Departments of Multicultural Affairs

Universities in the United States frequently have a Department of Multicultural Affairs, with the aim of creating an environment that promotes diversity and multiculturalism. According to Talbot, diversity is an environment that consists of the tangible presence of individuals all of which represent unique and different attitudes, characteristics, attributes, and beliefs. Multiculturalism is a developmental journey through which an individual enhances knowledge and skills about different cultures so that he/she can feel comfortable in any situation and can communicate effectively with other individuals from any culture. Talbot states, “Multiculturalism is not an inherent characteristic of any individual, no matter his or her race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender; rather, it is based on an individual’s ability and openness to learn”. Therefore, Multicultural Affairs is a college or university’s efforts to incorporate these two concepts within their campuses. Hence, the purpose of Multicultural Affairs is to create an inclusive environment that can support, empower, and encourage all students to develop socio and cultural awareness of diverse cultural backgrounds and lifestyles, as well as, to provide safe inclusive environment where such development can occur.

In some form or another, diversity and multiculturalism are integrated or embedded in the framework of many, if not all, college campuses. Multicultural Affairs in some campus environments is a division of Student Affairs, but in others it functions under the Admission Department. Also, Multicultural Affairs serves under different names such as, Ethnic Resource Center, Student Support Services, or Diversity Office. Although they are different in name, many share the same goals and purposes.

Castellanos and Gloria proposed that in order for campuses to create a meaningful multicultural environment they must follow seven core competencies, including (1) helping and interpersonal skills; (2) assessment and evaluation; (3) teaching and training; (4) ethical and legal experience; (5) theory and translation; (6) administrative and management skills; (7) multicultural awareness, knowledge, and skills.

Multicultural Affairs Centers address and implement cultural awareness and diversity differently. The Multicultural Affairs Centers provide a wide range of support programs for students. Each center encourages student participation in campus life, student organizations, academic excellence, and community service by providing advising, advocacy, mentoring, and leadership training to individual students as they pertain to overall student development issues. While Multicultural Affairs centers their efforts on placing a value of diversity and building a sense of community, campuses implement their efforts in many ways.

Multicultural education in k-12 schools in the U.S
Advocates of democracy in schooling, lead by John Dewey (1859–1952), argued that public education was needed to educate all children. Universal voting, along with universal education would make our society more democratic. An educated electorate would understand politics and the economy and make wise decisions . Later, by the 1960s, public education advocates argued that educating working people to a higher level (such as the G.I. Bill) would complete our transition to a deliberative or participatory democracy. This position is well developed by political philosopher Benjamin R. Barber in Strong Democracy: Participatory Politics for a New Age, first published in 1984 and re published in 2003. Multicultural education in public schools would promote acceptance of diversity. Multicultural Education should reflect the student body, as well as promote understanding of diversity to the dominant culture. Multicultural Education should be inclusive, visible, celebrated and tangible. Multicultural education is appropriate for everyone. Citizens need multicultural education in order to enter into the dialogue with your fellow citizens and future citizens . Further, multicultural education should include preparation for an active, participatory citizenship.

James Banks, a lifetime leader in multicultural education and a former president of both the National Council for the Social Studies and the American Educational Research Association, describes the balancing forces in ( 4th. Edition, 2008) “Citizenship education must be transformed in the 21st.century because of the deepening racial, ethnic, cultural, language and religious diversity in nation-states around the world. Citizens in a diverse democratic society should be able to maintain attachments to their cultural communities as well as participate effectively in the shared national culture. Unity without diversity results in cultural repression and hegemony. Diversity without unity leads to Balkanization and the fracturing of the nation-state. Diversity and unity should coexist in a delicate balance in democratic multicultural nation-states.” Planning curriculum for schools in a multicultural democracy involves making some value choices. Schools are not neutral. The schools were established and funded to promote democracy and citizenship. A pro democracy position is not neutral; teachers should help schools promote diversity. The myth of school neutrality comes from a poor understanding of the philosophy of positivism. Rather than neutrality, schools should plan and teach cooperation, mutual respect, the dignity of individuals and related democratic values. Schools, particularly integrated schools, provide a rich site where students can meet one another, learn to work together, and be deliberative about decision making. In addition to democratic values, deliberative strategies and teaching decision making provide core procedures for multicultural education.