Despite increasing diversity on college campuses, women and students of color report undergrad experiences filled with subtle yet denigrating microaggressions, according to a report (PDF) from Harvard University’s Voices of Diversity project.

Researchers looked into students’ experiences at four college campuses–Missouri State University, and three other anonymous universiites in the South, Midwest and Northeast–to explore a frequent claim that African-American and Latino students’ academic difficulties and comparatively lower graduation rates are unrelated to campus social climates.  

What researchers heard from respondents is African-American students are trying to get their education in an environment where their classmates express surprise that they’re enrolled at an elite private college. Muslim students go to school alongside students who jokingly wonder whether they’ve got bombs in their backpacks. Those experiences wear on students’ psyches, researchers found. Researchers also found that when available, women’s studies and ethnic studies courses “are held in low esteem,” by others on campus. And not unrelatedly, students of color and women reported feeling like their own contributions and ideas were not taken seriously by their peers when they spoke up in class.

“Simply changing the representation of various groups does not in and of itself ensure that the experiences of racial/ethnic minority and women students are as positive as those of their white and male counterparts,” the report’s authors wrote. “Since institutional change tends to be slow, one cannot assume that increases in numbers of students of color have been accompanied by adequate changes in what has been called the ‘chilly climate’ for students of color and for women in undergraduate populations at predominantly white institutions.”

h/t Inside Higher Ed