Department of Educational Administration



Elvira J. Abrica

Deryl Hatch-Tocaimaza

Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Diversity in Higher Education 16.2 (2023), pp. 144–156. [Advance publication 3 June 2021]



Copyright © 2021 National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education. Published by American Psychological Association. Used by permission.

"This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal."


Campus climates are often described as “hostile” for racially minoritized populations. However, growing recognition of complexities associated with intersecting and interwoven systems of social oppression compel the field of higher education to move away from overly simplistic portrayals of postsecondary environments as “welcoming/chilly” or “positive/negative.” More than this, there is a need to engage in a broader discussion of the field’s reliance on the metaphor of meteorological climate itself as a heuristic for characterizing the nature of college learning environments. The central argument presented in this theoretical article is that racial justice is impossible when operationalized through a lens of campus climate because this lens offers no theory of power or race to accomplish this purpose and instead, embodies logics and assumptions that fundamentally delimit the centralizing of students’ ontological experience of the race. We propose that the field move away from the campus climate heuristic to generate new frames that can engage with physiosocially situated subjective experiences of race and more complexly interrogate the dimensions of race, ethnicity, power, and culture that differentially shape students’ experiential realities.