Book by Shaun R. Harper & Lori D. Patton
Review by Julie L. Amon
Office of Undergraduate Studies
Case Western Reserve University

Engaging, provocative, and at times uncomfortable, Responding to the Realities of Race on Campus challenges readers to reflect on their own education, experiences, professional practices, and campus environment surrounding issues of race and academe.  Harper and Patton present a thought-provoking and timely exploration of current institutional realities about race on campus.  Advisors, other higher education professionals, and faculty will face some uncomfortable realizations about the roles that they and their institutions play in influencing the campus climate regarding race.   

The editors and authors present a compelling argument that the era of political correctness has brought not a greater appreciation of the issues and realities experienced by members of underrepresented groups, but rather an aversion to both discussing and acting upon issues dealing with race on campus.  The aversion is explained as a “fatigue” akin to the fatigue associated with contemplating the harsh realities brought about by Hurricane Katrina. The editors offer three explanations for this race fatigue plaguing college campuses: 1) committing to a discussion requires that one face his or her own feelings of guilt; 2) full engagement in the issue forces one to accept that racism will likely never fully disappear; and 3) consciousness of issues of racism and privilege should compel one into action. Readers are challenged to engage in personal reflection about their own beliefs and assumptions, and how they can, and do, impact their campus and those with whom they interact.  

The first chapter synthesizes fifteen years of research on campus climate and serves as an effective catalyst for subsequent consideration of student development theory, assessment of race realities on college campuses, and administrative responses to issues of race on campus.  In chapters three through five, the authors confront how race has shaped, or failed to shape, our understanding of identity within student development theory. These chapters bring into sharp relief the classroom discussions that many readers will recall from graduate programs in higher education. Implicit in these chapters is a challenge to educators and researchers to more fully examine race and white privilege in the development and application of student development theories.  

Chapters six and seven provide a historical context for race issues on campus and serve as calls to action. Harrison III and Bensimon introduce the Equity Scorecard in chapter six not only as an established tool for monitoring and assessing educational outcomes of student of color on college campuses, but also as “an intervention designed to create learning and change among practitioners” (p.79).  Both chapters challenge readers to contemplate the role that they play in creating barriers, perpetuating inequitable practices, and in being reluctant to engage in uncomfortable dialogues about racial issues on campus.   

Chapter two discusses cross-racial integration among students and the concept of artificial integration. This chapter is noticeably different and arguably weaker than others in its ability to address tangible issues, measures, and strategies regarding race.  

Advisors, faculty, staff, students in higher education graduate programs, and others will find this book a compelling read that challenges their beliefs and practices with regard to race. Members of academe involved in curriculum and program review and development, outcomes assessment, “diversity’ education, training and professional development programs, and student success and retention initiatives can utilize this book to inform their practices and to stimulate frank dialogue about race on campus. The strength of this publication lies in its ability to provoke the reader.

Responding to the Realities of Race on Campus (New Directions for Student Services #120) (2007) Book by Shaun R. Harper & Lori D. Patton (Eds.) Review by Julie L. Amon. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass 88 pp., $32.00, (paperback), ISBN # 978-0-470-26203-0
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