In September of 2000, the University of Wisconsin at Madison and the University of Idaho were both embarrassed when they were forced to admit that they had doctored promotional photographs to make their campuses look diverse. In both cases, non-white faces were added to real student photographs of all-white groups.(via Instapundit)
At the universities involved, officials insisted that they meant well, but just about everyone agreed that Photoshop diversity isn’t the real thing. But what if photos, even real photos of real live students, convey a false impression?
A sociologist at Augsburg College, together with an undergraduate, recently studied the viewbooks of hundreds of four-year colleges and universities, selected at random. The research team counted the racially identifiable student photographs and also gathered data on the actual make-up of the student bodies.
The findings: Black students made up an average of 7.9 percent of students at the colleges studied, but 12.4 percent of those in viewbooks. Asian students are also more likely to be found in viewbooks than on campus, making up 3.3 percent of real students on average and 5.1 percent of portrayed students. The researchers acknowledge that appearance does not always tell the story of race and ethnicity, and say that they only counted clearly identifiable photos, and feel less confident about figures for Latino students. But they report relatively few students whose appearance suggested that they might be Latino, which is striking given the growth in the Latino student body. (A total of 371 colleges were studied, and historically black colleges were excluded; the findings were recently presented at the meeting of the Midwest Sociological Society.)
Looked at another way, he found that more than 75 percent of colleges appeared to overrepresent black students in viewbooks.
So why are black students more prevalent in viewbooks than on campus?
“Black equals diversity for many people. If you show African American students, people think that means your institution is diverse,” said Timothy D. Pippert, an assistant professor of sociology at Augsburg, who led the study. “They are defining diversity as that face.”
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Diversity, Liberal Style
It is an article of faith among the left both that colleges should be diverse and the diversity should only be skin deep--i.e., not expose students to a range of thought or politics. Still, I was surprised to learn from Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Ed that diversity in real-world academia is still more shallow: