Sometimes Sisters: An Exploration of the Culture of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Its Impact on the Campus Climate for Lesbian and Bisexual Female Students
Date of Award
Open Access Dissertation
Doctor of Education (EdD)
Education (also CAGS)
Kevin E. Quashie
Joseph B. Berger
For approximately the last 20 years, researchers have studied the "environment" for students who are lesbian, gay, and bisexual. However, there has been little empirical research on the experiences of lesbian, bisexual, or gay students at historically Black colleges and universities. Most of the literature to date has focused on students at predominantly White institutions and students who are male. Further, HBCUs have long-been lauded for the unique educational experience they have created for African American students in general as evidenced by reports of greater satisfaction, faculty and social support, positive self-images, strong racial pride, and better psychosocial adjustment (Allen, Epps, & Haniff, 1991; Berger & Milem, 2000; Fleming, 1984; Fries-Britt & Turner, 2002; Terenzini, Bohr, Pascarella, & Nora, 1997). However, little research has been conducted on within-group differences among African American students at HBCUs to explore whether and how other social identities such as sexual orientation or socioeconomic class impact an African American student's experience of an HBCU. This is an exploratory study that examines the experiences of seven lesbian and bisexual female students at an historically Black college and inquires into the relationship between the culture of HBCUs and the students' perceptions of campus climate. Drawing from a focus group interview, a survey, institutional artifacts, and historical data, I explore three research questions. The questions are 1) what can be characterized as the culture at historically Black colleges and universities; 2) what is the lesbian and bisexual female student perception of the campus climate for lesbian and female bisexual students at HBCUs and; 3) how, if at all does the HBCU culture impact the campus climate? The culture was characterized by adherence to traditional gender norms of dress and behavior, affirming racial identity but not sexual identity, the dominance and prevalence of Christian values and beliefs, and a system of rewards and punishments for conforming or not conforming to gender norms. The climate was characterized by students feeling afraid; being harassed; feeling as though they are not wanted at the institution; restricting themselves from participating in activities; facing threats of expulsion; and having little to no social or institutional support.
McIntosh, Donique R., "Sometimes Sisters: An Exploration of the Culture of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Its Impact on the Campus Climate for Lesbian and Bisexual Female Students" (2011). Open Access Dissertations. 483.