COUNSELING CENTER

UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND

COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND

 

BLACK AND WHITE STUDENT DIFFERENCES IN VOLUNTEER INTERESTS

AT A PREDOMINANTLY WHITE UNIVERSITY

 

Victoria J. Balenger and William E. Sedlacek

 

Research Report # 5-91

 

This research project was supported by the Counseling Center and the Stamp Student Union, in cooperation with the Orientation Office, University of Maryland at College Park.

 

Computer time for this project was provided by the Computer Science Center, University of Maryland at College Park.


COUNSELING CENTER

UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND

COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND

 

BLACK AND WHITE STUDENT DIFFERENCES IN VOLUNTEER INTERESTS

AT A PREDOMINANTLY WHITE UNIVERSITY

Victoria J. Balenger and William E. Sedlacek

Research Report # 5-91

SUMMARY

 

Although Blacks tend to volunteer in the community at lea=t as much as Whites, when socioeconomic status is controlled for (Cohen & Kapsis, 1978; Lucas, 1985; Olsen, 1970; Shingles, 1981; Williams & Ortega, 1986?, Black students are under-represented in mainstream campus volunteer organizations on this predominantly White campus (Sergent & Sedlacek, 1988, 1990?. The purpose of this study was to assess the volunteer interests of Black and White incoming students to better understand the determinants of campus volunteer involvement for members of different racial subgroups. Black students expressed as much interest as Whites in four of the campus volunteer opportunities described on the survey, and more interest than Whites in the counseling center, the health center, the campus hotline/crisis center, and the student union programming board. These volunteer interests seemed to reflect a motivation to help other students at both individual and environmental levels. The discussion focuses on why Black students might not become involved in mainstream campus organizations, despite their initial interest.


Black students at predominantly White univer=sities face the difficult challenge of pursuing a college education in an environment that is primarily structured to meet the needs of White students (Fleming, 1984; Hughes, 1987; Sedlacek & Brooks, 1976). Sedlacek (1987) noted, "Because of racism, Blacks have been excluded historically from being full participants in many of the Whiteoriented communities that have developed in the United States and in the educational system" (p. 488). On campus, this exclusion is very apparent in the realm of extracurricular involvement.

 

"When Blacks show leadership on campus, it is often through informal or Black-oriented channels, which are less likely to be validated by White faculty, students, or personnel workers", observed Sedlacek (1987, p. 489). This lack of validation may translate into barriers to entering the job market or graduate/ professional school, for example, if White faculty do not recognize the accomplishments of Black students in letters of recommendation.

 

There is evidence that Black students are under-represented in mainstream campus organizations on predominantly White campuses. In a study of four campus organizations, Sergent and Sedlacek (1988, 1990) found that 82% of the participants were White while only 3% were Black on a campus that was 10% Black (Institutional Studies, Fall, 1989).

 

Why is it important to increase Black student involvement on predominantly White campuses? First, there is evidence that identification with an institution is a more important correlate of retention for Blacks than for other students (Sedlacek & Brooks,


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1976; Astin, 1975, 1982; Tracey & Sedlacek, 1984, 1985, 1987). Tracey and Sedlacek (1984, 1985, 1987) found that eight noncognitive variables, including demonstrated community service and successful leadership experience, relate to Black student retention and graduation.

 

While the research on noncognitive variables pertains to student involvement prior to entering college, Mallinckrodt & Sedlacek (1987) found that Black students who con=sidered a student union programming board activity and students in general who attended dances or concerts in the student union had better retention rates than other students. This suggests that Black students who become involved with campus organizations might feel more identified with the university, and thus more likely to stay in school.

 

Greater involvement by Black students in mainstream campus organizations would also allow these students to work "within the system" toward making it more responsive to their educational and social needs. For example, Black students may appreciate the opportunity to talk to Black peer educators in the health center. A programming board on which Black students are well-represented is more likely to plan programs and events of interest to all students, as opposed to only the White majority. Black prospective students visiting the campus may benefit from hearing a realistic apprai=sal of the campus social climate from a Black tour guide.

 

While Black student participation in mainstream campus organizations may be low, there is evidence that Blacks volunteer in


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the community at least as much, if not more, than Whites when socioeconomic status is controlled for (Cohen & Kapsis, 1978; Lucas, 1985; Olsen, 1970; Shingles, 1981; Williams & Ortega, 1986). This finding has been interpreted in the context of the ethnic community model (Olsen, 1970; London & Giles, 1987), which attributes the high rate of Black volunteerism to, "...an underlying norm of caring and responsibility for the Black community, a desire to right historical wrongs, and a belief in the Black community's lack of responsibility for itís disadvantaged position in the majority society" (tatting, 1990, p. 123). This model might also help explain what motivates Black students to become involved on campus. McEwen, Roper, Bryant, and Langa (1990) noted, "Because of their ethnic status and their exposure to real and perceived social injustice, African-American students frequently assume major responsibility for social advocacy roles on campus (Wright, 1987)" (p. 434).

 

As most campus organizations do not directly help disadvantaged groups or advance the cause of racial equality, it may be that Black students would rather volunteer in the community. Especially given the history of individual and institutional racism in predominantly White educational institutions (Sedlacek & Brooks, 1976), Black students may not feel it is in their best interests to become involved in mainstream campus organizations. Hughes (1987) found that Black students on predominantly White campuses defer their personal, emotional, and cultural development during the college experience. This suggests that their lack of participation in mainstream campus organizations may reflect a belief that the


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university does not have enriching social and cultural experiences to offer them.

 

Efforts to involve Black students on predominantly White campuses can be enhanced by empirical research, which can potentially help us separate our racial myths and biases from the realities. This study, an assessment of Black and White student volunteer interests, should promote a better understanding of this complex issue. Until Black students can stand up and be counted as valued members of mainstream campus organizations, we cannot consider our institutions of higher education to be truly multicultural.

 

Method

 

Participants were 768 randomly sampled Black (16%) and White (84%) incoming students attending summer orientation at a large, eastern university. More than 90% of incoming students attend orientation each year.

 

Participants completed the "Campus Involvement Interest Survey" (CIIS), designed to measure volunteer interests and the effect of offering incentives for volunteering (Balenger & Sedlacek, 1991). In this article, only volunteer interests will be addressed. On the CIIS, students were asked to rate on a five-point Likert scale their level of interest in each of eight campus volunteer opportunities (see Appendix). Differences between Black and White student responses were analyzed using MANOVA at the .05 level of significance.

 


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Results

 

Black and White students had different campus volunteer interests, with Blacks being more interested than Whites in volunteering for the student union programming board, the campus hotline/crisis intervention center, the counseling center, and the health center (see Table 1). There were no race differences in reference to the campus recruitment organization, the homecoming committee, the athletic department, or the co-ed service fraternity.

 

 

Insert Table 1 about here.

 

Discussion

 

Black students were more interested than Whites in four of the eight volunteer opportunities described on the survey. Three of the volunteer opportunities in which Blacks had more interest were health providers: the crisis intervention center, the counseling center, and the health center. This may reflect Black socialization that emphasizes helping others within the community (Latting, 1990; London & Giles, 1987; Olsen, 1970). Given that Black students may not fee? that the predominantly White campus community has much to offer them (Fleming, 1984; Hughes, 1987), it is significant to observe that the Black students in this sample expressed interest in helping others through university health (and counseling/mental health) services.

 

Another volunteer opportunity of more interest to Blacks than Whites was the student union programming board, an organization


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whose members plan and implement social, cultural, and educational programs in the student union. This volunteer interest corroborates evidence that the student union is a central part of Black students' community development on campus (Webster & Sedlacek, 1982) and that Black student interest in student union programs represents identification with the university and relates to retention (Mallinckrodt & Sedlacek, 1987).

 

Volunteer involvement with the student union programming board represents an institutional channel through which Black students can influence the campus social climate (i.e., by promoting programs and events that are of interest to racially and culturally diverse students). As student union programming board members tend to be affiliation-motivated (Balenger, Sedlacek, & Guenzler, 1989), Black students who become involved might feel a greater sense of connectedness with other students in the campus community.

 

Black and White incoming students were equally interested in the campus recruitment organization, the homecoming committee, the athletic department, and the co-ed service fraternity. It has been noted elsewhere (Balenger & Sedlacek, 1991) that the campus recruitment organization and the homecoming committee both afford the opportunity to interact with a large number of people while expressing "school spirit" or otherwise promoting the university. Again, it seems noteworthy that Black students were as interested as White students in such activities, given that they might not feel as identified with this predominantly White university.


These findings suggest that incoming Black students are as interested as White students in some campus volunteer opportunities, and are more interested in others. Thus, Blacks were more interested overall in volunteering than were Whites as they entered the university. However, we must keep in mind that interest (or attitude) is only one determinant of actual behavior. As there is evidence that Black students have low participation in mainstream campus organizations on this predominantly White campus (Sergent & Sedlacek, 1990), it appears that they may be discouraged or diverted from pursuing their interests in such organizations once they enter the university. Perhaps the negative racial climate on campus makes Black students feel that they would be uncomfortable or unwelcome as volunteers in such organizations. In fact, it may be that Black students do try to join mainstream campus organizations, but are not retained because they feel unwelcome or sense that the goals of the organizations are not compatible with their own.

 

Another possible explanation is that Black students seek opportunities to affiliate with other Black students, and thus decide to join predominantly Black organizations once on campus. It should be noted here that the CIIS gave no indication of the racial composition of each campus organization, so Black students may not have been making "informed" choices when they specified their volunteer interests. Additionally, the survey listed no predominantly Black campus organizations among its choices. Black students might have indicated relatively higher interest in such


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organizations than in mainstream campus organizations, had they been part of the survey.

 

As noted elsewhere (Balenger & Sedlacek, 1991), incoming students may not fully anticipate the shortages of time and money associated with being full-time students; such shortages may compel them to forego campus involvement in favor of studying or working at a part-time job. Given that Blacks are more likely than Whites to have to work to stay in school (Sedlacek, 1989), one can see how it might be difficult for them to spend their time volunteering on campus rather than working for pay.

 

To summarize, Black incoming =students were potentially interested in volunteering for several mainstream campus organizations, especially the counseling center, the health center, the campus hotline/crisis center, and the student union programming board. These volunteer interests seemed to reflect a motivation to help other students at both individual and environmental levels. Future research needs to address the question of why Black students might not become involved in mainstream campus organizations, despite their initial interest. In addition, research is needed to guide us in our efforts to structure campus volunteer organizations so that they can potentially meet the needs and goals of all students, regardless of race.


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References

 

Astin, A.W. (1975). Preventing students from drooping out. San Francisco:

Jossey-Bass.

 

Astin, A.W. (1982). Minorities in American higher education: Recent trends,

current prospects and recommendations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

 

Balenger, V.J., & Sedlacek, W.E. (1991). The volunteer potential of

incoming students: Interest areas and incentives. Journal of the Freshman Year Experience. 3(1). 59-70.

 

Balenger, V.J., Sedlacek, W.E., & Guenzler, M.A. (1989). Volunteer

activities and their relationship to motivational needs: A study of the Stamp Union Program Council. (Counseling Center Research Report # 18-89). College Park: University of Maryland.

 

Cohen, S.M., & Kapsis, R.E. (1978). Participation of Blacks, Puerto Ricans,

and Whites in voluntary associations: A test of current theories. Social Forces, 56, 1053-1070.

 

Fleming, J. (1984). Blacks in college: A comparative study of students'

success in black and white institutions. San Francisco. Jossey-Bass.

 

Full-time and part-time enrollments by class level, sex, and race: UMCP,

Fall, 1989 (1989, September/October). Institutional Studies, XV(1), p.3. College Park: University of Maryland.

 

Hughes, M.S. (1987). Black students' participation in higher

education.††† Journal of College Student Personnel, 28. 532-545.


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Latting, J.K. (1990). Motivational differences between Black and White

volunteers. Nonprofit anal Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 19, 121-135.

 

London, B., & files, M.W. (1987). Black participation: Compensation or

ethnic identification? Journal of Black Studies, 18(1), 20-44.

 

Lucas, J.S. (1985). The social participation of Blacks: A proposed

synthesis of two competing theories. Sociological Inquiry, 55, 97-109.

 

Mallinckrodt, B., & Sedlacek, W.E. (1987). Student retention and the use of

campus facilities by race. National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Journal, 24(3), 28-32.

 

McEwen, M.K., Roper, L.D., Bryant, D.R., & Langa, M.J. (1990).

Incorporating the development of African-American students into psychosocial theories of student development. Journal of College Student Development, 31, 427-436.

 

Olsen, M.E. (1970). Social and political participation of Blacks. American

Sociological Review, 35, 682-697.

 

Sedlacek, W.E. (1987). Black students on White campuses: 20 years of research. Journal of College Student Personnel, 28, 484-495.

 

Sedlacek, W.E. (1989). [University New Student Census]. Counseling Center,

University of Maryland, College Park. Unpublished raw data.

 

Sedlacek, W.E., & Brooks, 6.C., Jr. (1976). Racism in American education: A

model for change. Nelson Hall: Chicago.


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Sergent, M.T., & Sedlacek, W.E. (1988). [Volunteer motivations across

student organizations]. Counseling Center, University of Maryland, College Park. Unpublished raw data.

 

Sergent, M.T., & Sedlacek, W.E. (1990). Volunteer motivations across

student organizations: A test of person-environment fit theory. Journal of College Student Development, 31, 255-261.

 

Shingles, R.D. (1981). Black consciousness and political participation: The

missing link. American Political Science Review, 75, 76-91.

 

Tracey, T.J., & Sedlacek, W.E. (1984). Noncognitive variables in predicting

academic success by race. Measurement and Evaluation in Guidance, 16, 171-178.

 

Tracey, T.J., & Sedlacek, W.E. (1985). The relationship of noncognitive

variables to academic success: A longitudinal comparison by race. Journal of Colleqe Student Personnel, 26, 405-410.

 

Tracey, T.J., & Sedlacek, W.E. (1987). Prediction of college graduation

using noncognitive variables by race. Measurement and Evaluation in

Counseling and Development, 19, 177-184.

 

Webster, D.W., & Sedlacek, W.E. (1982). The differential impact of a

university student union on campus subgroups. National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Journal, 19(2), 48-51.

 

Williams, J.A., & Ortega, S.T. (1986). The multidimensionality of joining.

Journal of Voluntary Action Research, 15(4), 35-46.


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Wright, D.J. (1987). Minority students: Developmental beginnings. In

D.J. Wright (Ed.), Responding to the needs of today's minority students (pp. 5-22). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.


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Table 1

Means and Standard Deviations Describing Black and White Students' Levels of Interest in Eight Campus Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteer Opportunity

 

Black

 

 

White

 

 

Sig. At p<.05

 

 

Mean

SD

 

Mean

SD

 

 

Campus Recruitment

 

2.62

1.15

 

2.96

1.15

 

 

Homecoming Committee

 

2.7

1.25

 

2.9

1.16

 

Student Union Programming Board

 

2.65

1.25

 

3.18

1.05

 

*

Campus Hotline/Crisis Center

 

2.66

1.29

 

3.12

1.19

 

*

Counseling Center

 

2.75

1.04

 

3.31

1.1

 

*

Health Center

 

2.74

1.27

 

3.5

1.08

 

*

Athletic Department

 

3.05

1.16

 

3.13

1.21

 

 

Co-Ed Service Fraternity

 

2.91

1.17

 

2.95

1.06

 

 

Note. Means are based on the following scale: 1 = very interested; 2 = somewhat interested; 3 = don't know; 4 = somewhat disinterested; 5 = very disinterested. N = 768 (16% Black, 84% White).

 

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Appendix

Volunteer Opportunities Described on the

Campus Involvement Interest Survey (CIIS)

 

1.Maryland Images: provide campus tours for visitor=_ and prospective UMCP students.

 

2.Homecoming Committee: help to plan and coordinate the various activities related to the celebration of Homecoming.

 

3.Stamp Union Program Council: help to plan and implement social and cultural programs in the student union.

 

4.Help Center: provide distressed callers with =support and information/referral assistance a=_ a counselor on the campus "hotline".

 

S.Counseling Center: provide support in one of the Center's services for students with special needs (e.g., Learning Assistance Service) or assist with research projects relating to student development.

 

6.Health Center: work in the Health Center as a peer educator, or provide administrative/clerical support.

 

7.Athletic Department: provide tutoring services to student athletes in your "area of expertise".

 

8.Alpha Phi Omega: work with a national co-ed service fraternity on various campus and community service projects.