Catholic institutions of higher education are called to form citizens who fight against injustice, including persistent racial oppression. To do this, Catholic, public, and other private institutions must provide students opportunities to learn about and confront racism (Johnston, 2014). It is important that these institutions confront these issues because they employ faculty and staff who may experience systemic racism and can provide cultural knowledge to aid deconstructing racist ideologies. Undergraduate student evaluations of instructors or faculty, however, indicate discrimination against those perceived as non-white and with non-native English accents. This study focuses on one form of racism at a Catholic liberal arts college: bias against instructors who speak with a non-native English accent. This between-groups experimental study was guided by critical sociolinguistic theory and sociocultural theory to examine patterns in undergraduate engagement with material that varied only by instructor accent. Participants (n=98) completed a pre-assessment, a microlecture (randomized by accent), a post-assessment, and a microlecture evaluation. The study’s theoretical frameworks suggest that students would demonstrate bias against non-white presenters, despite the Catholic context and having no visual cues about the race or ethnicity of the presenter. Pre-and post-assessment results indicated that the microlecture had some limited effects on student learning regardless of instructor accent; however, instructors that were perceived as white had significantly higher ratings in terms of the student belief that they “showed enthusiasm about the subject matter” and that “watching this microlecture improved [their] score on the quiz.” These findings suggest continued work is needed to understand and confront issues of systemic racism in higher education.



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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.