lack of Support were inverted scales, indicating satisfaction. The students did report perceived racial conflict on campus and that they had been exposed to racism outside the classroom. In addition, many feel there is racial/ethnic separation on campus, that they are expected to represent their race in class discussions, and that there are expectations about their academic performance due to their race. Most respondents felt they were not exposed to programs or activities on cultural diversity.

Recommendations were made for further studies and also for institutional action that could improve the climate and environment for not only American Indian students but all campus stakeholders.