Academic Minute Podcast

Royel Johnson, University of Southern California – DEI and Climate Change

Photo by Bradford Rogne Photography

The climate on college campuses for students can be challenging.

Royel Johnson, tenured professor in the Rossier School of Education at University of Southern California, asks students how they’re doing dealing with racism at their institutions.

Dr. Royel M. Johnson is Associate Professor and Chair in the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California (USC). He is also the Director of the National Assessment of Collegiate Campus Climates in the USC Race and Equity Center. An expert on college access, student success, and organizational change for racial equity, Johnson is lead editor of “Racial Equity on College Campuses: Connecting Research and Practice.”

DEI and Climate Change

Three years have passed since the brutal murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, ignited a powerful movement aimed at addressing racism in policing and other facets of society like education. In response, college and university leaders across the country made significant commitments to improve campus racial climates.

Today, these crucial efforts now find themselves under siege. According to data from the Chronicle of Higher Education, 40 anti-DEI bills have been introduced in 22 states, with seven of them already becoming law.

At the USC’s Race and Equity Center, I direct the National Assessment of Collegiate Campus Climates. Each year, we survey thousands of students across more than 100 colleges and universities about the role of race and racism their academic and social experiences. Here’s what we are learning:

Between the Fall of 2019 and Fall of 2022, we surveyed more than 95,000 students from 63 two-year and 98 four-year institutions.

Black students consistently report concerning experiences with various forms of racism, from physical aggression (11%) to verbal attack (25%). Also, alarming is that more than 50% of them describe the campus environment as racist, whether strongly or slightly.

For Latinx students in our sample, 17% of them report experiencing racism from White faculty in class. Interestingly, however, 65% of the perceive the campus environment as not racist. This discrepancy illustrates the covert nature of racism that campus DEI efforts can help address.


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