[Colloquium] “They talk about it as if it’s a thing that they did”: Discursive challenges to institutional diversity discourse by graduate students of color at a Historically White Institution

 In contemporary U.S. higher education, diversity discourse is an invaluable marketing tool that allows universities to strategically obscure institutional and social inequities. University members from minoritized groups, however, can easily recognize the differences between institutional rhetoric and institutional actions, since they are the “diverse” populations invoked in diversity rhetoric. In this talk, I analyze how graduate students of color at California Beach University (CBU) challenged the public image and the commitment to diversity that the university and its other members constructed through diversity discourse. I examine their use of explicit stancetaking, pronoun and verb choice, and constructed dialogue to undermine CBU’s institutional authority on diversity and position themselves as more knowledgeable about minoritized students’ needs based on their lived experiences. My analysis of their critiques demonstrates how linguistic theory can shed light on the implicit and explicit ways that graduate students of color orient to the concept of diversity, other institution members, and the messaging of institutional discourse at an HWI.