Students at diverse universities are more likely to have friends who share their beliefs and backgrounds, according to a report published by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The study found that at schools with greater diversity, particularly larger institutions, students naturally befriend similar-minded peers.
According to the report, “When people have a choice, they choose relationships with people who are similar to them.”
Researchers surveyed students socializing in public squares at different sized colleges, compiling their personal information and their political and religious views. Five colleges were reviewed in the study, with enrollments ranging from about 1,000 to nearly 30,000, compared to the 25,000 at GW.
Christian S. Crandall, one of the researchers and a professor of social psychology at the University of Kansas, said, “As the variety of choices go up, people can find even more similar others.”
Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion, Terri Harris Reed, said she is not concerned about this paradoxical trend of less diverse groups of friends on more diverse campuses at GW.
Reed said the study underlines the multi-faceted nature of building diversity in a community. A diverse learning environment is not just about the numbers, she explained.
“Increased representational diversity on a campus is a necessary (though not sufficient) condition to leverage diversity and is an important factor in facilitating the quantity and quality of intergroup interactions in and out of the classroom,” Reed said in an e-mail.
As part of efforts to promote a more varied student body and faculty, University President Steven Knapp established Reed’s position in February, after creating the Council on Diversity and Inclusion in 2010.
Reed said GW’s overall inclusion initiative will help bring together the various communities on campus by creating and highlighting opportunities for students with different backgrounds to interact.
“There is compelling evidence that institutions must create opportunities and expectations to go alongside whatever personal motivations individuals have to cross boundaries, in order to capitalize on diversity,” Reed said.
Reed said she hopes the Multicultural Student Services Center will have a greater role in “facilitating cultural awareness and competence of students.”
Hyun Seung Lee, a freshman from Korea, said he notices when his peers are grouped together by demographic.
“Looking around campus, you can see that students make friends with people more like them. It’s just the way people are, it’s easier to migrate towards what is comfortable,” he said.
Lee added that being a "floater" and befriending different types of people can be "very gratifying."