Understanding Campus Space and Whiteness as Ontological Expansiveness


  • Joseph Ratcliff University of St. Thomas, Houston




Campus space, whiteness, urban institution, ontological expansiveness


This paper discusses findings of a quantitative, causal-comparative study that sought to determine if a statistically significant difference existed between a rural predominantly White institution and an urban minority serving institution in terms of their White American male students’ perceptions of Whiteness as ontological expansiveness. As the demographic makeup of the United States of America continues to become more diverse, so too are the colleges and universities that support students of all backgrounds. Given this shift, and understanding the need for social justice awareness, it is important to grasp how White students understand and take part in this shift. The study found low effect sizes and statistically significant differences between the two institutions as assessed by the study instrument, finding minority serving institution’s White American male students are slightly more accepting of their White racial identity and have a slightly higher affinity for social equality. Higher education institutions can utilize this data to assist in improving campus-based student activism as a rejection of the assumptions of Whiteness within the ivory tower. Thus, there is a pressing need for critical interrogations of Whiteness in higher education.


Bowman, N. A., & Park, J. J. (2014). Interracial contact on college campuses: Comparing and contrasting predicators of cross-racial interaction and interracial friendship. The Journal of Higher Education, 85(5), 660-690.

Cabrera, N. L. (2012). Working through Whiteness: White, male college students challenging racism. The Review of Higher Education, 35(3), 375-401.

Cabrera, N. L., Franklin, J. D., & Watson, J. S. (2016). Whiteness in higher education: The invisible missing link in diversity and racial analyses. In K. Ward, L. E. Wolf-Wendel (Eds.), ASHE Higher Education Report, 42(6), 7-125.

College Board. (2018). Retrieved from: https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/find-colleges/college-101/types-of-colleges-the-basics

Field, A. (2018). Discovering statistics using IBM® SPSS® Statistics; North American edition (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Gusa, D. L. (2010). White institutional presence: The impact of Whiteness on campus climate. Harvard Educational Review, 80(4), 464-489.

Hall, W. D., Cabrera, A. F., & Milem, J. F. (2011). A tale of two groups: Differences between minority students and non-minority students in their predispositions to and engagement with diverse peers at a predominantly White institution. Research in Higher Education, 52(4), 420-439.

Hikido, A., & Murray, S. B. (2015). Whitened rainbows: How White college students protect Whiteness through diversity discourses. Race Ethnicity and Education, 19(2), 389-411.

Hu, S., & Kuh, G. D. (2003). Diversity experiences and college student learning and personal development. Journal of College Student Development, 44(3), 320-334.

Ibrahim, F. A. (2010). Social justice and cultural responsiveness: Innovative teaching strategies for group work. The Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 35(3),


Lo, C. C., McCallum, D. M., Hughes, M., Smith, G. P. A., & McKnight, U. (2017). Racial differences in college students’ assessments of campus race relations. Journal of College Student Development, 48(2), 247-263.

Miller, J. M., Sendrowitz, K., Connacher, C., Blanco, S., Muniz de la Pena, C., Bernardi, S., & Morere, L. (2009). College students’ social justice interest and commitment: A social-cognitive perspective. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 56(4),


Miller, P. K. (2017). How white college students enact Whiteness: An investigation of the attitudinal, behavioural and cultural components that compromise white racial identity at a historically white college. Whiteness and Education, 2(2), 92-111.

Norton, M. I., & Sommers, S. R. (2011). Whites see racism as a zero-sum game that they are now losing. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6(3), 215-218.

Patel, L. (2015). Desiring diversity and backlash: White property rights in higher education. The Urban Review, 47, 657-675.

Sullivan, S. (2006). Revealing Whiteness: The unconscious habits of racial privilege. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Thelin, J. R. (2011). A history of American higher education (2nd ed.). Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.