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How Technology Impacts Underrepresented Students: A Student Affairs Perspective Division of Student Affairs Professional Program February 17, 2008 Kim Becker, Ryan Hamachek* & Cari Urabe Seattle University

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How Technology Impacts Underrepresented Students:A Student Affairs Perspective

Division of Student Affairs Professional Program

February 17, 2008

Kim Becker, Ryan Hamachek* & Cari Urabe

Seattle University


“Despite the increase in all types of technology, little is known about how these technologies impact student development”

(as cited in Llyod, Dean, & Cooper, 2007, p.483).


With the increase of online social networks, virtual classrooms, and access to information, how are racism, sexism, homophobia, and heterosexism impacting our students in ways not previously possible and how should student affairs professionals respond?

online discrimination harassment the issue
Online Discrimination & Harassment: The Issue

Online harassment is defined as repeat messages that threatened, insulted, or harassed.

Considering this definition, Finn (2004) “found 10% to 15% of students reported having experienced online harassment either from strangers, an acquaintance, or significant other” (p. 474).

defining facebook
Defining Facebook

Facebook is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. Students use Facebook to keep up with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet.


racism on social networks
Racism on Social Networks

Facebook users can create social groups to support and promote a common interest, memorial or tribute, social cause, or viewpoint. This common interest group is an example of xenophobia (or a fear of foreigners or strangers) and oppression against individuals in America who do not speak English.

sexism on social networks
Sexism on Social Networks

These featured groups portray negative stereotypes and prejudices of women.

heterosexism on social networks
Heterosexism on Social Networks

While groups can be discriminatory…

it’s important to acknowledge groups can serve as positive support systems too.

the issue racism on social networks
The Issue:Racism on Social Networks

A group of white Louisiana college students decided to dress in blackface and reenact the Jena 6 assault. They posted a video clip and photos on a Facebook album called, “The Jena 6 on the River” (Adams, 2007).

The video clip can still be seen on this web site:

the issue homophobia heterosexism
The Issue: Homophobia & Heterosexism

For those who identify as a sexual minority, e-mail harassment is more prevalent—Approximately 1/3 of survey participants “who identified as GLBT reported getting repeated e-mail from someone they did not know, or barely knew, that threatened, insulted, or harassed them” (Finn, 2004, p. 475)

the issue homophobia heterosexism14
The Issue: Homophobia & Heterosexism
  • Access to information on the internet has greatly increased electronic resources for queer students
  • Conversely it provides easy access to discriminatory material and groups
the issue sexism
The Issue: Sexism

“Gender and harassment and invasions of women’s on-line privacy by men has, in some cases, gone beyond macho posturing and sexist language to rating the looks of women who post photos on their homepages…” (Machanic, 1998, p. 1).

“If women, gays, ethnic minorities, or others perceived as ‘different’ do not feel safe, they will not interact fully in the on-line classroom, and less learning will occur, not only for those who do not feel safe, but for those who are deprived of hearing the different perspectives of those who are silenced”

(Machanic, 1998, p. 4).

online discrimination harassment the significance
Online Discrimination & Harassment: The Significance

Chilly Campus Climate

  • An essential factor that influences learning and the eventual outcomes of a student’s learning experience is the campus environment (Hamrick, Evans, & Schuh, 2002)
  • When individuals use social networks and display a form of harassment, there is a lack of respect, powerlessness, bias, and/or discrimination towards others that create a chilly climate. This results in students feeling unsafe and not welcomed in these environments
online discrimination harassment the significance18
Online Discrimination & Harassment: The Significance

How will racism, heterosexism, homophobia, and sexism effect various Student Affairs Departments?

  • Residence Life: Racism and homophobia extend to Housing Placements. Students may want to switch rooms before they even meet their roommate(s) based on identifiers and pictures that can be found online
  • Judicial Affairs: Racist, sexist, and homophobic slurs and threats are committed online from/towards students on campus
  • Student Activities: Student Clubs and Organizations may have inappropriate and offensive material on their web sites that they are affiliated with
online discrimination harassment the role of student affairs
Online Discrimination & Harassment: The Role of Student Affairs

Fostering Student Learning

  • There are students who say that they create groups and/or post items on their Facebook account, intending them to be innocuous jokes (Weintraub, 2006).
  • Jokes are a form of harassment and can offend others, not only those who are targeted.
  • We need to educate students about INTENT vs. IMPACT and help them to reflect and become critical thinkers.
online discrimination harassment the role of student affairs20
Online Discrimination & Harassment: The Role of Student Affairs
  • Colleges should consider developing materials and a protocol that includes information about e-mail etiquette and online harassment.
  • “Preparation, education and consensus about proper behavior in cyberspace can provide a structure for coming together in the online learning environment in a way that preserves both individual rights and personal safety” (Machanic, 1998, p. 3).
  • Institutional policies should be developed to treat virtual harassment as real offenses.

“Students with disabilities encounter stereotypes and prejudices that are similar to those faced by individuals from other underrepresented groups”

(Junco & Salter, 2004, p. 264).

disability services technologies the issue
Disability Services & Technologies: The Issue
  • There are new technologies that may potentially increase the number and effectiveness of services offered by offices of Disability Services
    • Podcasts (recorded lectures, literature in audio format)
    • Voice recognition software
    • Equipped classrooms
  • Many students are entering our institutions proficient in the use of technology and often embrace its inclusion in services
disability services technologies the significance
Disability Services & Technologies: The Significance
  • Students with learning disabilities are entering higher education at increased rates
  • “Students with disabilities are less likely to complete their degrees than students without disabilities” (as cited in Junco & Salter, 2004, p. 264).
disability services technologies the role of student affairs
Disability Services & Technologies: The Role of Student Affairs
  • Take advantage of available technologies
    • Podcasting, online assessments, etc.
  • Assess student wants and needs
    • Read (2007) points out that if students aren’t interested in using a given technology it isn’t a productive use of institutional resources

“Psychiatric disorders comprise the fastest growing category of disability among college students as evidenced by the increasing numbers of students seeking mental health services on campuses” (as cited in Belch & Marshak, 2006, p. 465).

mental health in relation to online use the issue27
Mental Health in Relation to Online Use: The Issue
  • “The Internet is a source of coping to escape from problems of stressors…However, research also suggests that stressful interactions with the Internet itself may negate the benefits of social support received online, regardless of the quality of the online interactions” (as cited in Gemmill & Peterson, 2006, p. 282).
  • “Treuer and Belote (1997) discuss the concept of ‘cocooning’ where students may retreat to their computers and isolate themselves from campus activities. Another concern addresses the impact of face-to-face communication verses virtual communication” (Lloyd, Dean, & Cooper, 2007, p. 484).
mental health in relation to online use the significance
Mental Health in Relation to Online Use: The Significance

“Chickering and Reisser (1993) provide a psychosocial development model through which college students progress in developing an identity. One of the key components includes developing interpersonal relationships with peers. Technology provides and opportunity for students to stay constantly connected with one another, but how the technology impacts peer relationship has not been fully examined” (Lloyd, Dean, & Cooper, 2007, p. 485).

mental health in relation to online use the role of student affairs
Mental Health in Relation to Online Use: The Role of Student Affairs
  • “Stress is a key issue affecting college students, and student affairs professionals need to be aware of the potential relationship between disruptions from technology and perceived stress” (Gemmill & Peterson, 2006, p. 294).
  • “As the Internet becomes a more integral component of college life, student affairs professionals may need to expend greater effort alerting students and faculty to the potential difficulties that may arise from significant Internet overuse, including personal difficulties and interference with school-related work and assignments” (Fortson, Scotti, Chen, Malone, Del Ben, 2007, p. 142).
non traditional students the issue
Non-Traditional Students: The Issue
  • Definition
    • Students who are generally 25 years old or order and had interrupted formal education either before or after finishing secondary school
    • Also includes later than usual initial enrollment, financial independence, full-time employment, part-time attendance, responsibility for dependents other than a spouse, being a single parent, and high school equivalency by means other than a diploma.
  • The National Center for Education Statistics described nearly three-quarters of beginning undergraduates as at least minimally non-traditional.


non traditional students the issue31
Non-Traditional Students: The Issue

Virtual Classrooms and Distance Education

  • Non-traditional students bring important life experiences that enhance in and out of classroom experiences, however “Many of these folks [non-traditional students] have kids, work irregular hours, or travel, which makes night school impossible” (Foster, 2004, p.104). Therefore distance education is often an attractive option
  • Distance Education: A field of education that focuses on the pedagogy, technology, and instructional systems design that aim to deliver education to students who are not physically "on site”
  • Colleges across the country are in a race to develop "online classes" where instruction is delivered across the Internet instead of the classroom. (Dadahboy, 2001).

Definition for Distance Education from

non traditional students the significance
Non-Traditional Students: The Significance
  • There is a disconnect with online learning when there is not personal interaction. “Computer mediated interaction does not contain valuable visual communication cues, in contrast to face-to-face interaction. The loss of these cues can lead to misunderstandings on many levels” (Barratt, 2001).
  • “Constructivist scholars argue vehemently that colleges and universities that venture forth into online education must be on guard against promoting technologies with packaged information that are devoid of reality, reflection, interaction, and decision making (Foster, 2004, p.109).
non traditional students the role of student affairs
Non-Traditional Students: The Role of Student Affairs

Student Development Theory

  • Human interaction such as interactions with faculty and peers affect “students’ cognitive and affective development” which are important outcomes of the educational experience (Hamrick, Evans, & Schuh, 2002).

Can professionals within Higher Education provide distance

learners the vibrant, in-depth assortment of a traditional on-campus learning experiences?

user compatibility the issue
User Compatibility: The Issue


  • There is an increasing dependence on technology. However, there is also the growing gap of interest in and understanding of technology between students and their professors (Langdon, 2004, p.144).
  • Unless we have staff and faculty that are proficient and trained in the use of new technologies the university’s forward growth is limited.
  • Students are also entering at different levels of proficiency given their level of access, based on age, socio-economic status, race, and education.
user compatibility the significance
User Compatibility: The Significance
  • If faculty and staff are not proficient in the use of the best technologies available, an institution may not be conducive to current students’ needs and expectations.
  • If technology to enhance and aid in learning is not provided, is the university really serving students in the best way possible?
  • If the university isn’t advancing around it’s technological offerings, it will be more difficult to recruit and retain a diverse student population.
user compatibility the role of student affairs
User Compatibility: The Role of Student Affairs
  • Institutions must analyze what is being done to provide access to technologies to a variety of students.
  • Institutions should offer trainings for students, faculty, and staff to maintain a campus population that utilizes available resources.
  • Technology is an expensive investment and sustainable financial planning is essential if significant advancement will be possible.

Technology has radically changed how the college delivers it’s programs and services to students. This has the ability to either help or hinder the underrepresented students we serve.

“As student affairs professionals work with students, it is important to understand students’ use of technology and the purposes for which they use it…Despite the original intent of technologies such as Facebook, iPods, and instant messaging, higher education professionals must consider how they could utilize these technologies differently to help students succeed with their academic life, peer relationships, and healthy lifestyles”

(Lloyd, Dean, & Cooper, 2007, p. 492).


Adams, D. (2007). Facebook, america’s racist photo gallery. Retrieved Februrary 15, 2008 from,

Barrat, W. (2001). Models for evaluating student affairs web site. Retrieved February 15, 2008, from

Belch, H. A. & Marshak, L. E. (2006). Critical incidents involving students with psychiatric disabilities: The gap between state of the art and campus practice. NASPA Journal, 43(3), 464-482.

Dadhaboy, Z. (2001). Distance learning and a well rounded education: A dichotomy? Retrieved February 15, 2008, from:

The facebook unplugged at standford etl. (2005). Retrieved February 15, 2008, from:

Finn, J. (2004). A survey on online harassment at a university campus. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 19(4), 468-483.

Fortson, B. L., Scotti, J. R., Chen, Y., Malone, J., & Del Ben, K. S. (2007). Internet use, abuse, and dependence among students at a Southeastern regional university. Journal of American College Health, 56(2), 137-144.

Foster, L. The impact of education innovation on student freedom: The case of distance education in higher education. In Ackerman, R., Werner, W., & Vaccaro, L (Eds.), Student Freedom Revisited: Contemporary issues and perspectives (pp. 103-113).

Gemmill, E., & Peterson, M. (2006). Technology use among college students: Implications for student affairs professionals. NASPA Journal, 43(2), 280-300.


Hamrick,F, Evans, N, & Schuh, J. (2002). Foundations of student affairs practice: How philosophy, theory, and research strengthen educational outcomes. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Junco, R., & Salter, D. (2004). Improving the campus climate for students with disabilities through the use of online training. NASPA Journal, 41(2), 263-276.

Langdon, E. Student governance and leadership. In Ackerman, R., Werner, W., & Vaccaro, L (Eds.), Student Freedom Revisited: Contemporary issues and perspectives (pp. 135-149). NASPA.

Lloyd, J. M., Dean, L. A., & Cooper, D. L. (2007). Students’ technology use and its effects on peer relationships, academic involvement, and healthy lifestyles. NASPA Journal, 44(3), 481-495.

Machanic, M. (1998). Gender and power issues in on-line learning environments. From 1st Int’l Conference on the Social Impacts of Technology, St. Louis, MO.

Nontraditional students in higher education- types of nontraditional students in the united states, support for nontradional leaders. Retrieved February 15, 2008, from

Student in black face ‘jena 6’ renactment. Retrieved February 15, 2008, from

Weintraub, E. (2006). Facebook groups are jokes, not ‘evil.’ Retrieved February 15, 2008, from