Book By: Lamont A. Flowers
Review By: Jennifer Wilner
University of California, Davis
Diversity issues confront higher education professionals in all aspects of their work. In order to best assist students, advisors must be aware of the complex needs of a multi-cultural student body. Through the case studies in Diversity Issues in American Colleges and Universities, the authors explore many scenarios that will enable advisors and other student affairs professionals to become aware of, and more comfortable working with, diversity-related issues. The cases address all major areas related to diversity-issues including: race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and disability. The authors also sought to be inclusive with cases from a wide variety of institutions including: two and four year, public and private, institutions of all sizes and levels of degree objectives.
Flowers and his contributors have crafted case studies that bring to light real issues that many professionals may encounter. Each case is premised by a description of the institutional environment and surrounding community, an introduction to the people involved, and information germane to the case. The authors recognize that diversity issues are multifaceted and intertwined. Each case creates a complex real-life scenario that integrates a myriad of issues and investigates each issue from the prospective of all of the parties involved. Through the discussion questions at the end of each case, readers are encouraged to explore the issue through the eyes of the student affairs professionals. This allows readers to practice and improve their competencies.
I found the chapter on sexual orientation particularly compelling as it provided real and relevant difficulties not often discussed in other books of this nature. It brings to light students’ personal beliefs and identities that conflict with those of the institution as well as those that conflict with the beliefs of other students.
Although Diversity Issues in American Colleges and Universities attempts to sensitize professionals to the diverse needs and perspectives of students on campus, some case studies are exceedingly complex and - although plausible- do not seem too likely in today’s institutions of higher education. A few cases in particular seem likely to occur only in specific parts of the country or with very unique personalities involved. Instead, the inclusion of cases that focus directly on issues related to the diverse backgrounds of our students and their interactions with the dominant culture and structure of higher education would have made the book stronger.
Overall the cases are excellent and the studies are well-organized. The authors provide insight into particular students at the center of each study including their thoughts and beliefs and how other individuals from the same background could feel differently. This strengthens the book as the reader is reminded that although generalities can be made, we must be aware of individual differences.
Advisors can use this book as a tool for classes, training sessions, or workshops. The case studies are concise and complex and offer a challenge to advisors at any level. This book will enable individuals to explore the scenarios and step into any of the many roles portrayed to test professional skills and expand horizons. In order to get the most out of each case study, readers should have advanced knowledge of development theory and multi-cultural identity development. For this reason, Diversity Issues in American Colleges and Universities is best used as a supplement to a well-rounded skills development program that covers development theory, theories of moral decision making, and identity development.
Diversity Issues in American Colleges and Universities: Case Studies for Higher Education and Student Affairs Professionals.(2004).
Book by Flowers, Lamont A. Review by Jennifer Wilner. Springfield: Charles C. Thomas Publisher. 221 pp. $54.95 (hardback). ISBN # 0-398-07450-X