CRITICALLY RETHINKING THE CONCEPT OF CRITICAL MASS: AN INSTRUMENTAL CASE STUDY OF THE DIVERSITY CULTURE OF A PREDOMINANTLY WHITE LAW SCHOOL

Open Access
Author:
Wright, Dwayne Kwaysee
Graduate Program:
Higher Education
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
June 15, 2018
Committee Members:
  • Dorothy Evensen, Dissertation Advisor
  • Dorothy Evensen, Committee Chair
  • Alicia C. Dowd , Committee Member
  • Victor C. Romero , Committee Member
  • Carla D. Pratt, Outside Member
Keywords:
  • Affirmative Action
  • Diversity
  • Critical Mass
  • Interactional Diversity
  • Law
Abstract:
Race-conscious affirmative action in admission consists of college and university-level policies and programs for recruiting, admitting, and matriculating minoritized students. Previous research has shown that structural racial diversity (the amount of racially minoritized students at a school or in a certain class) is a necessary pre-requite to achieving any interactional racial diversity, it is not by itself sufficient to achieve that outcome nor can it by itself be a substitute for having the necessary number of students. Much of this research has focused on admissions polices and practices, rather than student experiences. There is much still to learn about how structural diversity is operationalized in a predominantly white setting and the cultural practices such a process produces. Furthermore, the process of how structural diversity leads to interactional diversity is not well known. This instrumental case study sought to highlight the cultural practices that permeated school community’s diversity culture. This qualitative project utilized semi-structured interviews, formal classroom observations and informal observations to critically examine the concept of critical mass and the culture of diversity at a predominately white law school. Data reveals that that most of the efforts to advance substantive diversity at the law school were limited to admissions. In the classroom, an increase in minoritized students did not automatically transfer into increased cross racial dialogue. Outside the classroom, the current political environment provoked a contented racial climate, in which minoritized students felt simultaneously welcome and under attack. A philosophy of non-intentionality and individuality dominated the cultural at the law school and impeded their own attempts at achieving their diversity goals.