Students’ Experiences with Exclusion, Dismissal, Stereotyping, and Targeting in the Classroom

The 2021 Campus Climate survey asked both undergraduates (UG) and graduate students (G) the following questions:

How often does each of the following happen to you at UMass Amherst? (Never, Sometimes, Often)

  • You feel excluded in class on the basis of an aspect of your social identity
  • You feel like your point of view is dismissed in class on the basis of an aspect of your social identity
  • You are targeted unfairly or singled out unfairly by course instructors because of your social identity
  • Course instructors stereotype, make negative remarks about or tell jokes about an aspect of your social identity

As noted in the Belonging Research Brief, students’ sense of belonging is one of the strongest predictors of one-year retention for UMass Amherst undergraduates. The graph below illustrates the relationship between undergraduates’ sense of belonging and their classroom experience. Students who indicated feeling excluded in the classroom or that their point of view is dismissed were less likely to report a strong sense of belonging than are those who have not had these types of classroom experiences.

Overall, 24% of undergraduates reported feeling excluded in class on the basis of their social identity and 28% of graduate students reported the same (see dashboards, below). Similarly, 25% of undergraduates and 23% of graduate students reported feeling that their point of view is dismissed in class based on their social identity (either Sometimes or Often). It is important to acknowledge that students were not asked whose behavior caused them to feel excluded or dismissed: it may be that of peers, instructors, or a combination of both.

Responses to the two questions focused specifically on course instructors’ behaviors show that vast majorities of undergraduates and graduate students reported that they Never experience faculty targeting them or singling them out in class based on their social identity (92% and 90%), and that they Never experience course instructors stereotyping, making negative remarks about, or telling jokes about an aspect of their social identity (89% and 88%) (see dashboards below). Although these findings are encouraging, there is room for improvement: Approximately one-tenth of both undergraduate and graduate students reported being unfairly targeted by course instructors (8% UG, 10% G) or experiencing course instructors stereotyping, making negative remarks about, or telling jokes about their social identity (11% UG, 12% G).

Additionally, students’ experiences of social-identity-based exclusion and/or dismissal in the classroom vary by social identity (see dashboards below). For example, Black undergraduates are four times more likely than white undergraduates to report feeling excluded in the classroom Often (16% v. 4%), and a similar disparity exists for graduate students (12% v. 5%). Another example is that undergraduates who identify as Trans Women or Trans Men are more than three times as likely as Women or Men to report feeling excluded in class Often (18% v. 5%) – and a similar disparity exists for graduate students.

Similarly, the frequency with which students reported being targeted or unfairly singled out, or stereotyped, by course instructors varies by social identity (see dashboards below). One example is that graduate students who have a learning disability were more likely than graduate students who do not have a disability to report being targeted or singled out unfairly by course instructors either Sometimes or Often (20% v. 7%). Another example is that Black undergraduates were more likely than white undergraduates to report being targeted or singled out unfairly by course instructors either Sometimes or Often (19% v. 6%). A similar disparity exists for graduate students: 26% of Black graduate students reported being targeted or singled out unfairly compared to 8% of white graduate students.

Undergraduates

Graduate Students

Students who reported feeling excluded or dismissed in class on the basis of social identity were asked this follow-up question: You indicated that you have felt excluded or dismissed in class on the basis of social identity. Which aspects? Students were provided with a list of 11 social identity aspects and were able to select multiple aspects. As illustrated in the dashboard below, gender and race were the social identity aspects most likely to be selected among both undergraduate and graduate students. Students who reported being targeted or stereotyped by course instructors were asked a similar follow-up question, and gender and race were again the social identity aspects most likely to be flagged by both undergraduate and graduate students.