Spurious Diversity: How Consumable, Comfortable Diversity Enables White Students to Safeguard Their White Privilege

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date



College of Arts and Sciences



Faculty Sponsor

Arthur Scarritt


How do white students’ attending a predominantly-white institution interpret diversity amidst a social environment lacking numerical representation of students (and faculty) of color? Utilizing qualitative interviews with white students, of sophomore, junior, or senior status, at Boise State University, this article explains how a diversity orthodoxy (Berrey 2011) hyper-focused on cultural differences, yet devoid of structural explanations for racial inequality, enables white students to safeguard their white privilege while using their peers of color to enrich themselves. I argue that white students, in line with the diversity orthodoxy espoused by the administration, consume cultural interactions with students of color. This cultural consumption allows them to rectify the limited inclusion of people of color on the basis of value it adds to their education, yet also enables them to undermine diversity and inclusion programs (Affirmative Action) that could facilitate social justice via an educational medium for students of color. I identified a process through with this occurs: 1) comfortable consumption of diversity → 2) overestimation of students of color in STEM → 3) meritocratic racism. Lastly, I pose the diversity orthodoxy employed at Boise State University is linked to the administrative agenda to construct a neoliberal university valuing technical knowledge.

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