Race relations and institutional policy: The cultural politics of an institutional anti-harassment policy
As a qualitative investigation of the cultural politics of race relations on a particular college campus, social actors' perceptions of the meaning and impact of a racial anti-harassment policy served as the focus of analysis. Rather than attempting to measure quantitative degrees of difference in perceptions on a pre-existing scale, perceptions were revealed through a form of discourse analysis. The relationship between individual and group experiences and the perceptions of the policy was revealed using informal, semi-structured and structured interviews of members of student groups, administrative personnel and key informants, focus group sessions, a quasi-experimental video-teleplay situation, and institutional documents to generate data for analysis. Both in-vivo categories and sociological categories were used in data analysis: in-vivo categorizations are taken directly from the language of the actors themselves; sociological categories were codes formulated by the researcher. The questions which shaped this study were: How do the perceptions of different individuals influence both the intent and the outcome of public policy? How does the adoption and enforcement of a racial anti-harassment policy affect the social relations of a particular college or university? How do the perceptions of institutional subgroups shape the unintended consequences of this policy?; Findings suggested that actors' perceptions of the anti-harassment policy were shaped by socially constructed perspectives defining actors' operative concepts of equality, their sources of individual and collective empowerment, and the extent of their understanding of others and their experiences with them. Identification of contradictions between the perceived ends and operative policy means revealed social actors' "structures of expectation" lead to an understanding of the impact of an anti-harassment policy in the campus community. The policy per se had little impact on the perspectives held by individuals, only on their behaviors. The policy, as seen by participants, was designed to eliminate conflict, yet it was also believed to be inadequate to promote understanding among groups, the most important identified outcome of such a policy. Recommendations include the development of opportunities for students and faculty members to confront the meanings of the underlying differences in perspectives, and that educational administrators recognize the potential to undertake organizational research in the context of their administrative duties.