Date of Graduation

Spring 2019


Master of Arts in Communication



Committee Chair

Carrisa Hoelscher


This thesis utilizes muted group theory to understand the impact bureaucratic structure has on Black graduate students at predominantly white institutions. Muted group theory is used to inform individuals of the impact power functions have on both verbal and nonverbal communication. The premises of the theory focus on the lack of underrepresented voices present in policies, structures, and organizations. In order to gain clarity on the experiences of Black graduate students in particular, the use of qualitative data gathering provided unique insights to answer the research questions guiding this study. A focus group was first used to generate key themes, examples, and definitions; interviews were then used to enhance understanding of participant experiences. First, the research was able to gain insight on perceptions of bureaucratic structure in a university setting. These perceptions included both positive and negative perceptions. The positive perceptions included rationalizing the bureaucratic structure, adequate representation, and advisor support. The negative perceptions included: structural exclusion, disingenuous diversity efforts, and white privilege. The discussion of perceptions about bureaucratic structure in a university ends with the comparison of the Historically Black College or University experience and the Predominantly white Institution experience. The second key finding of this research focuses on the coping mechanisms utilized by Black graduate students who find themselves as muted members of the university’s bureaucratic structure. These coping mechanisms include: role performance, finding white allies, and creating participant dissent. The findings in this research indicates the importance of representation in bureaucratic structures and the need for more genuine actions by those in positions of power.


muted group theory, Black graduate students, bureaucracy, power, structure, diversity, representation, inclusion, disingenuous diversity efforts, spokesperson

Subject Categories

International and Intercultural Communication | Organizational Communication


© Demetria Scherell Green

Open Access