Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Thomas E. Janoski


The University of Kentucky (UK) and University of Michigan (UM) present very different patterns in terms of black student enrollments and completions from 2000 to 2012 because of a structural explanation, a qualitative explanation, and a statistical explanation. Unfortunately, the patterns at the University of Western Ontario (UWO) are partial due to a lack of data.

First, the structural explanation is that UK, as a university in the state of Kentucky, was under a mandate from the U.S. Department of Education to desegregate because they were in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (KCPE) gave specific goals related to black student enrollment and completions. Substantial progress was made from 2000-2012, primarily during the time when Lee Todd Jr. created the President’s Commission on Diversity (PCD) which implemented strategies to achieve the goals. While the same federal laws applied to UM, as a northern state they were not under the same federal scrutiny regarding desegregation. UM was taking an aggressive approach with regards to increasing black student enrollments and completions under president Lee Bollinger, and he passed the process along to Mary Sue Coleman, but UM was faced with a negative response and resistance in terms of lawsuits in 2003 and legislation in 2006 (the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative or MCRI) which banned the consideration of race for all public colleges and universities in admissions. UM is highly selective, and a legacy of social movements by black students was stronger at UM than at UK, which may have increased media scrutiny and negative reactions. Essentially, UK’s success was based on an externally monitored topdown approach with little media scrutiny.

Second, archived university websites from 2000-2012 and interviews with 21 key informants at the three universities showed a difference in the way diversity initiatives were framed. The Kentucky Plan, the desegregation mandate, had concrete and explicit language in terms of requirements related to black student enrollment at UK. The implementation at UK, although sometimes using broad and general language, was accountable to the explicit requirements of the mandate and black student enrollments and completions increased during that timeframe. At UM, during the Mary Sue Coleman administration, what began as explicit policy under Lee Bollinger became more general and vague policy after the 2003 lawsuits and 2006 legislation banning affirmative action, corresponding with a decline in black student enrollments and completions. Under Coleman, some have questioned whether the legislation was truly an obstacle, or an excuse to rationalize inaction with regards to black student enrollments and completions as they declined. In Ontario the language was typically general, and race tended to be absent, with diversity often conceptualized in terms of internationalizing the student body.

Third, the statistical explanation is based on the cross-sectional examination of available National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) data available for the universities in both states in the U.S.A. in 2000, 2003, 2006, 2009, and 2012. Before 2006, state-level politics do not explain enrollments or completions. In 2009 and 2012, a variable representing the MCRI for four-year public universities in Michigan is significant in explaining decreased black student completions, however it was not significant for enrollments. This applies not only to two universities, it applies to the four-year public institutions in both states, but it does not apply to community colleges since they are primarily open enrollment.

Finally, the cross-national comparison between the U.S. and Canada does not have concrete data because UWO, like all Canadian universities from 2000-2012, did not collect student data based on race. However, interview data and the framing of policies in this study shows significant problems with racial incidents and low black student enrollments. So under the Canadian multiculturalist regime, the common neglect of collecting racial statistics suggest the possibility of a multiculturalist parallel to colorblind racism that I call racism-blind multiculturalism.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)