Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Judith B. Harris


The student affairs profession places considerable emphasis on the values of diversity, inclusiveness, and social justice as part of its mission to foster the holistic development of college students. Many vocal conservative critics point to these values as evidence of the liberal worldview that they claim dominates the higher education landscape. This critical, phenomenological study was designed around the premise that higher education, and, specifically, student affairs, is characterized by a liberal ideology that privileges those in the profession who identify as liberal. The study explored the perceptions and experiences of 12 self-identified conservative student affairs professionals in order to better understand the nature and impact of the hegemony that operates within the field. The findings then served as the basis for a deconstruction of the lived ideology of the profession. The premise of the study was affirmed by the experiences of many of the participants. Intent aside, majority status alone appears to confer certain privileges on liberals, allowing them to speak or act in ways that leave some conservatives feeling devalued and marginalized. The study identifies specific manifestations of liberal privilege, as well as a variety of strategies used by participants to respond and/or cope. The study findings reveal that participants differed considerably in how, and to what degree, they experienced student affairs as a hegemonic culture. Possible reasons for this are discussed, along with recommendations and avenues for further inquiry.



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