A Five-Step Program on Handling Racism

for Hispanic Students


Jairo N.  Fuertes and William E. Sedlacek

Research Report # 1-93


The writers wish to acknowledge the assistance of the Orientation Office and the Computer Science Center in helping to collect and analyze the data for this study.

A Five-Step Program on Handling Racism for Hispanic Students


Jairo N.  Fuertes and William E. Sedlacek Research Report # 1-93




A ten-year survey of 156 Hispanic students at a predominantly White university found that "ability to handle racism" as measured by the Noncognitive Questionnaire (NCQ) was predictive of students' grades their first three semesters in college. The implications of these results are discussed, including a five-step program aimed at increasing Hispanic students' ability to handle racism. The five steps are the following: 1) teach students how to identify individual and institutional racism; 2) inform students of support services on campus; 3) encourage students to be multicultural; 4) involve students in peer feedback sessions on positive and negative experiences at the university; and 5) provide students with mentors during the first year in college.


The admission and retention of Hispanic college students is the subject of increased attention in higher education (Fuertes & Sedlacek, In press). Although colleges and universities continue to require higher scores on admissions tests in the hope of increasing the retention and graduation rates of Hispanic students, Hispanic student attrition from college is higher than that of Whites (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1989).


Sedlacek (1989) has argued that noncognitive variables are better predictors of academic success for nontraditional students than traditional admissions measures such as standard tests and grades.  However, the effectiveness of noncognitive variables in predicting the academic success of Hispanic students has not been studied.


The purpose of this paper is twofold: first it will examine whether noncognitive variables predict the academic success of Hispanic university students and second, it will propose a program based on noncognitive variables for increasing the academic performance of Hispanic students.




The Noncognitive Questionnaire (NCQ) was administered over a ten-year period to a random sample of 156 (51o female) entering Hispanic freshmen attending



orientation at a large, predominantly White university in the northeast. NCQ scores were used to predict students' grades and retention using multiple regression and multiple discriminant analyses at the .05 level over nine semesters in college.




Multiple regression results indicated that students' ability to handle racism, as measured by the NCQ, predicted students' grades their first and third semesters in college (r=.22, p<.05 and r=.20, p<.05, for semesters 1 and 3 respectively). This finding is consistent with previous research (e.g., Barbarin, 1981) which has shown that ethnic minorities who understand racism and are prepared to deal with it perform better

academically at predominantly White schools. The NCQ did not predict Hispanic student retention over a nine semester period. Given the relationship between handling racism and grades, a five-step program for increasing Hispanics' ability to handle racism is proposed.




Step 1 involves teaching Hispanic students during orientation the difference between individual racism and institutional racism. Some students can identify racism



at an interpersonal level, but are often unaware of institutional policies (e.g., allocation of funds) that tend to work against the best interests of minorities, including Hispanic (Fuertes & Sedlacek, in press). Step 2 involves teaching Hispanic students how to use resources on campus, such as the counseling center, the minority student office, or the human relations office. This could be done as part of orientation or a 1-credit student development course. Step 3 involves teaching students to be more flexible by being bicultural or multicultural, i.e., to be Hispanic and part of the larger (White or Black) school system at the same time. Fuertes, Sedlacek, & Westbrook (1993) found that Hispanic students who exhibited bicultural attitudes and behaviors were most likely to have support networks in college and to feel a part of the campus community. Step 4 involves peer feedback sessions on positive or negative experiences at the university. These sessions can serve as an emotional outlet as well as a social event for new students on campus. Such sessions could be organized by the department of resident life or any other support unit on campus. Finally, in Step 5, the student is matched with an Hispanic graduate student or faculty member, who acts as a mentor and advocate during the student's first year in college.







Barbarin, O.A. (1981). Institutional racism and community competence. Bethesda, Maryland: National Institutes of Mental Health.


Fuertes, J.N., Sedlacek. W.E. (In press). Barriers to the leadership development of Hispanics in higher education. National Association of

Student Personnel Administrators Journal.


Fuertes, J.N., Sedlacek, W.E., & Westbrook (1993). A needs assessment of Hispanic students at a predominantly White university. In G.M.

Gonzalez, I. Alvarado, & A.S. Segrera (Eds.), Challenges of Cultural and Racial Diversity to Counseling: Mexico City Conference Proceedings. (pp. 44-47). American Counseling Association.


Sedlacek, W.E. (1989). Noncognitive indicators of student success. Journal of College Admissions, 1, (125), 2-9.


U.S. Bureau of the Census (1989). Current Population Reports, Series P-20, No. 438. The Hispanic Population in the United States: March 1988.

U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington D.C.